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Tarkus is the second studio album by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in June 1971 on Island Records. Following their 1970 European tour, the group returned to Advision Studios in January 1971 to prepare material for a new album. The first side is the seven-part "Tarkus", with a collection of shorter tracks on side two.

Tarkus went to number one in the UK Albums Chart and peaked at number 9 in the US.

Recording and concept[]

Emerson, Lake & Palmer began to work on their second studio album in January 1971.[2]

The cover artwork was commissioned from the painter and graphic designer William Neal.[3]

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"[T]he armadillo was simply a doodle created from a fusion of ideas while working on the Rare Bird album As Your Mind Flies By. I had produced a gun belt made up of piano keys, which somehow led to WW1 armoury; nobody liked the idea, but the little armadillo remained on the layout pad. Later on we were asked to submit ideas to E.L.P. for their second album. David Herbet and I put tank tracks on the little fellow ... yet it was still basically a doodle. However, Keith Emerson spotted it and loved the idea, so we developed him further ... After hearing the substance of Tarkus on the acetate I developed the ideas along with Keith and Greg, and painted all the other creatures too."[4]

Keith Emerson said, "To everyone, it represented what we were doing in that studio. The next day on my drive up from Sussex the imagery of the armadillo kept hitting me. It had to have a name. Something guttural. It had to begin with the letter 'T' and end with a flourish. "Tarka the Otter" may have come into it, but this armadillo needed a science fiction kind of name that represented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in reverse. Some mutilation of the species caused by radiation ... 'Tarkus'!"[5]


Tarkus was released on 14 June 1971 in the UK on Island Records, appearing two months later in the US by Atlantic Records' subsidiary label Cotillion Records.[6] It is one of only two ELP records to reach the Top 10 in the States, making it to Template:Thinspace (Trilogy, the following year, got to Template:Thinspace), while in Britain it is their only number-one album.[6] Additionally, Tarkus spent a total of 17 weeks in the UK Albums Chart.[7] In Japan the album was released on Atlantic Records. Later vinyl reissues were on the Manticore label.

Tarkus was certified gold in the United States shortly after its release on 26 August 1971.[8]

In 1993, the album was first digitally remastered by Joseph M. Palmaccio at PolyGram Studios. This remastered version was released by Victory Music in Europe and Rhino Records in North America.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab issued Anadisq 200 Series LP (MFSL-1-203) and Gold CD UltraDisc II (UDCD 598)[9] remasters in 1994. These items are currently out of print.[10]

In May 2012, Steven Wilson announced that he had recently remixed two classic albums by ELP, their first (eponymous) album from 1970 and second album Tarkus from 1971. Both albums were subsequently released by Sony 27 August 2012 as 3 disc sets. In each case disc one is a CD of the original mix (duplicating the Palmaccio master), disc two is a CD of the stereo remix in the form of an alternate version of the album, adding a lot of bonus material and previously undiscovered tracks recorded during the sessions. Disc 3 is a DVD-Audio containing lossless 5.1 surround sound mixes and high resolution versions of the 2012 stereo mixes.[11]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3Star full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg[12]
Rolling Stone(unfavorable)[13]

Tarkus received generally favorable reviews from critics.

François Couture of AllMusic, in a three-and-a-half-star review, praised the album and said that Tarkus made "a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans – no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes". Couture concluded, "More accomplished than the trio's first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have."[12]

Emerson admitted that Tarkus was one of his favourite albums, "not least because the title track has taken on a life of its own."[6]

Track listing[]

Original vinyl[]

  • "The Only Way (Hymn)": Themes used in intro. and bridge only – Toccata in F and Prelude VI, Bach.
  • Although not credited, the music to "Are You Ready Eddy?" was largely inspired by Bobby Troup's 1956 song "The Girl Can't Help It". In his 2004 autobiography Pictures of an Exhibitionist, Keith Emerson refers to the track as "an impromptu jam" played in celebration of completing work on Tarkus.[14]

2012 Remix[]


Wilson's stereo and 5.1 mixes of Tarkus include the previously unreleased song "Oh, My Father", described by Wilson in the sleeve notes as "a wonderful Greg Lake song that seems to be a deeply personal piece about the death of his father, which could well be why it wasn't used at the time". The stereo mixes also include another unreleased song, with vocals by Emerson, entitled "Unknown Ballad" and an unreleased mix of "Mass" without vocals. The validity of "Unknown Ballad" as a real Emerson, Lake and Palmer recording has been disputed. It is a piano ballad with, supposedly, vocals by Keith Emerson, and at the end, studio chatter that seems to be Lake. In an interview about the reissue, Emerson points out that he doesn't remember having composed or played the song, and some forums have suggested that it doesn't seem to be Emerson singing. In fact, on the 2013 reissue of the 2 CD deluxe edition (by Razor & Tie), the track was removed.




  • Recorded at Advision Studios, London in January 1971
  • Produced by Greg Lake for E. G. Records
  • Engineer – Eddy "Are You Ready" Offord
  • Arranged and directed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • Paintings – William Neal (C.C.S. Assoc.)


Year Chart Position
1971 UK Albums Chart 1[7]
1971 Billboard 200 9[16]

Sales certifications[]

Country Organization Sales
US RIAA Gold[8]


  1. "Tarkus page on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer official website".
  2. Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 74.
  3. "William Neal talks on the Tarkus cover artwork and origin of the title".
  4. "Tarkus". Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  5. Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 76.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Dome, Malcolm (2011). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus". Classic Rock Presents Prog (17): 77.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Emerson, Lake & Palmer chart positions in the UK". The Official Charts Company.Template:Dl
  8. 8.0 8.1 "RIAA's Gold & Platinum Program searchable database". Recording Industry Association of America[citation needed].
  9. "Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab complete Gold CD UltraDisc and UltraDisc II discography".
  10. "Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab album discography".
  11. "Emerson Lake & Palmer - TARKUS [DVD-A]".
  12. 12.0 12.1 Couture, François. "Tarkus - Emerson, Lake & Palmer". AllMusic.
  13. Lebin, David (19 August 1971). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Tarkus : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 10 November 2007. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  14. Emerson, Keith (2004). Pictures of an Exhibitionist, John Blake Publishing Ltd., ISBN 1-84454-053-7, p. 205.
  15. Tarkus. Island Records. 1971. ILPS 9155.
  16. "Tarkus chart position in the US". Billboard[citation needed].

Further reading[]

Preceded by
Sticky Fingers
by The Rolling Stones
UK Albums Chart number-one album
26 June 1971 – 3 July 1971
Succeeded by
Bridge over Troubled Water
by Simon & Garfunkel