The larger-than-life music created by ELP was dependent upon the equally sizable musical/personal egos of its members. By 1977, the inevitable acrimony between the three had caused an aesthetic and spiritual decline. On the two separately issued volumes of WORKS, we can see a band on the verge of coming apart. Though the songs and arrangements are uniformly strong, there's precious little interaction. Ironically, this allowed the members' individual styles to be seen that much more clearly.
The double-length WORKS VOL. 1 is arguably ELP's last great album. Taking the personal segregation to extremes, each member of the group was given one solo side (ah, vinyl) and they participated on one group-oriented side. Emerson is represented by a self-penned piano concerto, his finest straight-classical composition up to that point. Palmer exploits the full range of his percussive abilities on six varied instrumental tracks. Lake naturally offers up some impressive romantic balladry. The group side features the album's highlight; an orchestral epic tale called "Pirates," its intrigue-on-the-sea lyrics written by former King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, and its music some of the most sophisticated ELP ever produced.