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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Love Beach CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.09 | 742 ratings

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2 stars Young, Gifted and Red-faced (In Their Pyjamas in the Bahamas)

Tanning lotion? (check)

Silly hat? (check)

Medallion? (check)

Sunglasses? (check)

Miss Spain? (check..hey baby)

Compositions you will ever want to hear more than once?

(Erm...Keith? about that holiday at Compass Point man .......)

When punk declared it open season on the Progasaurus Boringoldfarticus, they afforded ELP special status as a delicacy to be best enjoyed eaten alive after roasting over a viciously hot spit and marinaded for several years before being washed down with a bottle of finest German Schadenfreude.

In 1978 Emerson, Lake and Palmer really only had two options: they could lie low for a while (or as low as a dinosaur could be expected to lie) until the eternally cyclic tides of fashion had turned once more back in their favor or: take on the new wave at its own game and under its rules.

As commendable as their decision to opt for the latter was, there is but a very fine line between the brave and the foolhardy and given that their most potent weapon in this campaign rested entirely on the ability of one from their number being able to write short radio friendly pop hits (Greg Lake), they had about as much chance of success as that of David's infant niece against a Goliath who has already purloined the slingshot beforehand.

'All I Want Is You' - Now I know I'll be swimming against the tide here but, I rather enjoy this and, apart from the excruciating middle eight where you might be forgiven for hoping that 'flight 112' loses power in both its engines, think this is a really neat little pop song with a catchy chorus to boot. Just the shimmering guitar and Greg's voice makes for a very effective entrance.

'Love Beach' - Contains the immortal couplet:

Where pirate moons, throw silver spoons across the waves to you

Do potential tourists in the Bahamas run the risk of injury from being harpooned by cutlery from bum baring buccaneers? I really think we should be told.

'Taste of My Love' - If music be the food of love Greg, you really need to stop snacking between meals. As an advert for the author's Olympian stamina during some high altitude training in the boudoir, this strays perilously close to 'Spinal Tap' territory.

'The Gambler' - This ain't too shabby at all and at least it's got a bit of grunt in the shuffle boogie chorus plus a decent hook courtesy of Greg's guitar. A work of labyrinthine conceptual genius in the light of what preceded it.

'For You' - Still can't believe this made The Return of the Manticore boxed set as despite some 'pretty' piano from Emerson and Greg's patented Julio Iglesias impersonation, there really isn't sufficient cause to reach for the tissue box just yet. The guitar synthesizer that Lake packed for his hols is put to good use here but as attractive a timbre as it is, he's like a kid with a new toy: you just can't seem to get the damn thing off him. Enough already!

'Canario' - The 'token' classical adaptation is well played, energetic and pretty good fun but they sound inhibited, either by the hovering specter of Ahmet Ertegun who booked the studio time, or someone has discovered the source of that funny smell at Compass Point (It's Franck Pourcel's missing cheese from 1969.)

'Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman'

'Prologue/The Education of a Gentleman' - Very understated opening with just simple piano chords and Lake's sepia tinged lamentation for the lost generation. Carl's restrained but salutary fill kicks us into a much meatier groove thereafter with drums, bass and synths supporting a melodic transition that goes in turns from noble through triumphant to defiant with increasing urgency. Emerson keeps things very simple and does not have a conventional 'solo' but contents himself with unfailingly inspired synth brass fanfare motifs that capture perfectly the waning sunset over a once mighty British Empire. This is more like it lads.....Damn! the 'Baby Clanger Early Warning Alarm System' has just been tripped by:

When I finally marched from Sandhurst, I'd learned to put my fellow man first

Towards the end alas, the harmonic colors dissolve somewhat into an ambiguous 'pale blues' palette, and ELP seem either undecided or hesitant as to whether following this detour will bring the song to a satisfying conclusion. (It doesn't)

'Love at First Sight' - As far as I can tell this is built entirely from a Chopin piano etude that Emerson plays unaltered on the intro before moving into his own uncharacteristically florid and romantic extension of same joined by Lake's vocal. Being a staple of the classical repertoire the tune is hardly deserving of any flak and Greg's 'Edwardian drawing room' inflected delivery on this section sounds authentic and sincere. Unfortunately this same delightful material stubbornly refuses to 'kick ass' as ELP attempt to cajole it to do so on the second part of the track. Lake's vocal just sounds wearyingly shrill and the pathos of the first half degenerates into bathos on the second. Nice little Spanish guitar solo from Greg and supporting vibes from Carl do soften the blow a little.

'Words From the Front' - Palmer's sparing but lively groove approaches 'the Meters' but ultimately shies away from 'da funk' (It was, after all, only a tan) and the band join him in a jazzy and by ELP standards, minimalistic passage featuring some biting Fender Rhodes electric piano from Keith. There is much to enjoy here as the room afforded by the sparsity of the arrangement allows us to hear at close quarters some vintage interplay between the trio. Once again Emerson practices admirable restraint and avoids the temptation to fill up all that free air with dazzling but cluttering virtuosity, and the track benefits from this new found discipline and....Whoops! the 'Baby Clanger Early Warning Alarm System' is flashing red again:

Yes it's great now you're a full time nurse but do be careful with the air raids getting worse (need to increase the threshold setting I think)

The quiet section in the middle where Second Lieutenant Lake receives the news that Sister Lake has met an untimely end at the hands of those filthy Bosch hun, borders on the trite and despite a truly haunting and chilling atmosphere created by Emerson's skeletal chiming Rhodes and Palmer's chattering cymbals, nothing is going to save Lake's melodrama heavy 'gravitas' from being consigned to the 'out' tray for eternity. (and perhaps just a bit longer, it really sucks)

The thrilling and inspired ending to the song therefore takes on the mantle of a musical apology for what came before with Lake's snarling and indignant vocal mirrored sympathetically by some glorious brass 'distress signals' via Keith's synths. (Yummy, you are forgiven boys)

'Honourable Company (A March)' - Anyone in the flight path of the orbiting Planet Emerson would normally batten down the hatches and secure the ornaments if they see the word 'March' looming on the horizon as history dictates that a merciless trampling underfoot will be meted out otherwise. This is therefore rather disappointing and smacks of Abaddon's Bolero (the sequel), as performed by the massed Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Cute, but that is hardly an epithet worthy of ELP.

Sometimes Officer and a Gentleman is brilliant, at other times ordinary and very often downright atrocious and we are forced to view this piece as a lavishly expensive demo included here on Love Beach as a snapshot of a promising but underdeveloped work in progress.

Peter Sinfield was flown in to contribute to the lyrics on this record and he brought along with him his erstwhile girlfriend, the reigning Miss Spain. Some of the lyrics are in places so bad that it begs the question, did the dusky beauty queen actually write them? (or was it that hotel waiter who was studying English?)

Exiled in the late 70's from their own country for tax purposes and probably their own personal safety too, there is a temptation to read too much into ELP's tale of a triumphant and expansive empire being torn asunder by the barbarians at the gates (punk rock) for the fit to reek of anything other than Chateau de Sarsons

ExittheLemming | 2/5 |


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