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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

2.07 | 630 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Love Beach, ELP. 1978

OK, revisionism starts here. Love Beach is a good album. Maybe it's just the Carl Palmer rule, or maybe I'm not righteously angry enough at a band doing pop music or going for a cover without elves, or spacemen or camels, but simply put, the 46% of reviewers who've given this one star are really missing out on some of the decent pop music on side 1 and the entertaining, if not fully realised classical fiddling of Canario and the suite on Side 2. Besides, it's 1978, and of the classic 'prog' bands, only Van Der Graaf, sans the Generator, plus a violinist, are still going very strong. Admittedly, Lake's voice isn't as secure as it was previously (it's still alright, though), and God knows what happened to Sinfield... probably left a romantically-inspired egomaniac chimp on a typewriter while heading off for a watery frolic with Miss Spain, but apart from that... this is a surprisingly decent album, and vastly better than it is often made out to be. Yes, it's hardly Genesis or Sheet Music in terms of class, but it's still a fairly good pop-based album, with some fun, memorable songs and great work from Carl Palmer.

The album opens with All I Want Is You, which, in spite of Sinfield and Lake's (I can't understand why he resorts to such laboured twists) concerted effort to ruin the song, Palmer is going strong and Emerson's synths are good fun, if maybe a bit too high for their own good. So yeah, not classic, but it's not really difficult to listen to.

Now, in a scandalous revelation, I think the title track is a great song.  Catchy diao-nao-da-niao-niao guitar lines, memorable vocal melodies, fantastic drumming, canny little breaks in the main melody, a decent vocal from Lake, some of Sinfield's pet chimp's best lines, even if the lyrics are a bit tacky.  A good pop song. No shame in that.

Taste Of My Love opens with a twenty second synth introduction, before Palmer comes in to provide a great link between Emerson's strident keys and Lake's flexible, and actually pretty alright vocal, with his bizarre jazz/rock style and rattlesnake growling. Emerson fills up the mood with every synth sound he can pluck out, and, even if he's not 100% in the realm of taste, he does some pretty cool stab things to reinforce the vocal. Again, the lyrics are absolutely dreadful, but they're better than Scenes From A Memory Metropolis, so that's OK.

The Gambler benefits most from the Carl Palmer rule. Bland vocal, bland lyrics, rather obvious, but nonetheless neat synthesiser work, but still, the drumming is fantastic, with its insidious groove and slamming fills... taking on the tin bucket and whatever other silliness he's got around in that kit. And, besides, it all pulls together a bit towards the end. Not a great moment, but still, it's got listenable content.

For You, on the other hand, is an all-round good song. A great synth-guitar-and-drums introduction, with some semaphore keys. A neat bit of guitar and haunting synth soloing introduces easily the most introspective and understated piece of this album, with a bloody fantastic Lake vocal (where was it on the rest of the album so far?), and more work with subtle synthesiser sounds and piano, and Palmer, as ever, is absolutely solid, further assisted by some When The Apple Blossoms Bloom... style synth bits. Anyway, I love this one. It helps that Sinfield, even if he's not at his best here, has probably at least given his monkey some English lessons for this one. Anyway, a great pop song.

The synth-led take on a classical guitar piece is maybe the easiest thing for Joe the Progger to get into here, with its quirky, light-hearted squeaking, lack of Sinfield's-Monkey lyrics and slightly more confident bass work from Lake, and Emerson's hectic twists are something to behold. Palmer, as always, is a bulwark of talent and taste, and the overall impression is quite neat, even if you can't help feeling that it's really only The Keith Emerson Show with very little relevance to the anything else. Actually possibly the least enjoyable thing on the album so far.

Side two opens with a muted piano chord, lightly and emotionally played by Keith Emerson, who, for the first time here, seems really quite concerned with the subtle range of his playing, and Lake sounds a heck of a lot better than he did on his own pop songs, maybe he's just happy with the pompous mood, and with Palmer's mixture of his more idiosyncratic rock work and the occasional classical crash, this is comfortably the most classic ELP track we've seen so far.

A lush, smooth romantic piano part connects the prologue to the delicate Love At First Sight, a superb showcase on the part of Emerson, and while Lake is putting himself under a little more stress than he needs to, he's still quite comfortable and capable at the piano-and-voice game, and with the absolutely gorgeous supplementary classical guitar from Lake and xylophone from Palmer, this track goes from a beauty to an understated gem. Simply put, every serious ELP fan should here this superb song at least once in their lives. Preferably a few times in their lives. I can't imagine getting bored of it too quickly.

After a slightly less involving synth-and-drum=chaos in 'typical' ELP style, we move onto the maybe-a-bit-too-twee Letters From The Front, with its excessive coupletage, and the effort at a dramatic twist is admittedly laboured, though it sort of fits the choppy organ from Emerson (and there are some absolutely great spiralling, whirling organ (I think) parts, reminiscent in a way of the solo Hackett piece 'Tigermoth' (also a war theme).

An effort at maybe uniting everything pompous about ELP, the military drumming, the ambling bass, the twee synths, is clearly made in the conclusive 'Honourable Company' (A March), and if the effects is more of Pomp And Circumstance March than the life-affirmingly British power-trip of Jerusalem, that's just about forgivable. All in all, the last couple of sections are significantly weaker than the first couple, but it shouldn't overshadow the fact that there's a fantastic ten minutes in there, and the other few are weak as much by comparison as by content.

So, it comes down to weighing up these ups (of which there are a lot) and the downs (of which there are definitely some). Anything with drumming this good (however frank Carl Palmer is about his opinions on albums he's cut in the past, he's honestly never failed to do his best with the kit on them, and at this point in time, he still absolutely ruled) escapes the 'only for completionists' boundary, and, simply put, there are two ELP classics, and two great pop songs on here, and the rest at least have some redeeming features and, more importantly, never drop below slightly irritating, which means the whole album can be quite cheerfully taken in one sitting. For the moment, it's getting a three in the 'pop/prog' book, obviously non-essential, but it's still an album with a bit of character, and the first two bits of Memoirs are some Emerson, Lake And Palmer that you could do with even if you're not a huge fan of theirs.

Rating: 3 stars, (higher than Works 2, actually), 9/15, maybe. Favourite Track: Love At First Sight <3

Edit: I'm dropping a lot of ratings generally... I felt that maybe a two would be more accurate. I like this album a lot, it's still an overall good album, I just felt that if I'm going for increasing stinginess across the board, an album I gave three stars partly out of reaction to how unreasonably lowly it was generally estimated was one that I should probably drop. I would say that an ELP fan should have this in their collection.

Edit edit: Listened to the damn thing again and agreed with my original rating. Think Side 1 is a tad better than I perhaps thought them.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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