Love Beach

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Leadclass, 1978

http://www.emersonlakepalmer.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/02/2016

The absolute nadir of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's output, Love Beach shows a band utterly exhausted with songwriting, expectations, record labels, each other, and critics.

To be fair, topping Works Vol. 1 would have been impossible. The double album gave each band member a side and then came together for two lengthy prog-rock tracks on Side 4; it was bloated, pretentious, and dull – everything that the punks hated about rock in 1977. ELP obviously had to change their approach to adapt, but Love Beach was not the way to do it, and the band called it quits after this.

The immediate finding is that little of what made ELP themselves is present here, for better or worse. The first half of the album is short pop-rock love songs. Think about that. No manticores, no Bartok or Mussorgsky rewrites, no fugues, no parts or movements or 10-minute keyboard solos. Just Greg Lake singing midtempo love songs while Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer restrain themselves to providing the most basic accompaniment. To hear Emerson constrained like this is a bit disappointing; sure, sticking knives in a Hammond during a 14-minute take on “Rondo” is overkill, but it’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 fun. Hearing him check his watch while he squiggles away on a synth on “Love Beach” or “Taste Of My Love” kind of feels like bringing in Tom Brady on third-and-20 in the fourth quarter and then having him hand off the ball. It’s a waste, and there’s no way you’ll make up 20 yards running up the middle.

Things briefly get interesting on the dramatic “For You,” a pretty standard breakup tune given some mournful chord progressions and a bit of pomp; it was good enough to make the Manticore box set, and it’s probably the only tune most fans will want to hear twice. “Canario” also tries to evoke the ELP of old in spots, but never coheres as a true song, just an upbeat “Hoedown”-like instrumental designed to fill space. Speaking of which, the cover photo of two near-shirtless band members is hilariously awful.

The second half of the disc is taken up by the 20-minute epic “Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentleman,” and it is the most boring 20 minutes ELP ever put to tape, bar none. Gone is the drama of “Tarkus,” the urgency and enthralling dystopia of “Karn Evil 9,” the beauty of “Take A Pebble,” even the pretentious overkill of “Pirates.” This is simply a once-great prog band playing a long song because people want to hear it, and rather than writing something cohesive the track appears to be several shorter songs stitched together, then polished to give the appearance of a multi-part epic. I got halfway through it and already forgot the first 10 minutes except for some line about “central heating,” although credit must be given to Peter Sinfield, who botches the lyrics on most the disc but pulls it together on “Memoirs” to tell a good story.

After this disc, Lake would indeed release two solo albums before reuniting with Emerson and a new drummer, Cozy Powell. Palmer would go on to help form Asia and achieve huge global success for a little while in the mid-'80s there. To this day, most ELP fans don’t speak of this record, and for good reason. Unless you are a huge fan and really want to hear the whole thing, you can get the two “best” songs on the box set and go about your life.

Rating: D

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