Thursday, April 1, 2010

Love Beach


Emerson, Lake & Palmer/1979

Let’s cut right to the chase: the album cover. Here we have Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. Three progressive rock gods. The first progressive rock super group. They stand amidst the tropical fauna, the sun romantically setting on the horizon. Dressed in shirts right out of the Saturday Night Fever wardrobe department, unbuttoned in front to show their manly, woolly chests. It’s as if the photographer said “Dudes, before you head out to the disco to pick up some chicks, let’s get a cover shot for the next album.” This one definitely belongs right up there in the What the Hell Were They Thinking Hall of Fame. Might as well nominate the album title, too, while we're at it. Love Beach? Really? Love Beach?? Let’s move on to the music. The first half of the album contains a selection of mostly short, radio-friendly (at least in their minds) tracks with such awe-inspiring song titles as “All I Want Is You,” “Taste of My Love” and “The Gambler.” Heard enough? These insipid little ditties – from the band that brought you prog masterpieces like “Take a Pebble,” “Tarkus” and “The Endless Enigma” – well, this stuff is just embarrassing and not really worth discussing. The second half of Love Beach at least makes a somewhat valiant attempt at respectability. A four-part song suite entitled “Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman” tells the story of a young English lad enlisting in the army to fight for crown and country. Granted, the concept is a bit over the top in its stuffy air of Victorian gallantry, but there are echoes of ELP greatness past: the melodic bombast of “Prologue: The Education of a Gentleman,” the classic Emerson grand piano flourishes in “Love at First Sight,” and the punchy synth riffs punctuating “Letters from the Front.” The final section, “Honourable Company (A March)” recalls previous ELP instrumentals “Aquatarkus” or “Abaddon’s Bolero” with Emerson building the arrangement around a catchy, repetitive main synth melody. One can almost visualize our honorable soldiers marching off into the sunset to this track…when, in reality, it was ELP marching into musical infamy. Love Beach received deservedly scathing reviews all around, got zero radio airplay (not surprisingly) and further fueled the argument of late-‘70s punks and new wavers that prog was a dead dinosaur. Also not surprising was the fact (to come out later) that Love Beach was merely a contractual obligation to Atlantic Records. ELP owed the label one more album, even though they were planning to call it quits. Which explains the “Let’s just go into the studio and get it over with so we can put an end to this fiasco” vibe of the entire project. Once the album was completed, the three band members then went their separate ways, slinking off into the island wilderness and signaling an end to a classic era…while leaving us with a musical document (and hilarious album cover) that would haunt them forever.

Essential tracks: “Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman”

4 comments:

  1. Right on the button...maybe a well planned final shot at the record company...(at least we hope)...Tarkus is E.L.P. R. Morris

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  2. Love the Site!!! Though I was never big on this album.
    I recall reading many years back that it is actually their heads pasted onto other peoples bodies.

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  3. Hahaha! Wouldn't doubt it, Warren! Thanks for visiting. I've been neglecting the site these days, but plan to start up some more reviews. Stay tuned...

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