This is the first of a new feature for this site where I will revisit an album by a legendary band that was not well received at the time it was released, either by fans or critics or both. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Love Beach” was hated by both! Even today, many people consider it the band’s worst record.
While “Love Beach” certainly isn’t a classic like “Tarkus” or “Brain Salad Surgery,” it really isn’t the epic tragedy that many people consider it to be. One of the obvious problems for “Love Beach” is the terrible album cover. ELP smiling on a beach with their shirts open. That might work for the Bee Gees, but not for these guys. I don’t have an issue with the title really because it was recorded in the Bahamas so it does fit. I’ll get to the title track in a moment! The cover COULD have been so much better. A fan did this “reimagined” cover and I think it might have helped. Let’s face it, an awful cover makes you think twice about the music that might be on the album.
To be clear, the music is FAR from perfect. The album really is divided into sections. The first 3 tracks all fall into the same unfortunate bucket. ELP trying to be relevant. “All I Want is You,” the title track and “Taste of My Love” are basically the same song idea re-tried 3 times. Greg Lake’s music is decent but Pete Sinfield’s lyrics on each range from nauseating to flat out stupid. “Taste of My Love” could be done by Kiss or Whitesnake but not ELP.
After that trilogy (sorry) of shit, “The Gambler” is the first step in the right direction. Now, it’s not a GREAT song but it reminds me of other silly ELP tracks like “Jeremy Bender,” “Are You Ready Eddy?,” or “Benny the Bouncer.” It’s a style they’ve done and this song is certainly no worse than any of those. It might actually be a little better.
The saving grace to “Love Beach” is the final 3 tracks. Each represent something that ELP has been known for. “For You” is the Greg Lake ballad. “Canario” is the instrumental adaptation. “Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman” is the side-long epic. I think each rank right up there in each category!
“For You” has a more “modern” sound than “Still…You Turn Me On” and really flows so well. If they had released “For You” as a single rather than “All I Want is You,” they might have garnered some radio play. “Canario” is ELP doing what ELP does, and does well. The key track to “Love Beach,” however, is the epic.
“Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman” has all the various movements and sections like their more well-known epics such as “Tarkus.” Greg Lake’s voice sounds amazing on the track and Peter Sinfield’s lyrics are touching and powerful. Keith Emerson wrote the music for the track and his playing on it is typically great. Not to be forgotten, Carl Palmer sounds amazing on the entire album! It’s strange to think that ELP “phoned” this album in.
“Love Beach” has roughly a half hour of great music, a little more if you include “The Gambler.” If people were to judge the album by the first three songs when it came out (plus the album cover), it’s no wonder people hated it. Had the album been sequenced differently and maybe if they had overhauled one of the first 3 tracks, cutting the other 2…this album might have been seen differently.
For me, “Love Beach” is far from ELP’s worst album. “In the Hot Seat” holds that title rather easily! I think “Love Beach” is actually better in my opinion (okay Chris?!?) than the “Works” albums! “Works Volume 1” was essentially 3 solo sides and a thrown together band side. While “Works Volume 2” is just an outtakes album. “Love Beach” was a band that was falling apart and trying to fulfill a record contract, but in the mess of all that, they actually had some excellent music made. Along with some questionable fashion choices!
1. All I Want Is You (2:35)
2. Love Beach (2:46)
3. Taste Of My Love (3:33)
4. The Gambler (3:23)
5. For You (4:28)
6. Canario (From Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre) (4:00)
7. Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentleman (20:16)