This is the third installment of the Album Reclamation Project, in which a Proglodyte listens to an album that is either universally panned or highly controversial. To evaluate JUST how bad an album is, we use the Not Quite Trademarked™ Official Proglodyte Dumpster Fire Scale. In this installment, we are reminded that punk didn’t “kill” prog by itself- prog kind of helped. Here is the scale:
- Dumpster Inferno
- Dumpster Conflagration
- Dumpster 3 Alarm
- Dumpster Controlled Burn
- Dumpster Embers
In the late 1970s, progressive rock had fallen to the fate so effectively illustrated in movies like Spinal Tap- once playing for huge arenas, these same bands by the late 70s were doing shows in dive bars and zoo amphitheaters. OK, that’s not entirely true, but the big progressive giants of the early 70s all felt they were losing steam and getting brushed aside by punk. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, by 1974, were on a hiatus, and were pursuing solo projects. They united briefly during this period to produce Works 1-2, which achieved relative success, but were also written mostly separately. and didn’t quite feel up to par to their previous masterpieces. The band felt like they were losing steam, and by 1977 they had effectively broken up.
However, they were under contractual obligation to produce one more album. Enter Love Beach. Seeing not just the demise of their own band, but also the decline in interest in progressive rock, the record company and the band decided to take a different approach with this album. ELP had written massive, sprawling songs that took up entire sides of albums, but with love beach, they approached it with the mindset of ‘How can we put in the least amount of effort and get the most return?’ The three men were flown to the Bahamas to write Love Beach, with the legendary Peter Sinfield on lyrical duty.
Why People Hate It
The first people to hate Love Beach were Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer. The album was produced solely to fulfill a contractual obligation, and so this immensely talented progressive rock supergroup basically started the process with zero enthusiasm for the process. Every song speaks to the obvious truth that they’d rather be snorkeling in the gulf than performing the album. The music is overall totally bland, the lyrics (with a few very scarce exceptions) are completely uninspired, and the album as a whole just reeks of apathy. And even the album itself is instantly hateable- look at the cover! Palmer himself said that the band looked like :the Bee-Gees” on the cover. Peter Sinfield said of the lyrics of Love Beach, ” I must say, they’re not the best thing I’ve ever written”. He agrees with the band that this album was their worst, and explained the process as extremely difficult, as he had to work with three massive egos that weren’t talking much during the writing of the album, and was being constantly pressured to produce.
By the late 70s, everyone felt like progressive rock was gasping for air, and this album, even on first sight, screams ‘SELL OUT’. Every member of the band, including lyricist Peter Sinfield, despised the process and wanted it to be over. Lake and Palmer took off after a few weeks of recording, leaving Emerson to produce and deliver the product on his own. Despite the overall horror and disappointment from the band, the album still managed to chart at #55, and eventually went gold. ELP, the progressive giant of the early 70s, managed to hugely disappoint their fans, and without their progressive roots, they just came across as an average pop rock band with some interesting moments here and there.
Song by Song Analysis
“All I Want Is You”: I’m trying to be completely fair in my assessment of this album, so for the opening track, I’ll go ahead and say that musically, this song sounds like a very short section of any Emerson, Lake, and Palmer track of the past. In other words, I expected the typical bombast and cheesy instrumentation that had become trademark to ELP’s sound. But the lyrics prove Peter Sinfield’s assessment right- they sound hurried and the rhymes are lazy. This song overall sounds like it would be perfect for a soundtrack on a 70s B-movie.
“Love Beach”: The title track for this album is a song that is meant to be that progressive rock soundtrack to your beach vacation that you never asked for. The lyrics are so incredibly forced and awkward that they sound as though they were improvised (Now that the coast is clear/I’m moving out of here/It’s time to disappear with you/ to where the skies are blue). Emerson’s giddy keyboard lines don’t work with the standard, straightforward rock and roll, and the whole song just sounds like it is confused and bitter to have been forced into existence.
“Taste of My Love”: This song is a synth-y number that musically isn’t that different from what ELP had produced previously. Lyrically, however, it’s a complete and utter scheiße-show. We’re talking 70s progressive rock here- they could have written some lyrics about griffins or interstellar travel or Karl Marx or whatever else. Or, if you’re wanting to write a romantic song, you could write something beautiful or touching or sensitive Instead, this song features some of the WORST (no hyperbole) sexual metaphors I’ve ever read, from the viewpoint of a Zapp Branigan type figure. As a matter of fact, lets try this:
This song truly will give me nightmares and will scar my dreams for eternities. My recommendation- if you’re going to give it a listen, turn off your imagination completely, and hide the album somewhere so you don’t have to visualize the 3 guys on the cover saying any of these lyrics. I will say that I have heard that this song works effectively as birth control, and may have been played in sexual education classes in the 70s to encourage abstinence. Either that, or they stole the lyrics from a middle school kid who was trying to seduce his crush. I think that this is the most embarrassing song on the album for several reasons, unless you try and listen to it as if it were an unreleased Spinal Tap song a la ‘Big Bottom’.
“The Gambler”: ELP, in their attempt to try virtually everything possible creatively musically (with examples like a rock and roll version of Abbadon’s’s Bolero and a concept album about a manticore tank), must have decided that they hadn’t really to cover a boogie-woogie song with soul girls. I’ll give them a C- for trying something new, but I hope this is the only time I’ll ever hear this song. The call and response between Lake and the soul girls is totally cringe-worthy, but yeah, good try, Lake.
“For You”: a totally bland, stale love song, that. However, this song could really benefit from an accompanying video featuring ballet dancers with ribbon wands and a montage of airbrushed sunsets.
“Canario”: Carl Palmer said that this was the track that he was most proud of on an album that was otherwise drivel. This song is very classic Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, featuring goofy keyboard patches and driving drums and guitar that allow Emerson a platform to shine. And Emerson does indeed shine on this track, but it’s still cheesy as hell.
“Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentlemen”: This track genuinely surprised me. On an album that feels so uninspired and out-of-character, this feels like an earnest attempt to connect with their progressive past. And honestly, this song, while not remarkably memorable or moving, is a decent progressive epic with some beautiful moments, even if it has a lounge-y section about love lost and a cheesy finale that would segue perfectly into a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album (which would likely be called Ruining Christmas, which is kind of what Mannheim Steamroller already does). The lyrics attempt to be literary and interesting, and even manage to discuss old people’s assumed use of air conditioning. If you were in some sort of prison camp where they tortured you by making you listen to a song on this album on repeat for the entirety of your internment, I would suggest this song wholeheartedly.
Is it THAT bad?
I gave it a chance. And there are some neat musical moments, mostly found in ‘Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Canario’, but yes, this album is mostly utter crap. It would have perhaps been an acceptable offering from a bland rock band with progressive tendencies, but not from three of the most talented musicians in the world and the brilliant lyricist behind The Court of the Crimson King. I’m with the band on this one: this album should have never seen the light of day (although ‘Memoirs’ and ‘Canario’ could have perhaps been released as an EP). The ratio between potential and product makes this album all the more disappointing. So, my final assessment for Love Beach– it would be a Dumpster Inferno if it didn’t have the two aforementioned tracks, but because it has 2 above average songs in a noxious swamp of suck, I would say that is a Dumpster Conflagration.