What does it sound like?:
The band’s reissue of their 1970’s catalogue is completed by these three albums, now in the usual remastered format with some bonus material, although sadly maybe not as much as one might have hoped.
First up is 1977’s Works Volume One, a double album recorded at a stage in their career where the band members were keen to go off and make solo albums while the record company wanted another ELP album, perhaps understandably given there had already been a very extended break since their last studio album, 1973’s Brain Salad Surgery. In effect then, the album was something of a compromise as you got, on the original vinyl version anyway, a side of music from each member,with the trio only coming together on side four to produce the album’s best known pieces, their interpretation of Fanfare For The Common Man plus the new composition Pirates, originally destined for the soundtrack of an aborted film version of Frederick Forsyth’s Dogs Of War novel. Of the three individual contributions, Lake’s collection is the strongest, short songs showcasing his song writing skills and powerful voice.Emerson offers a lengthy orchestral piece, which is well played but rather outstays its welcome, while Carl Palmer’s material gives us, as you’d expect, a selection of percussion based pieces, at times with a strong jazz and swing influence, and including an excellent reworking of Tank. Disappointingly though, there’s no extra material included on this release – surely this would have been the perfect opportunity to add, for example, Palmer’s interpretation of Concerto For Percussion, which was recorded during these sessions but never made the cut for this album or indeed its follow up – as far as I’m aware the only place it’s available remains his solo anthology ‘Do You Wanna Play Carl’.
Only eight months later, Works Volume Two appeared. This was, however, more of a compilation of unreleased material left over from previous albums plus some solo pieces. As such, it was something of a hotch potch, containing, among other things, a few offcuts from the Brain Salad Surgery sessions, plus solo tracks such as Emerson’s take on Honky Tonk Train Blues, and a stripped down version of Lake’s now ubiquitous I Believe In Father Christmas. Although there are some good tracks here, the disparateness of the material means that overall the album lacks focus. Again, disappointingly there are no bonus tracks as such – instead the set is expanded to two cds by the addition of the Works Live album, which in itself was originally released, in truncated form, as In Concert.This is a good representation of the band’s sound as they toured The Works album in 1977, supported by a full orchestra, and could easily have warranted its own individual release rather than being tagged on as an extra here.
Finally we come to the much derided Love Beach album. Often thought of the band’s worst album, although surely that dubious honour belongs to their final album,1994’s In The Hot Seat, this was put together in 1978 to fulfil the band’s contract with the record company. Listening back to it now for the first time in many years, it’s not actually as bad as I remember – the musicianship and song writing are still there, but there’s a noticeable absence of passion and feeling, and a sense of going through the motions. The shorter songs are mostly rather flimsy and forgettable, but Emerson’s take on Canario is decent enough, as is the album’s lengthy set piece Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentlemen. Perhaps ironically, this is the only album of the three that offers unreleased bonus tracks, with rehearsal and alternate versions of most of the songs on the album.
It’s good to hear these albums again. The remastering has make a big sonic improvement, and there are excellent informative sleevenotes with each release. My only gripe is the lack of bonus tracks, which I think is something of a missed opportunity.
What does it all *mean*?
With the notable exception of some passages of Works Vol 1,there’s not much here that rivals the consistent creativity and invention of Tarkus, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery. Nonetheless, the albums are still worth your attention for the times when the old fire does flicker back into life.It would be a long wait for the next ELP album…..the band called it a day in 1979, eventually reforming for the Black Moon album in 1992.
Goes well with…
An evening of prog!
Might suit people who like…
Prog, inventive musicianship, virtuoso playing.