|2. Too Young To Love|
|4. A Woman Like You|
|5. I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight|
|6. It's You, You've Gotta Believe|
|7. Famous Last Words|
|8. Slave To Love|
|10. I Don't Know Why I Still Love You|
Not listed. Nor have I managed to find this information on any of the ELP/Greg Lake web pages, or the All-Music Guide. I would be quite appreciative if a reader could provide this information.
Greg Lake is obviously a vocalist, bassist and guitarist on the project. Gary Moore is featured guitar as well.
"I'm skatin' over thin ice tonight
I never thought it could get this cold
What you've given me in farenheit
You've taken back in solid gold"
Perhaps a brief foray into lyrical analysis will help explain the fundamental problems of Greg Lake's second album.
This citation comes from the second verse of the album's title track. In the first line, Lake relies on a rather painful lyrical cliche to convey an image of danger and anticipation. This corresponds to the general theme of "relationship confrontation", with an apparent emphasis on romantic impetus. The second line regresses the character's perspective into an immediate, personal observation -- which, in improved circumstances, might lend a certain poignancy to the larger image. The real troubles, however, occur in the third and fourth lines, wherein Lake's apparent desire for lyrical cleverness reveals him floundering amid half-baked ideas.
How are we, for instance, to interpret Lake's claim of being "given" a quality measured in farenheit, when only seconds ago he was informing us of his frozen status. If we assume that he refers to a "contradictions of romance" experience, the entire thing descends into formulaic cliche (not really redeemed by the unusual nature of the wording, given its ... well ... clumsiness). The alternate (and perhaps more probable) interpretation would be to simply assume that the mixed metaphor has no transcendent meaning, and was merely incorporated as a means of dragging out the temperature motif for another line. Moreover, the inclusion of a "solid gold" reference at the end begs a number of questions (or, more correctly, a few ...): Is this an attempt at a play on words, involving Olympic skating? If so, why is it expressed so awkwardly, such that the effort required to make the connection yields no real interpretative satisfaction upon fruition? And why would this "solid gold" be taken from one skating over thin ice in the first place? Is there any real sense behind this romantic metaphor, or does it just consist of loosely connected images, expressed in a condition of half-baked artiness?
The images seem alternately hackneyed, trivial, confused and artless- despite-themselves; the end result amounts to very little. This fragment could, as such, be regarded as a microcosm of the entire album.
There is, however, an even more fundamental manner through which assessing the lyrics in question reveals the problems of Manoeuvres. Quite simply, they aren't important enough and aren't good enough to sustain any form of literary criticism, except as a sort of parody (ie. the ironic channeling of the methodology of critical observation through an unworthy vessel -- which, in a rudimentary form, is essentially what I was doing in the above paragraphs). These lyrics are throwaway. And the rest of the album, both musically and lyrically, is much the same.
By just about any standard, Manoeuvres is a horrible album. As a progressive album, it scarcely registers at all (a few Emo-esque synth- stabs in "I Don't Wanna ..." add up to very little). And even if one accepts the watered-down progressive music of the early 1980s as a valid musical form, Manoeuvres still appears as sub-par. This album is worse than Asia or GTR, worse than the worst of '80s Genesis, worse than the Moody Blues, as so forth. The '80s alone cannot explain an album this terrible -- one must rather, it would seem, seek out the qualities unique to Greg Lake's career to explain the sheer repulsiveness of this godawful work.
Greg Lake was a charter member of ELP, one of the most successful progressive acts of the early 1970s. Despite this, his reputation among progressive fans is dubious at best. It's generally agreed on (among prog fans, at least) that Lake was a worthwhile musical talent between 1969 and 1973 -- few serious complaints have been registered about his presence on In The Court Of The Crimson King, and his bass-playing abilities on the early ELP albums are generally regarded as a fair complement to Emerson's virtuoso skills.
Since 1973, however, Lake hasn't really accomplished terribly much of note. His bass work on new studio material has been steadily unmemorable for the last 26 years, his songwriting skills have accomplished very little, and ... well ... let's just say that he was never the world's greatest lyricist to begin with (the "sadder/madder/ladder" lyricism of "Still ... You Turn Me On" has unfortunately been manifested several times in his later work.) Some might argue that the group material on Works Vol. 1 or ELPowell (or even Black Moon) isn't completely disastrous -- if so, however, the credit can hardly be extended to Lake first-and- foremost. To regard him as the "weak link" in the ELP triumvirate since 1973 isn't too much of an embellishment; without Emerson and Palmer to bolster his weaker moments, moreover, the music just becomes all the worse.
Lake has also been remarkably unprolific in his solo career, having thus far released only two such works (of which Manoeuvres was the second; the first, Greg Lake (1981), was equally bad). The Greg Lake web site reports that he's now in the midst of recording for his third such work. We can only hope that he's learned something in the last 16 years -- otherwise, this upcoming work promises to be yet another unmitigated disaster, slammed by progphiles and progophobes alike. Which, of course, brings us back to the subject matter at hand ...
Manoeuvres, featuring Gary Moore (Gary Moore, for god's sake!) on lead guitar, is the result of a tragic interface between a debased artist and a debased musical form. The end result, as should be clear by now, is equally tragic.
The album begins with a moronic guitar riff and a big drum sound. This lack of subtlety proceeds for the remainder of "Manoeuvres" (the worst elements of which have already been discussed, of course); a few instrumental solos reveal very little. Even worse is "Too Young To Love", an insultingly stupid, not-prog/metal foray, which features a concluding guitar solo that even Trevor Rabin probably would have refused to play. By "Paralysed", I found myself wondering why the album was even recorded ... another godawful rawk/lust venture, adding up to nothing. Sample lyric: "Snow White, dynamite/Screaming for more". Need I add further commentary?
"A Woman Like You" reveals Lake's skill in failing at multiple musical forms -- in this case, rock-ballad of the early '80s, "catching up with Christopher Cross" variety. "I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight" merits a description as the best thing on the first side by virtue of its creepy, Emo-esque synth riff -- otherwise, it's rubbish.
This was the point where I stopped listening to the album during its "initial spin" on my system after I first bought it, in 1991 (in Riviere-Du-Loup, Quebec, of all places). It took me quite a while to bother listening to the second side -- when I did, however, I discovered that it was marginally better than the first side. The first three songs on Side Two, put bluntly, are tolerably bad -- only the last two tracks sink back into the fens of the first Lake side (so to speak).
"It's You, You've Gotta Believe" has a bit of decent synth work (Downesian, I suppose ... how terrifying is it to note that the Asia- esque qualities of these keyboards are actually an album highlight?), which partly conceals the fact that it's essentially just a run-of-the- mill inspirational ballad. Lake's vocals in the chorus actually aren't that bad, making the track an album highlight. "Famous Last Words" is simply an average '80s pop song, notable for its early use of "partner" instead of "lover" and a brief Hovian imitation from Moore. "Slave To Love" features absurd sung-spoken intonation, and is fairly Spinal Tappian in its melodrama, but still shows some signs of compositional effort.
The album then returns to the nether regions. "Haunted" is a strange walk into the realm of pop-jazz crooning; while not as bad as the metal influences of the first side, it's still an embarrassment. "I Don't Know Why I Still Love You" ends the album on a purely forgettable note, its pop stylings coalescing into a vacuous whole.
Although this album has a certain "humour value" in some circumstances, it would be difficult find any other reason for its recommendation. This may very well be in the "bottom 10" of all album released by prog-affiliated artists.
(review originally posted to alt.music.yes on 21 Jan 1999)