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Should Black Moon have been better?

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    Should Black Moon have been better?

    I was rearranging my cd collection and the ELP section when I came across Black Moon. I reflected on my thoughts regarding the news of ELP was coming back with Black Moon in 1992. It caught me by surprise- especially after a return to form with ELPowell, ubruptly ended by the ASIAesque, pop friendly 3 album which seemed to confirm the tensions between E&L. I thought ELP was dead and buried. I didn't expect BM to be a 3 type album but an extension and development of the ELP that resurfaced on ELPowell, of sorts. The first listen of BM generated mixed feelings, apart from GL's vocal deterioration, I thought the tracks lacked the musical flamboyance of earlier work- including ELPowell. For me, several tracks like Burning Bridges, Better Days, and Paper Blood, didn't seem to be what ELP was about, whilst Romeo and Juliet was classic ELP, Farewell to Arms seemed underdeveloped and the title track echoed a bit too much Queen for my liking. I did like Close to Home which was a triumphant Emerson fair, and Affairs was mostly a welcome quality ballad by GL. I did think Carl was channeling too much Asia style drumming for my liking and should have let loose much more. In many ways it was half a good ELP album, When Emerson's solo Changing States album-was finally released- I believe recorded before Black Moon, we heard alternative versions and other tracks which in my view would have made BM a much better album with Emerson the dominant composer- with GL having one or two acoustic tracks and the lyricist with CP's input especially on tempos and arrangements. From Emerson's solo album, The Church sounded like a track that could have been on any of the first few ELP albums and would have been a great opener for BM. Another Frontier is the lengthier version of Close to Home, but with the fugue section and additional melodies that make it a more complete track. Even Ballade, with the classical guitar and sampled strings has more to offer than the solo piano version on BM. I also think that Shelter from the Rain or the band keeps Playing were better musically than Better Days or Paper Blood ( the latter reworked from Downes-Lake Ride the Tiger project) . Black Moon is clearly recorded and produced much better by Marc Macina, than Emerson's solo album, but I think too many compromises were made to make it more accessible- which then snowballed into the appalling In the Hot Seat. I also think that the lyrics, whilst better than some from ELPowell and far better than Lake's solo work, still had some cliches and its a shame that Lake and Sinfield couldn't renew their lyrical partnership. In my view it would have made BM a better album, perhaps most accepted by ELP and prog fans generating more respectable sales and we may never had what is the saddest of ELP albums, In the Hot Seat!
    Attached Files
    Last edited by The sage; 08-30-2022, 03:18 AM.

    #2
    You go back and look at every ELP album, and they were NEVER able to be pigeonholed into a single "style". It was always that oddball mix of bombast and ballad, crooning and honky-tonk, Classical and Metal.

    I don't know what you really could have expected from Black Moon. It was more another kitchen sink album, but the compositional well had run dry.

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      #3
      ELP's Black Moon sounds like a band without direction. Black Moon and Paper Blood are best of the bunch for me and could have been a great ELPowell tracks.

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        #4
        Stopped listening to most of BM shortly after obtaining it, not very ELP to my ears. Don't get me started on In The Hot Seat, listened once and traded it in the next week. Both huge disappointments for me.

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          #5
          Not only have I never heard this album, but I have never heard OF it.
          ​​​it. I have heard of Love Beach, but I've not heard it. My interest in ELP pretty much ended with Works Vol.1, though I did buy Vol.2 as an afterthought, though barely after thought.
          I really wish I'd seen them live in 1973 on the Brain Salad Surgery tour.
          Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see.
          Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been.

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            #6
            It's a long time since I heard the album, and I don't really remember it, now. But I didn't buy it, which suggests that it didn't seem to be what I would have really liked. Nevertheless, the title track is on my huge shower playlist, so I must have considered that to be sufficiently invigorating when I downloaded it!

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              #7
              I enjoyed Black Moon when it was released in 1992 and I still enjoy it now. But could it have been better? Absolutely. I thought they played it a little safe on Black Moon. All the tracks were of similar length. No big epic stuff, which is what people really wanted from them. The ELPowell album at least had a 9-mnute epic and a bombastic version of Holst's Mars. On BM, there are simpler arrangements. The drumming, though good, sounds a bit restrained - at least for Carl Palmer. Lakes's voice had very noticeably changed: lower, deeper and huskier. Not the Greg Lake you hear on Karn Evil 9 Third Impression. Lyrics are kinda cliche, but they work I guess. The album has its roots in both an Emerson solo album (Changing States) and the Ride The Tiger project with Lake and Geoff Downes, so much of it was already written prior to reforming. Black Moon also came out around the same time as Asia's AQUA album, which also featured Palmer.

              That said, I do like the modern synths Emerson was using on the album, they had an orchestral feel. Sure, they could have used an orchestra for that, but they'd done that and fans in general prefer ELP as a band, with Emerson providing the one-man orchestra using his wonderful keyboards. He's the best of the trio on this album. The songs are varied, as you would expect from ELP, but I get the feeling they held back a little. They could have gone bolder, with a 15-minute track alongside power trio songs and classical adaptations. But all in all I enjoy the album for what it is, it came out during a decent life phase. The tour was cool.

              The songs:

              title track: atmospheric, driving. Kashmir meets parts of Tarkus but played by Asia? Something like that
              Paper Blood: the 'rock' song of the album, probably would have been better as a Uriah Heep song
              Affairs Of The Heart: romantic acoustic track, originally written with Downes
              Romeo & Juliet: only classical adaptation on here, ELP enough for me
              Farewell To Arms: I do like this one a lot, nice Lucky Man-type solo towards the end.
              Changing States: great Emerson instrumental piece, modern synths, fanfare-type , almost soundtrack music. One of the best latter-day Emerson compositions.
              Burning Bridges: written by Marc Mancina(Trevor Rabin) who produced the album. Not a bad song at all, but I suppose it was put forth due to lack of material
              Close To Home: a beautiful solo piano piece, somewhat Rachmaninoff-ish. Interesting that Emerson managed to get a totally classical piano composition onto an early 90's rock album when everyone else was trying to get them to simplify and lose the elements that made them ELP.
              Better Days: last two songs are rather anticlimactic. I like this track, but ELP probably needed to end a new album with more bells and whistles.
              Footprints In The Snow: not the Debussy piece, a beautiful acoustic Lake ballad track ends the album on a softer note.

              We won't go into In The Hot Seat. Well, we could but that's a whole other thread. But Black Moon - not half bad at all.

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                #8
                Mediocre record…fun tour.
                “Well ain’t life grand when you finally hit it?”-David Lee Roth

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by Ash Armstrong View Post
                  Not only have I never heard this album, but I have never heard OF it.
                  ​​​it. I have heard of Love Beach, but I've not heard it. My interest in ELP pretty much ended with Works Vol.1, though I did buy Vol.2 as an afterthought, though barely after thought.
                  I really wish I'd seen them live in 1973 on the Brain Salad Surgery tour.
                  There's some pretty embarrassing tracks on Love Beach.

                  But there's some nice stuff as well.

                  You might skip the first 5 tracks, and start at Track 6, Canario, and Track 7, Memoirs.

                  Tracks 1-3 are just hideous. Tracks 4 & 5 are OK.

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Frumious B View Post
                    Mediocre record…fun tour.
                    That's my stance as well. Being a teenager in the mid 80s and a with two friends being fans of Yes and ELP around 1987/1988 (the Big Generator tour didn't come to Europe and no Internet these days), we thought our chances of seeing either band live were zero to none. Then ABWH came along, followed by Yes' Union tour and then a year later we had tickets for ELP. We were over the moon and I still treasure these years and tours.

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                      #11
                      What's odd is that with Victory records, roster bands like Yes and Tin Machine were allowed to experiment and be themselves (Talk, for example is not a pop album with outside writers). Yet they wanted to restrain ELP, arguably the most bombastic prog group of them all, and give us things like In The Hot Seat. I don't get that.

                      As for Love Beach - the vilified compromise album with the yacht rock album cover - it's really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. People are just told not to like it. True, it's a far cry from Brain Salad Surgery, but its got its pros and cons.

                      pros:

                      No orchestra, back to being a 3-piece band.
                      Other than Peter Sinfield supplying lyrics, no outside writers or outside session people
                      A 20-minute epic, Memoirs, that takes up side two breaks new ground for them in some ways - closer to Genesis' brand of romantic drama than Tarkus, etc.
                      Canario is as good a ELP instrumental as anything.
                      I didn't mind, or at least didn't hate, the first two tracks, and For You is ok. I don't always want to hear Knife Edge.

                      cons:

                      no hammond organ that I can hear
                      some ridiculous lyrics, especially on things like Taste Of My Love.
                      that same Yamaha synth all throughout the album robs it of variety
                      The Gambler - they had already done songs like that (Tiger In A Spotlight), it's rehash
                      That album cover! I wonder if anybody somewhere back then bought the album on a whim thinking they were gonna get some disco or laid back yacht rock. I wonder what they thought of it, what their reaction was. We already know what ELP fans reaction was. But on the other hand - just playing devil's advocate - who don't like a laid back time on the beach with a beautiful sunset in the background with the orange/purple skyline listening to the crash of the waves. Maybe that cover wasn't as putrid as we're told. I'd want to go to that album cover location, but I wouldn't particularly want to go to the album cover location where that Tarkus creature is.

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                        #12
                        [QUOTE=Soundwaveseeker;n24979]
                        As for Love Beach - the vilified compromise album with the yacht rock album cover - it's really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. People are just told not to like it. True, it's a far cry from Brain Salad Surgery, but its got its pros and cons.

                        Totally agree- I am a fan of Love Beach!!!!! --parts of it---and for the reasons you have stated- its not as bad as people are told to believe it to be! The lyrics are cringeworthy in places and even Sinfield acknowledges that! Apparently Sinfield's condition for coming on board- was that GL would not be allowed to work with him on the lyrics!!! Whilst some are ok like the Gambler, For You and most of ( but not all ) of Memoirs, the rest are appalling- It says a lot about the context of that album and their contractual issues for GL to agree to these conditions- it also tells you about he GL and Sinflied's relationship at that time. The album was an attempt at a cross over- into radio friendly tracks- both E&P have clarified and confirmed this and it was Atlantic who pushed for it- and as a result we get some disastrous few tracks to start the album. Why they didnt use Intro Fanfare and Peter Gunn is confusing as they did a great job of it live. There is also a midi version of Taste of my Love on the web- I think it was on Gabor's site and it actually sounds better as an instrumental. And yes the album cover it ridiculous- KE tried to get Armeht to change it!! I tend to rate LB along side Ws2 and a huge gap filled with a void before we get to the bottomless pit of ITHS. But where to put ELPowell? .... for me if we put Works 1 to one side because of the use of the Orchestra and just rate the ELP albums as only ELP as the players- probably after BBS!

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                          #13
                          [QUOTE=The sage;n25107]
                          Originally posted by Soundwaveseeker View Post
                          As for Love Beach - the vilified compromise album with the yacht rock album cover - it's really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. People are just told not to like it. True, it's a far cry from Brain Salad Surgery, but its got its pros and cons.

                          Totally agree- I am a fan of Love Beach!!!!! --parts of it---and for the reasons you have stated- its not as bad as people are told to believe it to be! The lyrics are cringeworthy in places and even Sinfield acknowledges that! Apparently Sinfield's condition for coming on board- was that GL would not be allowed to work with him on the lyrics!!! Whilst some are ok like the Gambler, For You and most of ( but not all ) of Memoirs, the rest are appalling- It says a lot about the context of that album and their contractual issues for GL to agree to these conditions- it also tells you about he GL and Sinflied's relationship at that time. The album was an attempt at a cross over- into radio friendly tracks- both E&P have clarified and confirmed this and it was Atlantic who pushed for it- and as a result we get some disastrous few tracks to start the album. Why they didnt use Intro Fanfare and Peter Gunn is confusing as they did a great job of it live. There is also a midi version of Taste of my Love on the web- I think it was on Gabor's site and it actually sounds better as an instrumental. And yes the album cover it ridiculous- KE tried to get Armeht to change it!! I tend to rate LB along side Ws2 and a huge gap filled with a void before we get to the bottomless pit of ITHS. But where to put ELPowell? .... for me if we put Works 1 to one side because of the use of the Orchestra and just rate the ELP albums as only ELP as the players- probably after BBS!
                          I didn't know that about Lake and Sinfield's contractual stipulations for Love Beach. Side one indeed has some real cringey, cliche and even slightly misogynist lyrics, but I was surprised at the sensitivity and romantic elements on side two. They showed a bit more maturity with 'Memoirs', closer to fellow prog labelmates Genesis with their And Then There Were Three album, also 1978. Usually an ELP sidelong suite would be a frenetic rumination on war and death but without the romantic back story. It's more human story, rather than a tale of a horrific future populated by manticores and mechanical Tarkus animals. And the fact that they even put a side-long epic on what was supposed to be their pop breakthrough album should give them a couple extra points. I'm surprised not many pick up on that, or that the album may even be a concept album, 'love' being the theme. Or maybe not, nah that may be a stretch. But if you overthink it, that hideous beach album becomes an overlooked art-rock gem waiting to be rediscovered. It's got its flaws, but compared to In The Hot Seat, it's a prog masterpiece.

                          Not sure either why they didn't go with Introductory Fanfare/Peter Gunn to open the album, I guess it didn't go with the love theme.

                          And I would agree, ELPowell and even the 3 album are closer to the ELP o5 BSS than Works. A shame they didn't continue on into the 80's. That was a very synth-dominated era, tailor made for Emerson and his keyboards. One would think his classical style would be out of place, but look at Ultravox: Billy Currie (Ultravox keyboardist/violinist) had a totally classical approach, not just the synthpop/Kraftwerk element. They possibly could have done it, I don't know.

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                            #14
                            Yes, Black Moon could have been better... but In the Hot Seat could have been WAY better.

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                              #15
                              In the Hot Seat could have been way better, but actually its more like In The Hot Seat should have been way better. There was really no excuse for such a debacle. There's a whole story to the making of that one. They just weren't up for it. Sad how that ended up as their last album. They should have tried one more time after it. Supposedly they were supposed to do an album for 1998, but fell out over Lake insisting on producing the album but people not bringing enough material to the table, don't know all the details. There was a new short instrumental called Crossing The Rubicon. A shame we got robbed of a 1998/99 ELP album.

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