[Review] Greg Lake (1981)

Rockers and ballads from the voice of ELP plus the guitar of Gary Moore.

Kronomyth 1.0: Oh, what a lucky man I was.

“He put the L in ELP, but I don’t know what the L he was thinking with this album.” Thus began my snarky review of Greg Lake’s eponymous debut. From there, I went on to point out that Billboard described the album as “loaded with steamy rockers and touching ballads,” which elicited this response from me: “While I’ll concede that a good half of this album is steaming, I wouldn’t suggest touching it.” That’s right, I said half of it was poo. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas. Greg Lake recorded only two solo albums in his lifetime: Greg Lake and Manoeuvres. Neither added much to the man’s legend, truth be told, but both featured that bold, beautiful voice. His first album also prominently showcased the pyrotechnic contributions of lead guitarist Gary Moore (ex-Thin Lizzy), who here effectively replaces Keith Emerson as Lake’s primary musical foil. Truly, the album might just as well have been co-credited to Moore or billed as ELM, since keyboardist Tommy Eyre (who joined Moore for his next album) cowrites half the material. Now, I never liked the over-the-top heavy metal of the 80s, and the opening Nuclear Attack (which Moore had looked to release the previous year) is waayy over the top. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting from Lake, although I suppose is does point forward to Asia. The next track, Love You Too Much, is a leftover from none other a luminary than Bob Dylan. Again, not at all what I was expecting from the author of “C’est La Vie,” and I began to wonder how many licks it would take before we reached the gooey center of Greg Lake the songwriter. The quote the owl, the answer is tharee. It Hurts reintroduces the romantic balladeer we all know and love. It’s not timeless stuff, but the time passes nicely enough, and from here on in it’s mostly a Greg Lake album. While I can’t shake the feeling that Christine McVie should be singing Black and Blue, it’s not a bad song. Retribution Drive is even better and puts just the right amount of pomp and atmosphere behind that marvelous voice. It’s one of several songs co-written with artist-in-residence, Tony Benyon, who produced the Th’ Lone Groover comics for NME. The second side of the album is better balanced toward the songs of Greg Lake. The only misstep is Let Me Love You Once Before You Go, a song written by professional tunesmiths Steve Dorff and Molly Ann Leiken, both of whom had written material for The Carpenters and which occasioned me to originally kronomyth this album as “Let me go once before you love me,” since this is a classy site that never misses a chance to make a bathroom joke. These days, if I’m slightly disappointed with this album, it’s only because I expected a lot from Lake. More than John Wetton, anyway, whose Caught in the Crossfire is clearly the better album. Even the best prog bands had largely abandoned their classic sound by now, and I probably held the torch for too long, resulting in my feeling burned by albums like this and Asia. These days, I’m just thankful for the chance to spend what time remains in the cool shadow of an artist of his stature.

Original elpee version

A1. Nuclear Attack (Gary Moore) (4:27)
A2. Love You Too Much (Bob Dylan/Helena Springs/Greg Lake) (3:55)
A3. It Hurts (Greg Lake) (4:27)
A4. Black and Blue (Greg Lake) (3:56)
A5. Retribution Drive (Greg Lake/Tony Benyon/Tommy Eyre) (5:03)
B1. Long Goodbye (Greg Lake/Tony Benyon/Tommy Eyre) (3:55)
B2. The Lie (Greg Lake/Tommy Eyre/Tony Benyon) (4:44)
B3. Someone (Tommy Eyre/Greg Lake/Tony Benyon) (4:08)
B4. Let Me Love You Once Before You Go (Steve Dorff/Molly Ann Leiken) (4:16)
B5. For Those Who Dare (Greg Lake/Tony Benyon) (3:53)

The Players

Greg Lake (bass, vocals), Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Gary Moore (guitar) with Clarence Clemmons (saxophone), Willie Cochrane (piper), Bill Cuomo (keyboards), Michael Giles (drums), David Hungate (bass), Jode Leigh (drums), Steve Lukather (guitar), Tristram Margetts (bass), Greg Mathieson (keyboards), Ted McKenna (drums), David Milner (piper), Dean Parks (guitar), Jeff Porcaro (drums), Snuffy Walden (guitar). Produced by Greg Lake except A3 by Alex Grobb; engineered by Haydn Bendall, Brian Robson, Steve Short, Paul Dobe, Harold Blumberg, John Timperley, Nigel Walker.

The Pictures

Cover concept by Tony Benyon. Fibre-optic design by Rocky at Cucumber. Art direction by John Pasche.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in October 1981* in the UK (Chrysalis, CHR/ZCHR-1357), the US (Chrysalis, CHR/PVT4-1357), Germany (Chrysalis, 204 103 320) and Japan (Chrysalis, WWS-81445) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #62 on the UK charts and #62 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 10/17/81 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 2000 (Creative Musical Arts, GLCD 3002).
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2000 in the UK (Zoom, ZCRCD42).
  3. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on July 26, 2011 (Rock Candy).

1 thought on “[Review] Greg Lake (1981)

  1. I remember your old review began with, “Given that Greg Lake’s fanbase consists primarily of ELP fans, you have to wonder what the L he was thinking when he decided to make a wanky little hair metal album (or half of one, anyway). OK, so it’s not really hair metal, but nobody ever told Gary Moore (or the other guitarists) that.”

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