On the heels of receiving a honorary degree from the Conservatorio Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy — the very first honorary degree for music the prestigious university has ever awarded — King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer singer Greg Lake has reissued his first two solo albums — 1981's Greg Lake and 1983's Manoeuvres — as a double-disc set.
The surprise of such heavy power chord slicing on the opener of Greg Lake, "Nuclear Attack" is as startling to me now as it was when I first heard it. With Gary Moore's electric guitar screaming throughout (he wrote the song), this was certainly a wake-up call for ELP fans like me who thought the singer's debut would be filled with soft ballads. Though this tune, like lots of this album, suffers from some banal lyrics, Lake's vocals and the musicians behind him are spot on. "It Hurts" and "Black Blue" with its descending synth horn line is the Lake I want to hear. Middle of road for the most part, but Moore's lead on "It Hurts" does lift the song to semi-rock territory for a few moments.
We're back to power chords and overdriven leads on "The Lie," a true 80s power ballad with a great vocal. The big piano-driven gospel tune "Let Me Love You Once" and the stirring anti-war "For Those Who Dare" end the original album. There are three bonus tracks, including a take at Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got A Hold On Me," the bouncy, pop silliness of "You're Good With Your Love," and "Cold Side Of A Woman," which sees Lake's smooth voice bass mixing nicely with piano, guitar and strings.
The title track from Manoeuvres, Lake's second solo album, starts off with a formulaic guitar lick before settling into soft rock territory. Nevertheless, Lake's voice sounds strong and Gary Moore, in a return appearance, is attacking with his guitar. "Too Young To Love" rocks with Moore pull offs with a weak bridge that rolls back into a spectacular whammy bar lead moment. It sounds very much like "Paralysed," another song about forbidden love found amongst groupies.
Generally, Lake tries to mine the mid 80s pop-rock sensibility that infected so many of his peers in those days of trying to stay relevant. It happens throughout Manoeuvres, not something that I feel works best for him. "A Woman Like You" is nearly impossible to listen to, more like something the Eagles would have done. "Haunted" features piano and organ and big Lake bass moments in a romantic ballad, with his best and biggest vocal.
"It's You, You Gotta Believe" recalls those horn-synth sounds we found on ELP's Love Beach album. We're back to "For Those Who Dare" territory here, a song with big statement about the power of mankind, soaring Lake vocal and stirring musical pronouncements. The bonus track here is a tinkling (the keys are made to sound like chimes) "Hold Me." It's a nice middle of the road love song, but again all-so-light, an 80s white pop soul attempt. Unless you're a major Greg Lake fan or a lover of straight 80s pop-flavored rock, this double-disc that pairs Greg Lake with Manoeuvres may not meet your standards. For us diehards, every little note counts, and these both have enough moments to make it a worth a revisit.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.