Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - In the Hot Seat

2/10

Emerson and Palmer had both undergone surgery on their hands shortly before this contractually obligated album, so there really wasn't any way it was going to be good- most of Keith and Carl's parts could easily have been programmed into machines. Once again, the production is completely stuck in the 80's, with Palmer's playing being ludicrously compressed and everything else being just completely sterile. If this and Black Moon can be considered sellout albums, they were horribly calculated, as this kind of synthy AOR was dated as hell by the early 90s. There's a bit more guitar here than on classic ELP albums, but it's as slicked-over as everything else.
As for individual songs, "Hand of Truth" has an intro that could've been pretty good if Emerson had been 100%, as it is, it sounds like a fucking techno song. "Daddy" is ridiculously oversentimental, while it's not hard to imagine "Heart on Ice" being sung by Celine Dion. "Man in the Long Black Coat" is a late-period Dylan cover that could've been pretty damn good if it weren't for the overproduction that plagues all the other tracks. "Give Me a Reason to Stay" is total adult contemporary trap, and I've heard a rumor that "Gone Too Soon" had session musicians replacing Emerson and Palmer, which seems quite likely to me.
The only real plus that I can see here is that Lake's vocal performance is considerably better than on Black Moon (with a few exceptions), but when the songwriting and production are this uniformly terrible, decent vocals aren't nearly enough to save a dungheap like this. By the end, I was actually missing all the blues/Dixieland jazz from Works, Volume 2. Ignore In the Hot Seat: it's as bad as Love Beach, and at least the latter album's cover made it an interesting conversation piece.
NOTE: Some editions of this album have a studio version of "Pictures at an Exhibition" added on at the end, which I didn't account for in my rating because I don't count bonus tracks. It's by far the best thing on here, but it's somewhat weak compared to earlier renditions- if I counted it in my actual rating, In the Hot Seat would only get a 3.

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