Even rock’s biggest names occasionally release a dud. These five albums threatened to derail careers. And in some cases they did.
Emerson Lake & Palmer – Love Beach – Progressive giants ELP were one of the ‘70s biggest concert draws. But they sounded more like a conventional – even chirpy – pop group on this uncharacteristic 1978 outing. The members went their separate ways after its release, though they would reunite more than a decade later.
Black Sabbath – Never Say Die! – Heavy rock heroes Black Sabbath released six genre-defining albums in five years. But as suddenly as they had appeared on the scene with their self-titled 1970 debut, they lost everything that made them special. Even the 1978 album’s title seemed to acknowledge it as the Ozzy Osbourne-fronted lineup’s last gasp.
Queen – Hot Space – After a staggering run of successes, Queen assumed their place among rock’s royalty. But here the group inexplicably abandoned its ambitious and gleefully grandiose approach in favor of insipid dance pop. 1982’s Hot Space is only redeemed by the David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure.”
David Bowie – Tonight – In his long and storied career, rock’s chameleon successfully executed countless stylistic shifts. But after the blockbuster success of Let’s Dance, Bowie hit a creative dry spell. The dire “Blue Jean” single is the most memorable cut on a wholly unremarkable 1984 release.
Genesis – Calling All Stations – Genesis was the Incredible Shrinking Band; for fans of their groundbreaking early ‘70s art rock, the successive departure of each key member meant a corresponding decline in quality. When Phil Collins left in 1992, the end seemed likely. But Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford soldiered on with a new singer. It’s worth noting that the band’s official career-spanning documentary (2014’s Genesis Together and Apart) makes nary a mention of this record.
NOTE: for most of my “Take 5” pieces, I include YouTube clips for each list item. Because I love you, dear reader, I’m not doing that here. Instead, here’s just one clip. It’s a fine enough pop song; just not the ELP listeners had come to expect.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4500-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he taught a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.