4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Back in the ’70s, a radio station in Chicago had an “underground” program several hours each night that featured obscure and new groups from Europe, bands not being played on any other “normal” FM stations. One of the unknown acts introduced to me was Lake, and what made the group different from others being showcased was its genre. Whereas the station typically focused on Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, and Prog-Rock groups (everything from Guru Guru and Nektar to Judas Priest, Three Man Army, Lucifer’s Friend, etc.), Lake played extremely catchy AOR material with perhaps a touch of Prog-Rock tossed in. The song that grabbed my attention was the driving and harmony-drenched “On The Run,” which I played repeatedly on my portable cassette player (I had a tendency to record that radio program as often as possible for future reference). Based on that track alone, I sought out the album during my next shopping trip to the record store, and was shocked that I actually found it, not in the pricey “import” section, but in the main section, thanks to Lake being contracted by the CBS/Columbia label.
Anyway, although some websites incorrectly classify Lake as being “Krautrock,” that label is far from the truth—and style—of the matter (aside from the band being formed in Hamburg, but made up of multinational musicians). Instead, Lake could have easily passed for any American AOR band featuring Pop melodies, music aimed directly at the U.S. market. In fact, the melodic track “Time Bomb” was not only released in America, but actually hit Billboard’s Top 40, giving Lake some genuine and coveted bona fides back in its home country.
With wonderfully slick production and top-notch musicianship, Lake delivered an undeniable AOR masterpiece on its debut. Aside from the aforementioned tunes, several others (“Sorry To Say,” “Chasing Colours,” and “Key to the Rhyme”) are in a similar vein, all containing a nice balance between guitars and keyboards, with exceptional vocals and multi-layered harmonies, deceptively complex instrumentation, and (for the most part) upbeat rhythms. The group also included a single ballad (“Do I Love You?”), which somehow reminds me of the Little River Band, as well as the ten-minute closer “Between the Lines,” which is where the musicians let loose with an extended outro section that borders on Prog-Rock. All in all, the melodies from the majority of tracks stubbornly stay in your head long after the album concludes. In fact, I hadn’t heard the platter for more than a decade, but when I played it recently, I could automatically hum along to almost every track, with memories of lyrics and hook-lines rushing back to me as if I’d heard those tunes only days earlier. Amazingly catchy material, which I have replayed several times now since the songs are so addictive (and long-missed).
Thankfully, Lake went on to produce several additional albums of high quality (although none of them quite matched the pure brilliance of this debut, in my estimation), but the group eventually went “stale” as the ’80s approached. Then, with scads of personnel changes also becoming routine in future years, the group never could recapture the magic from the ol’ days, even though its last release came out as recently as 2014.
Regardless, for fans of the AOR style produced by groups such as mid-period Ambrosia, Little River Band, Toto, 707, Le Roux, Player, Tycoon, etc., you might want to investigate this stand-out release (or the band’s next two albums, Lake II and Paradise Island, the latter being slightly better of the two, in my opinion). But if snatching up a copy of this debut, be warned you’ll likely have many of these songs repeating in your head for days.
One final note: I always thought the music on this album was, in many ways, a precursor to the style of material abundant on Lucifer’s Friend’s undervalued Sneak Me In album from 1980. Ironically, the singer during that AOR-ish period in Lucifer’s Friend’s history was Mike Starrs, who would actually join up with Lake in the opening decade of this new century. Eerie…