This 1986 synth-fueled anthem functioned as yet another call for the '80s to be regarded as the Decade of the Supergroup. Just like that long-standing rock music concept, this reformation of '70s progressive rock kingpins ELP (with journeyman hard rock drummer Cozy Powell standing in for original member Carl Palmer, who was still committed to fellow fading supergroup Asia) was not entirely inspired or successful. Nonetheless, the moody "Touch and Go," despite the trademark ELP downplay of guitars, climbed all the way to No. 2 on Billboard's mainstream rock charts even if it struggled only to No. 60 on the pop charts. The powerful performance, fueled and grounded by a masterful, Aaron Copland-esque keyboard riff from Keith Emerson and tastefully bombastic vocals from Greg Lake, actually holds up quite well next to most arena rock popular at the time. I remember being struck 20 years ago, as I first began to delve into classic rock, by this song's assessment of modern life as the equivalent to being tossed - bloodied - into shark-infested waters. The juxtaposition of the tune's huge, electronically distancing sound with such bitter societal critique may seem jarring at first, but ultimately the experiment works.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Universal Motown Records Group