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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 2128 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Somewhere in a corner of cyberspace a debate rages on concerning ELP's best album: "Trilogy", "Tarkus", "Brain Salad Surgery"? I tend to side with "Trilogy", though at the same time concede that "Karn Evil 9" is the band's greatest achievement. It may be that Brain lacks the control of a "Trilogy", the innocence of a "Tarkus", instead surrendering to decadent arrangements that embrace chaos as a friend in the ultimate end. There's the sense throughout "Brain.." that ELP was trying their best to be confrontational, from the sloppy presentation of "Benny The Bouncer" to the subversive synthesizers used on "Toccata". Even the electric guitars on "Still. You Turn Me On" are more jarring than they should be. As good as those songs are (and "Jerusalem" is even better), they fall by the wayside when "Karn Evil 9" winds its way into view.

Emboldened with the power of Peter Sinfield's lyrics, ELP seeks to usurp the crown from a distracted KING CRIMSON with this intense, epic spectacle. The circus sideshow imagery played perfectly to the band's instrumental freak quotient: Lake's guitars arched high in heroic calls, Palmer's drums spilling improbably from both speakers, Emerson sounding like an inspired church organist one moment and coaxing a bold new world from his synthesizers the next. Strange happenings and busy goings-on from every corner. While it failed to coalesce like "Trilogy", "Brain"'s ability to layer levels of flash is itself a grand accomplishment; by the end of "Karn Evil 9" we're teetering at the tip of a huge mountain of excess, dangerously high above the earth and due to topple at any moment. When the inevitable fall comes, it's no less than the fall of mankind. It's easy to understand why some champion this "Brain...", as it's easily ELP's most superlative album. The band thrived by excess, and died by it years later, so it's tempting to make this exhibit A in the show.

But "Tarkus" bespoke the band's promise better, "Trilogy" fused the different parts into a sublime whole, while "Brain.." marked the beautiful (and equally tragic) point of no return. It's an absolutely fascinating train wreck to watch, however, and a true gemini of what's right and wrong with prog rock.

daveconn | 4/5 |


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