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

BRAIN SALAD SURGERY

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 1812 ratings

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patrickq
2 stars There's an impressive amount of talent here, both in the performances and the arrangements. Other than a best-of CD, Brain Salad Surgery is the only Emerson, Lake and Palmer album I own (I'm reviewing the 2014 remaster). So my impression of the group is based on a limited sample, although Brain Salad Surgery isn't a departure from the other ELP works I've heard.

As a musical act, Emerson, Lake and Palmer is based on a piano-led jazz trio with occasional vocals. Nearly all of the time, the keyboards are front and center. Since there are just three instruments, the drums are more important than they would be in a larger combo. The bass is a supporting instrument whose role is often to expand the dynamic range, not to add tonality. Works for me. But the bassist/singer and the drummer also get their names on the marquee, and that seems to have created a need to alter the framework of the trio. Drummer Carl Palmer needs a solo every so often, and Greg Lake should get a vocal showcase. Right?

Of course, all three of the musicians here are excellent. But as the keyboardist, Keith Emerson is by far the best suited to be the main instrumentalist - - and Brain Salad Surgery works reasonably well when the bass and drums are there to support the keyboards. Although I wish more of the album was structured this way, my main complaint is not the musicianship or the arrangements.

The issue to me is the quality of the compositions. It seems like the group had a shortage of ideas when they entered the studio to record Brain Salad Surgery. Thus, they adapted a hymn and a piano concerto to account for about ten minutes of runtime, stretched 'Karn Evil 9' to nearly half an hour, and wrote two other songs whose brevity might excuse their lack of inspiration. The compositions do have their bright spots; for example, parts of 'Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 1' are very good.

But to me, Brain Salad Surgery is three bona fide stars of progressive rock demonstrating their chops - - and in the case of Keith Emerson, displaying his skills as an arranger. To employ a cliché, there's plenty of style here, but not enough substance.

patrickq | 2/5 |

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