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

BRAIN SALAD SURGERY

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 1811 ratings

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progkidjoel
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery

Review by ProgKidJoel

Welcome back my friends... To the show that NEVER ends!

ELP's fourth album, Brain Salad Surgery, is thought by many-a prog fan to be their best and most consistent effort to date. Filled with super-harmonics and pure bombastic prog, it takes little imagination to see why. Only marred by the lack of guitar work, and bass work which is often too low down in the mix, this is a near perfect album, and one of the best in the history of prog, in- debatably. One of the landmark prog albums of the seventy, this album was played when ELP was at their technical peak, and this is insanely evident in the composition, instrumentation and general atmosphere this album supplies.

Opening with a cover of an English hymn in JERUSALEM, ELP make their presence felt known through the perfect organ and drum opening, and eventually through the resounding vocals of Greg Lake. Many have remarked that this was the version which brought the hymn back to life ? And this is a fair statement. This track revived the original, removing the sterility and adding true emotion and energy to a fantastic track. This is a solid opener, showing all members to be in true form for what is one of the most thrilling prog albums of the '70's.

TOCATTA, the follow-up to JERUSALEM, is a lot less direct to begin with, opening with soft keyboard noises, and eventuating into a track which is somewhat reminiscent of the band's super-epic, TARKUS. The drums and synths work perfectly to create a labyrinth of noise, which sounds like it is been played by six men, instead of two. A genuine technical showcase, its hard to believe this track is simply called an "adaption" of Ginsatera's first piano concerto. Around two minutes in, the track fills with thumping bass and remarkable snare technique. Ample use of stereo-phonics and other recording effects keep the mix entertaining and original through its bombastic and militaristical nature and atmosphere. At around 3 minutes, an onslaught of signature Carl Palmer drumming ensues, involving insanely tense timpani strikes and occasional gong hits. This eventually settles to continue in a softer manner, playing perfectly off the chuch bells which follow. The last two minutes of this track are remarkable ? insane drumming and perfect synthsmanship (is that a word?) fill up the listener's ears (and head) with confusion and tension which truly could be cut with a knife. A near-perfect track!

STILL YOU TURN ME ON is a perfect pop track, featuring flowing acoustic melodies and cheesy, although genuine, lyrics. The vocals are a stand out on this track, and the atmospheric synth effects are also important. There's not much to be said about this track, although unlike many other short ELP tracks, this is not a filler and stands well on its own.

Here it is ? No ELP album would be complete without a comedy track, and on Brain Salad Surgery, we find out comedy in the form of BENNY THE BOUNCER. Unlike many other comedic ELP tracks, this still features genuine musicianship, particularly in the piano sections. Great and highly rhythmic piano fills and solos build this track up, and play perfectly with the bar-fight sound effects in the background. The drums are also great on this track, providing a lighter, jazzier refrain from TOCATTA. This is a great fun track, but in the grand scheme of BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, this seems insignificant.

KARN 9 EVIL, FIRST IMPRESSION: PART ONE is the first part of Brain Salad Surgery' (and ELP's) defining epic. Marked by perfect synths and epic vocals, this is a highly memorable track. This track is a truly brilliant feat or prog, and contributed to the mass of slack ELP receive for their supposed pretension. This track is marked by its individuality from the rest of the ELP catalogue, and its melodic synth playing is a true testament to Keith Emerson's skill as a keyboardist. At around 2:30 in, a marked change in pace mixes the track up, with a different tempo and keyboard effect in use. This track is filled with some of the technically best keyboards and drums ever, and the bass adds some depth to the track to make a more fleshed out sound. Through its many rhythmic and melodic changes, its easy to see why one might think this is the best ELP track.

FIRST IMPRESSION, PART TWO is another great section of the KARN 9 EVIL suitem featuring super memorable riffs and lyrics. Although not poetically insightful, or challenging, the lyrics provide a welcoming and entertaining atmosphere to this track. At around 1:20, the track breaks into semi-chaos, filled with insane synths and great (although very muffled) guitar fills hollowing through the epic structure. This track also has one of the best drum fills I've ever heard, in the form of a 6 second attack on melody from Carl Palmer.

SECOND IMPRESSION is a marked change from the first, featuring much more organic sounds, particularly exchanging piano for the synths in a majority of the melodies. The drumming, as always, is hard to believe in this instrumental, and the jazz piano skills of Keith Emerson really shine in this 7 minute extravaganza. The playing is incredibly clean, and proves that ELP (Or atleast E and P) are some of the most technical and original musicians around. This track features time signature changes and freak- outs en masse, and this gives a highly chaotic feel, especially in the lead-up to the THIRD IMPRESSION.

Brain Salad Surgery comes to a close with KARN 9 EVIL: THIRD IMPRESSION, represents another marked change in the stylistic direction of ELP's best. This track is once again filled with epic synths and drumming, although feels much more darker due to the heavily distorted guitar chords throughout the song. The lyrics are interesting in this track and provide some relief from the (usually) uninspired lyrics from ELP. This track does break down nicely, its last few minutes providing a perfect contrast to the rest of the album. The last minute of this song is synth riff heaven, providing original structures and technical treats. A perfect closer to a perfect album!

One of the essential prog records of the 70's, which every self-respecting prog-fan should own!

If you don't already own this, you shouldn't hesitate to make it your next purchase!

-Joel

progkidjoel | 5/5 |

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