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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.13 | 1868 ratings

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3 stars I can only give this album three stars and I feel mildly generous in doing that. (I gave the album a bonus due to the amazing art work and rounded 2.4 up to 3.) While ELP is without a doubt an influential band in this music that we call progressive, they struggled with putting out solid albums. Brain Salad Surgery, in my opinion, really has one decent song (Karn Evil 9).

While I like "Jerusalem" and think that ELP does a decent job performing it, it seems sorely out of place on this album. There is also a weird volume discrepancy early on in the song (which may be a flaw in the remastered recording) which keeps the last three-quarters of the song in an audio fog. If that was the intended effect (the sudden decrescendo), I am puzzled what the reasoning behind it was.

"Toccata" is a bit violent for an instrumental, which is why ELP liked it so much, no doubt. However, I can only take this song in small doses. It's just too much for even this well-developed prog palate to handle. So despite the original composer being impressed with Emerson's adaption, I am not as impressed as I reach for an aspirin to calm the headache that usually accompanies the hearing of Toccata in its entirety.

"Still...You Turn Me On" (while I hit SKIP). Seriously, this is a great little tune. However, for this prog lover, I was bored to tears after hearing it five times. For those of you wondering if a song is "progressive" or not, give it the unofficial prog test by listening to it five times in a row (yes...even the epics...especially the epics). If a song sounds good and catchy on the very first listen, that spells trouble (pop song...definitely not prog). If by the fifth listen, you are bored and there is nothing new to hear in the song, then it fails the prog test. However, you know you are listening to good "progressive" music if you are just starting to see (and hear) some new things in the song on the fifth listen. This is a long-winded way of saying that Still... miserably fails the unofficial prog test. I should have known when I thought it sounded pretty cool the very first time I heard it. Now I just have to skip it.

I said "Toccata" was tough for me to listen to. "Benny the Bouncer" is just dreadful. I dare anyone to try the unofficial prog test with this song. You may swear off music all together if you were forced to listen to this waste of vinyl five straight times. Let's face it, this song is a filler as part of ELP's "formula" which they thought was popular. (No guys, it's your good songs that make you popular, not these silly capers into music hell.) I'd like to try and describe "Benny" to you, but really...what's the point? It's a tongue-in-cheek vaudville act which makes me appreciate the SKIP button on my CD player. (That's two skips in a row, for those of you keeping score at home.)

"Karn Evil 9". Is this a planet? Is it a weird carnival? Is it a computer? Ask ELP and they will probably answer "YES" to all three questions as it relates to this song, easily the highlight of the album. It comes in four flavors, with each of them tasting a little different. I prefer Parts 1 and 2 of the first impression, mainly because I am a sucker for lyrics. The second and third impressions seem to drag on with nothing but keyboards on top of other keyboards. If you are a guitar man, you probably don't like ELP in the first place. But you also might come across this highly acclaimed song and wonder what all the fuss is about. Obviously, Keith Emerson shows some dazzling talent in all three impressions of this song and I would have loved to have seen him perform it live (as I understand ELP knew how to dazzle in their musicianship). Carl Palmer asserts himself nicely on the drums as well in this epic. If this song weren't so impressive, this album really would be a stinker, in my opinion. But this song alone makes Brain Salad Surgery a decent addition to a prog lover's collection (you might just have to SKIP some songs along the way).

Lofcaudio | 3/5 |


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