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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 2129 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After strong albums like their debut and to some degree Tarkus, ELP 4th studio album would prove to be their most popular, and their most experimental, in my opinion. What you'll find here is a nice mixture of serious instrumental and vocal passages (Toccata, Karn Evil 9), acoustic ballads (Still... You Turn Me On), an epic retelling of a great poem (Jerusalem), and a nice little joke piece (Benny the Bouncer). The results point to a success, in my opinion. While the album isn't a masterpiece, there certainly are mainly strong qualities to make this album enjoyable to many people. Greg Lake is strong here on the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and vocally, Keith Emerson creates many different moods with his expansive synthesizers and his punchy organ, and Carl Palmer is at his best in technical aspects on this album, and really shows that he's a very strong drummer.

The album opens with Jerusalem, an epic retelling of the William Tell poem of the same name. Strong performances from Lake and Emerson are noteworthy here, with Lake giving a great vocal performance over Emerson's dynamic keyboard work. Toccata can be seen as either one of two things, an instrumental masterpiece or a nice example of musical cacauphony. I see it as a stunning example of how synthesizers can create disturbing atmospheres. Kudos to Carl Palmer here with a brilliant percussion solo in the middle, holding the song together as it seems to come apart at the seams at some times. Still... You Turn Me On is another Greg Lake penned ballad of sorts, in the vein of Lucky Man and From the Beginning. There's some nice wah guitar in the breakdown between the choruses and the dynamic acoustic guitar really adds some variety to the 90% keyboard dominated sound.

Benny the Bouncer is the jokey tune of the album, similar to that of Jeremy Bender, Are You Ready Eddy?, and the Sheriff. It's a short little ditty that really throws the mood of the album in a totally different direction before the showpiece of the album. Karn Evil 9 is a 35 minute opus of swirling synthesizers, grandiose circus lyrics, forboding synthesized voices, and steady jazzy instrumental sections. Every member of the band shines on this song and really show their expertise on their respective instruments. My only real gripe with the song is that it tends to drag a bit in the Second Impression, and I'm not too fond of the anti-climatic ending. But overall, this is a stunning piece that sprawls over two sides of vinyl (well, the last 8 minutes of one side of vinyl).

Overall, I see this album as ELP's best work. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a damn fine piece that took the group into the delirious heights of popularity. If you're just getting into the band, this is the album to start with, as you get a nice mixture of everything ELP has to offer. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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