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BRAIN SALAD SURGERY

Emerson Lake & Palmer

Symphonic Prog


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Emerson Lake & Palmer Brain Salad Surgery album cover
4.10 | 1331 ratings | 198 reviews | 50% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Jerusalem (2:44)
2. Toccata (7:23)
3. Still... You Turn Me On (2:53)
4. Benny The Bouncer (2:21)
5. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (8:44)
6. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4:47)
7. Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (7:07)
8. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (9:03)

Total Time: 45:04

40th Anniversary Edition
CD1
The Original Album (Remastered)

CD2
The Alternate Brain Salad Surgery
1. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (original backing track)
2. Jerusalem (first mix)
3. Still...You Turn Me On (first mix)
4. Toccata (alternate version)
5. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (alternate version)
6. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (alternate version)
7. Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (alternate version)
8. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (alternate version)
9. Excerpts from Brain Salad Surgery (NME Flexi Disc Version)
10. When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine (B Side Single)
11. Brain Salad Surgery (B Side Single)
12. Brain Salad Surgery (instrumental)
13. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (different version)

DVD
Super Stereo Brain Salad Surgery

2014 remix by Jakko Jakszyk

+ FLAC files of original album and 2014 remix

Lyrics

Search EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Brain Salad Surgery lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

Search EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Brain Salad Surgery tabs

Line-up / Musicians

- Keith Emerson / organ, piano, harpsichord, accordion, custom-built Moog synths, Polyphonic Moog Ensemble, voice of bridge computer in 3rd Impression
- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, Zemaitis electric 6-string and 12-string guitars
- Carl Palmer / drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers

Releases information

Cover art by Hans Ruedi Giger

LP Manticore / Atlantic Records 1973; re-released 1996 on Rhino {USA / Canada}
CD Castle Music Ltd (UK) CMRCD201 (2001) Remaster + 3 Bonus Tracks:
1.Brain Salad Surgery (Bonus Track, Single)
2.When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind
3.Excerpts from Brain Salad Surgery (Flexi disc)
CD Shout Factory 826663-10642 (2007)
Remaster + 2 Bonus Tracks:
1. Jerusalem (Alternate Mix)
2. Karn Evil 9 (Instrumental Mix)

2CD+DVD 40th Anniversary Edition Razor&Tie 7930183415-2
Remixed by Jakko Jakszyk

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Evolver for the last updates
Edit this entry

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EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Brain Salad Surgery ratings distribution


4.10
(1331 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(50%)
50%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
33%
Good, but non-essential (11%)
11%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Brain Salad Surgery reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars You know when you get the feeling that a band was before their time? Well, by hearing carefully these guys, you get that feeling all over this BRILLANT album. Those guys can SERIOUSLY play. Even if you don't like the keyboard-based type of prog, this record set the bar very high and commands respect from 0:00 'till the end. Jerusalem is somewhat a reprise from an English patriotic song. It's powerful, pompous and could be classified as an anthem. I don't care what poeple are saying, I like Benny the Bouncer. It's funny, and the accent of Lake is very pronounced (sounds like Coronation Street, but meaner). Is there another thing to say about Karn Evil 9? Well, the first 2 and a half minute are crazy. It's like two poeple fighting over a church organ. Buy it and play it LOUD, loud is important sometimes. It is now. THE album you must get from ELP and unfortunately...the only one.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#14366) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars 2,5 stars because it is a peak in progressive rfock in its own way , but I'm not sure this is a positive way. Most ELP fans vote for this one as their fave album and it is easy to see why. Apart from the stunning fold-out artwork sleeve , there are IMO some major flaws with this album.

This is the album where ELP goes overboard as Yes did with Tales Of Topographic Ocean or Jethro Tull with A Passion Play. I believe that ELP was still faithfull to themselves as they did this album with great care but probably were too confident that they could do no wrong. But they did!!Karn Evil 9 is , of course the highlight but I find it over-long, intently difficult and relatively obtuse in purpose and self-importance - (Welcome Back My Friend To The Show That Never Ends) - surely this track never ends. I also hate the fake carrib steel drums (and if they are real , I hate them also) in the third movement. Toccata is another of the re-working the classics and Bouncer is yet another ragtime piece - Boooring!!! Actually the only thing I can still ear is the Lake-penned Still, You Turn Me On - the obvious commercial track.

Best avoid starting with this album as this might put off the newcomers. In itself this is still a classic but to me , this is not essential and rarely listen to it .

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#14367) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 05, 2004

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Bring me my arrows of desire

Many fans see this as ELP's finest hour. The main feature is "Karn Evil 9", a piece in three "Movements" which occupies part of side 1,and all of side 2 of the album. There is in fact little to connect the three movements, each being a distinctive piece on its own. The "First Movement" is sub-split into two parts, leading to the "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" intro to side 2 of the LP. This effect is of course lost on the CD version. I often wonder at the fact that, if you listen to the melody and counter melody played by Emerson and Lake on this track they bear no apparent relation to each other. When combined however, it works perfectly.

The "Second movement" is an instrumental featuring the percussion skills of Carl Palmer. Thankfully, he refrains from subjecting us to a drum solo opting instead for a Caribbean steel drum sound, but for me this, along with "Toccata" is the weakest part of the album. The "Third movement" is pure ELP prog at its best. The track is vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the machine", Lake is in fine form vocally and lyrically, complementing Emerson's superb synthesiser work.

Whether "Karn Evil 9" stands well a complete piece in three parts is a matter for debate. For me, the three movements are individual pieces, which do not require to be heard together, and bear no relation to each other. Fine music nonetheless.

The rest of the album is made up of short tracks. It opens with a strange choice, a faithful adaptation of the hymn "Jerusalem". This does not sound quite as out of place as might be expected, and makes for a spirited start. Another standout track is the mainly acoustic "Still you turn me on", which spurned the oft quoted (in ridicule) lyric "Every day a little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder". I love the synthesiser at the end of this track, the solo could easily have been 2 or 3 times as long.

This is indeed a mighty album, which finds ELP working at their peak as a coherent unit. It is interesting that the title track only appeared on a floppy single given away with a magazine at the time, being officially released for the first time on "Works volume 2".

The original LP was nicely presented in a fold out sleeve, although I understand the image was toned down from that originally planned.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#14399) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well it's a pity for the excessive bombastic experimentations and technological effects of "Toccata" too, but for sure the impact and influence as well regarding this work could make this one a "5 stars album"; I'm a bit sorry for the long duration of the excellent suite "Karn Evil 9", which is becoming more and more prolix after a repetitive listening, above all the second part.. Anyway the rest is enriched with some interesting solos taken from Ginastera and the beautiful epic theme of "Jerusalem" as well, another adaptation, arranged in a remarkable way!! "Still ... you turn me on" is a typical ballad according to Greg Lake's romantic style; instead "Benny the Bouncer" is a classic jazz arrangement by EMERSON, where Carl PALMER can show his ability at his jazzy drumming, reminding us of the exceptional work by Buddy Rich, his tutor and great friend too, with the B.R. Orchestra ...

Highly recommended!! But before this one, listen to the incomparable "Pictures at an Exhibition", their famous adaptation from Mussorgsky

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#14350) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record is the best of the ELP's albums. It is definitely an exhibition of 3 virtuosos: Emerson shows us that he is the master of the Hammond organ, and that he outstandingly masters the piano and the heroic polyphonic synthesizer. Carl Palmer gives a solid fast & complex performance on drums: I think he is at his best here. Lake's excellent voice and the overall sound are enhanced by a subtle and fresh echo; Lake's bass is complex enough to support well the very exigent keyboards & drums. One can recognize some parts here from which the band Triumvirat was inspired to make their "Spartacus" and "Pompeii" albums. The album has an obvious jazz tendency, as revealed by fast and complex piano & drums parts. The interesting thing is that, despite the outstanding technical performance, the tracks are really accessible, melodic and very structured. Unlike "Tarkus", this album mostly is not experimental.

The epic "Karn Evil" is just quintessential, full of changing moods. On the other side, the tracks are shorter and may be very addictive, like the catchy "Jerusalem". Unfortunately, "Toccata" is the weak point of this album: it is VERY experimental: this dark track is not catchy at all, it does not shine like the other ones, despite the instruments are still perfectly played. "Still... you turn me on" has excellent acoustic guitar parts and it is very accessible and catchy, still remaining quite elaborated. The odd "Benny the bouncer" does not fit very well with the other tracks, although the saloon piano, the unrefined vocals and the funny mood are likeable.

Modern bands like Pallas and Asia have similar epic keyboards elements; so, for 1973, this was huge!

Rating: 4.5 stars

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#14351) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 08, 2004

Review by corbet
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well, a lot has been said about this album already, so I'll keep it brief... first off, "Toccata" is the most aggressive and pummeling piece of prog music ever to hit vinyl. Forget King Crimson (I love them, but they are not "aggressive" to me, just distorted!), forget all your metal bands -- ELP are the real deal, and "Toccata" is their brain buster. This was the piece of music that turned me on to this album and to ELP in general, and still I've never found anything that challenges its throne as king destroyer. One of the greatest musical expressions to come out of prog music. "Jerusalem" is stately and wonderful, "Still... You Turn Me On" is beautiful, and "Benny The Bouncer" is (eventually) delightful, in a retarded kind of way. Then there's "Karn Evil 9" -- one of the greatest prog workouts of all time! The third impression with its robot voices and crazy synth effects will always be a personal favorite of mine, and Carl Palmer is simply a spectacle to behold all throughout. Although slightly less cohesive, "Karn Evil" rates up there with "The Ikon" (by Utopia) in terms of being the most action-packed 30 minute epic prog masterpiece. What more can I say, this is a total no-brainer for prog fanatics -- you must own this album, and if you don't like it, go see a doctor and find out what's wrong with you.

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Send comments to corbet (BETA) | Report this review (#14352) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 09, 2004

Review by daveconn
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.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#14361) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004

Review by richardh
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars You can have progressive rock with ideas.You can have progressive rock with great playing.You can have progressive rock with a sense of fun.Ladies and Gentleman I give you Emerson,Lake and Palmer.It's flashy for sure and pompous and Ok while I'm at it,it's also Pretentious.Yes the dreaded 'P' word.A band that refuses to recognise its own limits will always go too far.And ELP did.BUT not before producing this bundle of eclectic brilliance.Put simply you have the world's greatest prog keyboardist and the world's greatest drummer going through their paces and at the peak of their enormous powers.It could have all gone horribly wrong (and actually it did eventually) but Greg Lake maintains the steadying influence that keeps the juggernaut on the road.But admittedly the signs of future strife between the members of this celebrated trio was already apparent and this was ,sadly , to be their last great album before the decline set in.Oh well.ELP were a comet that burnt brighly in the prog constellation for a short time and 'Surgery is the evidence of that.

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Send comments to richardh (BETA) | Report this review (#14409) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 17, 2004

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In the early 1970s, when Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the height of their creativity and popularity, it was still somewhat of a novelty to hear a synthesizer. Synth recordings such as Walter (now Wendy) Carlos' SWITCHED ON BACH and SWITCHED ON SANTA were bestsellers, and my older sister and I would listen to the electronic drums on the Doors' "The Wasp," and the synth passage in ELP's "From the Beginning" (which she had on 45 -- remember those?) over and over again, fascinated by the other-worldly sound of the new keyboard. Along with synth pioneers like Carlos, J. M. Jarre and Tangerine Dream, Keith Emerson was a leading explorer and master of the still-evolving instrument, which features very heavily on BRAIN SALAD SURGERY. (The album's unusual title comes from a British euphemism for a particular sexual act -- enough said!)

Though I regard this disc as an undeniable five-star milestone and "masterpiece of progressive rock," the novelty of synth-driven music has long since faded, and therefore, for many, "BSS" (and the music of ELP in general) may not have stood the test of time as strongly as other important, but less synth-dominated prog albums of the era. One hears precious little overt use of the instrument on the radio these days. (I suspect, in fact, that many younger music fans and bands find the heavy use of synths to be rather old-fashioned, if not downright "corny.") Today, the synthesizer is mainly found in the background, relegated to imparting "atmosphere," and rarely taking the lead.

Thus, newcomers to progressive rock may, after a cursory listen, tend to dismiss the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as "dated." This would be a pity, because the trio released some great albums in their heyday, of which BRAIN SALAD SURGERY -- as most ELP fans will concur -- may well be their best.

In addition to the dominant presence of keyboard whiz Emerson, bassist and singer Greg Lake has an impressive voice that was well-suited to the new, somewhat grandiose music that was prog. Lake's vocals had played a major role in making the first two King Crimson albums the memorable, groundbreaking efforts that they were, and his singing is again in top form on this session.

Drummer Carl Palmer was also an essential component of the unique ELP equation (he still scores very well in "best prog drummer" polls on the Archives Forums), and his accomplished work is nothing short of magnificent here.

Musicianship aside, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY's five songs are all quite strong, at least for my tastes. "Jerusalem" is an effective, even moving presentation of the classic William Blake poem/English hymn, and the adaptation of Ginastera's "Toccata" provides ample evidence of both Emerson's estimable synth skills, and Palmer's prowess behind the drum kit. (As a sci-fi devouring teen, I always envisioned scenes of futuristic "War of the Worlds" style battle to accompany this piece, and it still evokes such images for me to this day. "Still...You Turn Me On," while my least favourite here, is nonetheless a solid Lake ballad/love song, and often a particular hit with the fairer sex (as well as prog-playing, would-be Lotharios and Casanovas!) The humourous "Benny the Bouncer," with its precise brushed snare, pseudo-ragtime piano, breaking glass, and Pete Sinfield (early Crimson lyricist) tale of a fatal barroom brawl, is an amusing change of pace, and a two-minute showcase for the band's versatility and marked willingness to inject some humour into an oft-times rather pompous musical form.

Like other reviewers before me, however, I reserve my highest praise for the near thirty-minute "Karn Evil Nine." This terrific suite contains some of the group's most outstanding music, and convincingly elevates what might otherwise have been an average ELP album to the lofty status of "masterpiece." The Lake and Sinfield lyrics, which depict a jaded, decadent environmentally-devastated and computer-ruled future, are, in retrospect, almost visionary, and Emerson and Palmer's piano and percussion on the "1st Impression-Part 2," in particular, are especially good.

Overall then, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY is my favourite ELP album, and one of the more important early recordings of the genre. Essential for any comprehensive progressive rock collection!

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Send comments to Peter (BETA) | Report this review (#14376) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2004

Review by Watcheroftheskies
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Sublime! Great progressive rock! This is Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's masterpiece. Some people might be turned off by the vaudvillian number "Benny the Bouncer" but even that dosen't slow this album down. This is a tight, well produced, well played album. Karn Evil 9 is just awesome. It is probably their greatest work. Tocatta is awesome as well. Jerusalem and Still... you turn me on aren't the greatest they have put out but they are still very good songs. I can listen to the album straight through. I find my self air bassing to Karn at every listen. If you only buy 2 Emerson Lake and Palmer albums make it their first one and this one. If you only buy one, make it this one.

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Send comments to Watcheroftheskies (BETA) | Report this review (#14380) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 05, 2004

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Every Progressive Rock fan will admit that ELP is one of the fundamental and most influential bands of the genre, but strangely it's also one of the most controversial, they are accused of being pompous in this album (and in their whole career) what in fact is true, but I can't understand how any Prog' fan can be afraid of this word when the whole genre is absolutely pompous.

The band is also accused of making Brain Salad Surgery too loud, what is also accurate, but who said loud is wrong? I know at least 100 louder albums that are considered masterpieces by the same people who blame ELP for this reason.

So, the two main accusations are true, but precisely the pomp and loudness of the music are two of the main reasons why Brain Salad Surgery is a masterpiece and one of the milestones of Progressive Rock. At the end, this genre should be search of extreme music that defies time and mainstream, but only a few bands like ELP dared to go so far as in this album.

In 1972 ELP released the successful Trilogy and few people expected they could compose any album as great as this one, but they did it and very soon, Brain Salad Surgery is at least as good as Trilogy but with the addition of Karn Evil 9 as the peak of ELP's creativity.

I believe no other prog' band ever attempted to start an album supposedly original with two covers, but ELP did it without loosing their unique sound and style in the process of re-creating two well known musical pieces as Jerusalem and Toccata.

Jerusalem is a traditional hymn composed in 1916 by Hubert Parry using the lyrics of an 1804-1820 Sir William Blake's poem, but never before or even after Brain Salad Surgery there's been such a unique adaptation, so different to any other one that when I listen the original hymn I can't stop thinking there's something wrong because it doesn't sounds like the ELP version.

Something similar happens with Toccata but in this case the loud adaptation by ELP of the Carlos Ginastera classic received the blessing of the author, who shouted "Diabolic!! No one has been able to capture my music like that before! It's exactly the way I hear it myself!" when Keith Emerson asked his permission to release the track.

The touch of romanticism is supplied by "Still You Turn Me On", a powerful and extremely beautiful ballad by Greg Lake, which became one of the most popular songs of the trio. It's interesting to notice that in this "so called" simple track, the keyboards, wah-wah and acoustic guitar alternate to create a special and complex sound.

Even the simpler song of the album "Benny The Bouncer" has a reason to be recorded in way it was, in this case the track provides a bit of relief and comedy to a complex album, not a masterpiece but funny and inspired. Who said serious musicians can't have sense of humor?

But of course the main track of Brain Salad Surgery and all ELP's career is Karn Evil 9, a 30 minutes sci-fi track that redefines the word epic, because even we all know it's one whole song separated because of the limitations of the LP format, but each part is different and absolutely unique, something not common in epics.

There's almost nothing I can write about Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer that haven't been said before, only will add that for the first time in their career they are absolutely impeccable along the whole album, especially because Brain Salad Surgery doesn't have a single filler or weak moment, it's the closest any musician can be to perfection.

Again I will accept that Brain Salad Surgery is loud and pompous, but I wouldn't change a chord or a single note, it's recorded exactly the way it should be.

Five solid stars for an absolutely essential masterpiece of prog' rock.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#14383) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 12, 2004

Review by penguindf12
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is really somewhere between 3.5 stars and a full 4 stars, really. Perhaps 3.75 stars?

You know, again, I didn't give this a fair chance. It comes off as pretentious, and occaisionally just pointless, but it's not bad. In fact it contains some very good music, but then again it has some worse stuff as well. Let's look:

"Jerusalem" is an okay song. It is very, as previously stated, pretentious, its lyrics are taken from a hymn! Not my favorite on the album, but not my least favorite either. The main focus on this song it seems would be the drums of Carl PALMER, whose intricate and speedy drumwork shows up even EMERSON, whose keyboards seem to be just pinning down keys. "Toccata" is a very good song, mainly consisting of thudding percussion and keyboards. It's very avant-garde, a reinterpritation of some Ginastera's First Piano Concerto. I don't pretend to know who he is, but in any case ELP's version is very good, and highly recommended.

"Still...You Turn Me On" is a mediocre love song. Probably my least favorite here, actually. LAKE's guitar sounds a bit like Steve HACKETT in places, and some wah in other places. Ho-hum, not too much special. "Benny the Bouncer" is another out-of-place tune, but this one is easier to swallow. It is really my favorite of the first four songs that have lyrics, as a short, fast, bar piano number in a weird 30s style that is much more successful than the other bar piano joke "Jeremy Bender" on "Tarkus."

Now we come to the best song on the album which is, of course, "Karn Evil 9 (First Impression)". From start to finish it is an instant classic. Parts one and two are equally good. If you buy this album, buy it for this song. The second impression is a big instrumental track, and a fairly good one too. Nothing breathtaking, but worth a listen. The third impression is a bit awkward, with the computer voice and cliched "man vs. machine" situation. Very pretentious, and the concept is fairly laughable and overdone. But after a second look, the music is phenomenal, ending in a big, spiraling moog loop sped up and up until it explodes. A great song, just ignore the lyrics.

This is the first prog album which had tracks not thouroughly enjoyable after a few listens and attempts to understand them. But where it lacks in some places, it makes up for in others, especially "Toccata" and the first impression of "Karn Evil 9." Suggested for those who don't mind pretentiousness.

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Send comments to penguindf12 (BETA) | Report this review (#14384) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hymns are usually written so as to be catchy and easy to sing, to enable the Faithful to belt them out in church. The English hymn 'Jerusalem' is probably the epitome of the formula: whenever it is sung, it is with gusto. It is not popular in Anglican churches these days, probably due to the dated lyrics written circa 1804 by the poet and painter William Blake 1757-1827 (not the painter Sir William Blake Richmond, by the way, who lived 1842-1921), which these days are considered by some to be pompous and silly. They are! However it should be appreciated that the lyrics date from a bygone era. Blake's words were set to music by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry in 1916. Anyway, the hymn has always been a favourite of mine and I was therefore delighted to find that ELP had chosen to include it on the album. Actually, this adaptation is very faithful and respectful. Lake belts out the words, Emerson's Hammond of course sounds ecclesiastical (but not excessively) and Palmer's drumming is very evident. A wonderful, rousing song with a great tune.

'Toccata', an adaptation of the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto No. 1 Opus 28, 4th Movement (Toccata concertata), is an amazing piece of rock music. Emerson's novel arrangement of this piano and orchestral work is perfect. In 1973 he visited Ginastera at his home in Geneva to seek his approval of the modern adaptation. There are a number of versions of this encounter. As Emerson recounted it in the sleeve notes of the Rhino Records re-issue of the album, on hearing the first five or six bars Ginastera exclaimed "Diabolic!" and, after rewinding the tape and listening to it until the end, said "That's incredible! You've captured the essence of my music, and nobody's ever done that before." If you listen to Ginastera's original work for piano and orchestra you'll hear that it is an excellent, frenetic piece and that ELP has done it justice. Emerson's stabbing keyboard playing and Palmer's varied and expert percussion (including drum synthesizers for the first time) work perfectly. The ELP version is a serious piece of music in all senses of the word. Fabulous, amazing, disturbing, you name it. I really like this piece of music.

'Still..You Turn Me On' is a lovely Lake ballad about unrequited, intense love, and is very good melodically and lyrically. Emerson's lovely accordion, harpsichord and synthesizer accompany Lake's acoustic guitar during the verses and he lets loose some waddling, fat synthesizer at the end of each refrain. Lake's lyrics immediately stand out: "Every day a little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder." I like this song very much.

'Benny The Bouncer' is ELP's usual jokey track providing the light relief on the album. It reminds me of 'Jeremy Bender' and 'Are You Ready Eddy' on "Tarkus", and of 'The Sheriff' on "Trilogy". As usual we have Emerson's honky-tonk barroom piano in places, with Palmer's drum brushes and cymbals. It gives me the impression of a 1920's London East End pub skiffle, especially with Lake's exaggerated Cockney accent used throughout most of the track ('is Laaandon accent's doin me 'ed in, mate). Sinfield's lyrics are amusing and clever, purposely irreverent and extremely violent. The last verse is a real hoot: "Well they dragged him from the wreckage of the Palais in bits. They tried to stick together all the bits that would fit. But some of him was missing and "part of him" arrived too late, so now he works for Jesus as the bouncer at St. Peter's gate."

And then comes the album's pièce de résistance, 'Karn Evil 9' in three parts: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Impressions, totalling just over 29 and a half minutes of excellent music. According to Sinfield's Web site and the sleeve notes of the Victory Music CD, he helped with the lyrics on the 1st and 3rd Impressions (the 2nd Impression is an instrumental). However, the booklet with the Rhino Records CD only credits Sinfield for the 3rd Impression - I suppose in error.

The lengthy 1st Impression was originally split into two in order to fit onto an LP (there was a fade-out on Side A and, on Side B, a fade-in with Lake announcing the famous words "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends."). The fade-out no longer exists on the CD, but the tinkling keyboards and tambourine 'intermission' at that point in the singing remains. Personally, it's a relief that I don't have to turn over an LP anymore: I hated the interruption. The 1st Impression is full of power, with Lake belting out the lyrics with feeling in his usual clear tenor. The lyrics of the first part are very poetic and full of angst, and then they switch to the jokey, mocking circus-style caller that this album is probably most famous for: "Step inside! Hello! We've the most amazing show". The lyrics of this section are also excellent: again irreverent in places, and sometimes cynical. This really bops along and is a really catchy piece of music. Another great track.

The 2nd Impression starts off fairly sedately with Palmer's drumming and Emerson on piano sounding almost jazzy. Then they up tempo and it becomes quite funky, with Emerson's synthesizer sounding like Caribbean steel drums. The piano then becomes the predominant instrument with Palmer's drumming in support, going through a very quiet period and then upping tempo and becoming jazzy again. I enjoy the 2nd Impression but it is not as exciting as the 1st and 3rd Impression.

The 3rd Impression kicks off with Emerson's synthesiser sounding like a clarion call, with Hammond and Moog used throughout the futuristic-sounding track. It is initially reminiscent of a military drinking song, then it becomes apparent that this is the oft-told tale of mankind being overrun by machines of its own making. A computer robot-voice, sounding rather like a Dalek from the 1960s and 70s UK TV series Dr Who, confirms the accession at the end of the track. Given that in 1973 when this album was released computers were the size of large rooms, with ferromagnetic core memory, magnetic tape storage and punch-card data entry, this album is all the more pioneering. The band were using electronic instruments (albeit analogue) producing very futuristic sounds and with a very sci-fi feel to the music. Even the cover art by Swiss painter and sculptor H.R. Giger is very sci-fi in style, and appropriate given the feel of 'Toccata' and 'Karn Evil 9'. Several years later Giger's 'biomechanical' art was used for the sci-fi film Alien, illustrating that the band was indeed at the forefront of the new.

The LP I bought in 1973 is long since gone but, if I remember correctly, the front cover - a darker 'metal block' with a central hole - was a gatefold which opened to reveal the amazing pale grey face of a beautiful woman with eyes closed, sensuous lips and 'hair' looking like some form of multi-vertebral marine worm, that face now appearing on the back page of the Victory Music CD sleeve. Giger used his wife (who later committed suicide) as the model. The size of a CD case does not do the cover art justice, although the front cover of the so-called jewel case of the Rhino Records re-release is ridged like those 3D postcards and, if rocked, shows an image as if the gatefold were being opened and closed. Still, it's no substitute for the LP cover. Apparently there was a penis airbrushed up the woman's neck, with the glans just below her chin. I never noticed this on the cover of the LP I bought in 1973, and only read about this recently. Now that I look at the Victory Music CD, what appears to be a glans penis does indeed appear below the woman's chin, in the circle framed by the dark metal block on the cover, although nothing is to be seen on the complete picture of the woman's face on the back of the sleeve. I would be interested to find an original LP cover to find out if I was just not seeing the obvious all those years ago. By the way, according to the booklet with the Rhino Records re-release, the album title came from the lyrics of the 1973 DR JOHN hit 'Right Place, Wrong Time'. Apparently the album's title was (is?) a British euphemism for fellatio.

Well, ELP are famous for their musical excesses: bombastic, pompous, flamboyant, call the music what you will, ELP were the supreme showmen in a musical genre where pretentiousness and showmanship reigned. And this album is the culmination of their flamboyance. Whilst it is not my favourite ELP album ("Tarkus" has that distinction) and I find it has lost some of its lustre and excitement for me over the last 30 years, it is still an excellent, impressive album, pioneering for its time, and is in my mind unquestionably a masterpiece of the Progressive Rock genre. It's darn good music by three consummate musicians. Five stars and my apologies for such a long review.

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Send comments to Fitzcarraldo (BETA) | Report this review (#14387) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album was my first introduction to the band sometime in 1975 / 1976 (can not remember exact year). It was from my friend's tape that played "Toccata" at that time. I was so shock with the kind of "weird" music these guys were producing. My friend then lent me his tape and I got more listen at home. Oh man . it was a great record the whole album (even though I was not into "Benny The Bouncer"). When I got into epic track titled "Karn Evil 9" I was totally amazed with this band and I talked to myself that I had to buy the cassette myself. It was not easy really because at that time I had no money at all to buy (even) the cassette. I remember that I had to wait until my mom got a what so called a "project" as she was just successfully sold some spaces in our house for a rent to a group of accountants that audited one company in my small city. My mom then gave me money to buy the cassette. Thanks God! Finally I got my first ELP cassette man! Yeah! The cassette then rocked my house all the time with Yes "Fragile", "Relayer" and also Uriah Heep "Demons and Wizards". (Oh by the way, my mom was - and still - open mind with rock music that my brother and myself played through player at our home at that time. She liked Uriah Heep "Demons and Wizard". Even now with her 79 years old age she still enjoy the opening track "He was the wizard of a thousand kings ." when she visited my house last month).

I was so proud having this "Brain Salad Surgery" cassette in my collection of (I think) about 20 rock cassettes at that time. I kept playing the tape over and over - especially during "Toccata" and "Karn Evil 9". I was proud with the group and collected some write- ups about the band from our local rock magazine at that time - Aktuil. I had a habit of playing the tape in "high volume" every morning before school. Then, when I walked to my school I still sing part of the lyrics like "Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends ." for my 20 minute-walk to my school. I felt "energized" everyday by singing (in my heart) this album's song. It meant a lot to me! What made me happy (also) was the fact that many of my friends and my brother's friends who liked music (at that time the difference between pop and rock was that thin - people did not categorize the music style) mentioned ELP highly. We talked about how complicated but enjoyable the track like "Karn Evil 9" was. OK OK . that was old story that surrounded me in my small city in Indonesia during time when this album was released. When I could earn money during digital era, I bought the CD (not the remaster one) and I still enjoy listening to it even until now when I'm writing this review.

Having described the "nuances" of this album and what it meant to me personally in a small city far away from the place where the album was released, it suffices to say that this album is a true masterpiece! Sorry, I have to be "firm" this time that I can only accept a minimum of four stars (out of 5) of people's rating because for this album nothing is "vague". If someone gives less than 4 stars rating, I'm sure s/he does not understand (or is not interested with) the context of this album or not a progressive rock explorer. Well, I know that expressing views in prog arena is an interesting challenge. People have different views and perceptions based on their taste and background. And, because of the nature of prog music is somehow (in my humble opinion) too broad and sometime I feel like "boundaryless" (ehm .. it looks like I'm a business strategy guys like "Kenichi Ohmae" or "Jack Welch" hah?). But .. there is an absolute value about this wonderful album "Brain Salad Surgery", either you are "into" or "not into" it. Let me tell you my rationales why I am in the "into" bandwagon ..

Rationale # 1: The album has been decades around us and if we compare it with any complexity, harmony and musical quality produced by any prog band(s) that emerged later on, nothing would shake this album from its (still) top position. The prog elements are there and most importantly the originality issues. Yes, the band has adapted the classical music creation - but look (please) the brilliant approach the band had taken in their arrangement.

Rationale # 2: The album (and the band, of course) has inspired many groups that emerge after this album. For practicality, just browse through this page and you may find tens or even hundreds of bands that reviewers have given marks of "influenced by ELP" or even some reviews that specifically mentioned this album. You might find it on Triumvirat, Ars Nova, Cast, Cairo and many others.

Rationale # 3: The musical quality of this album is really top notch and unquestionable at all. The overall composition blend all technical skills of each contributor in such a way that produce a complex music in a very tight structure with excellent harmony. In fact, with sometimes a lack of nice melody, this album still produce wonderful sound.

I think with those three rationales, you would understand why I adore this album. You might have different views, as I hope. Otherwise, it's not prog at all if you agree on whatever I've just written. Any differing opinions are welcome and you may post in this site. And for this album, I don't think it's wise to review track by track as this is a legendary album that any prog explorer MUST have the CD and enjoy himself / herself. My personal experience has indicated that having enjoyed all tracks, I finally can enjoy "Benny The Bouncer" that I hated the first time. So at this point of time - and onward - this album is a well rounded prog creation that deserves a "full five stars" rating. And it will be like that through time passages in the future. That's my humble opinion. Keep on Progging! - GW, Indonesia.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#14395) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, January 03, 2005

Review by arcer
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Amid all the furiously positive reviews, a poor one. But only because I find all of ELP alientating and feel that for some first-timers the opposite side of the equation needs to be stated. Seminal or no, ELP play possibly the most over-the-top, in your face prog rock ever committed to vinyl. This is no holds bombast, even on the supposedly gentle songs, even on the playful songs like 'Benny the Bouncer'. If you are a fan of relentless displays of technique over form, of crushing arrangements that, to me, offer little scope for any dynamic other than a headlong rush towards ear- bleeding bludgeoning then you will be right at home here. For those whose prog leanings are towards more song and melody-oriented fare then EL:P and BSS in particular may be a bridge too far - it is for me. From the opening assault and vaunting ambition of a dreadful cover version of the hymn 'Jersualem' (in which the vocal is particularly poor) to the fury of Emerson's scorched earth take on Ginastera's 'Toccata' to the faintly ludcicrous 'Benny the Bouncer' in which a little 'light relief' simply feels like pointless filler, BSS is furious assault on the technology of the time and a furious assault on your ears. That's not to say there aren't moments worth hearing. The First Impression - Part 2 and 3rd Impression of Karn Evil 9 are superb, for the melody of the former and the skill with which the song is excuted and for the instrumental fireworks of the latter. Still You Turn Me On has a spiralling wah-wah'd guitar figure that is clever and cachy. But overall, this is hard, hard work. It is not progressive rock for beginners. It is progressive rock driven at full steam up a cul de sac of overblown pretention and over- reaching ambition. My two star rating does not suggest it is just for fans or collectors, but simply because I find it a deeply flawed exercise, which, while it may have perhaps represented an interesting artistic endeavour for those involved, is for me a sprawling failure on an epic scale. A landmark perhaps but not necessarily for the best of reasons. Approach with caution.

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Send comments to arcer (BETA) | Report this review (#14401) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Review by con safo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "Brain Salad Surgery" is quite an enjoyable prog album, but it does embodie everything people seem to despise about the genre. Completely over the top, pretentious- and very cheesy at times. But- i like it! The band was comprised of certainly talented people, but the compositions seem a bit on the lazy side. The centerpeice of this album is the epic "Karn Evil 9" which, while enjoyable, does seem kind of thrown together, as the three movements could have nothing less to do with eachother. The first "impression" is by far the best track on this album- and the third being so very cheesey it almost makes me cringe. There is no denying the musical talent of these three men, but this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes people cringe when you mention the word "Prog". An enjoyable album nonetheless. 3.5/5

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Posted Monday, April 18, 2005

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars There are people who try to knock down this masterpiece, maybe they are punks or I don't know, but "BSS" is the creative zenith of ELP, which the mammoth-epic "Karn Evil 9" shows that fact with it's incredible key-work by Keith Emerson perfectly! The great opening track "Jerusalem", wonderful sung by Greg Lake (that voice can't be compared with another, just remember "Epitaph" from Crimson's debut!). The instrumental "Toccata" is a improvisation where Keith Emerson shows his incredible talents again, also Carl Palmer on drums too. "Still...You Turn Me On" is a beautiful short ballad, with well put-in wah-wah guitar effects by Greg Lake. "Benny The Bouncer" is a cool salloon-bar rocker, where the band really plays on grateful. Try to get the 2004 UK version of the album from Sanctuary on CD, where you'll get 3 bonus tracks, which multiple count the album up: The two single- tracks "Brain Salad Surgery" and "When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine" and the flexi-disc medley "Excerpts From Brain Salad Surgery" (seems like a movie trailer for a audio-album, really well done!). That's the version to go for, so wait no longer and go to your next record-dealer!

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Send comments to Marc Baum (BETA) | Report this review (#14426) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Here ELP's albums are getting more and more contradictory! My favorite parts here are the royal opener "Jerusalem" original composition of Hubert Parry, which is followed by "Tocatta", the band's version of Ginastera's piano concerto. This is the best and most violent track this band has ever recorded! The following track "Still... You Turn Me On" is an average ballad and "Benny The Bouncer" is another silly joke song (I don't like these!). The epic "Karn Evil 9" begins interestingly, but I fear it doesn't fulfill the promises it makes at the end. The composition ends in a way that makes an impression that they composer went to a dead end and didn't bother to think of an end with style. Quite sad, I think! But the first two tracks strengten my opinion that this group succeeded best when doing interesting versions of classical music pieces for keyboard-driven rock trio.

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#36457) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Review by NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars In 1973, ELP released their fifth album, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY. Fans and critics alike hail this album as ELP's crowning achievement. This was their biggest, brashest, most bombastic album to date. It was their least accessible, and their most extravagant. Coming after the gentle TRILOGY (1972), this was a shock. Despite this, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY it managed to be ELP's biggest hit as well.

The album opens with the English church anthem, Jerusalem, written by the poet William Blake. They use Hubert Parry's musical arrangement. This is a very respectful and rousing rendition of the British classic. (Despite this, it was considered offensive to many in the UK and was banned from the BBC radio). Greg Lake handles the vocals perfectly on this piece, and you can tell the band is playing passionately. The album continues with Carl Palmer's cacophonous Toccata. This track features 'synthesizer- percussion', and is an adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th movement. This rendition is loud, and to a point un-listenable (definitely and acquired taste). However, the drumming is impeccable. Like always, Carl Palmer bangs away furiously on his drum set, a mix between the energy of the Who's Keith Moon and Yes/Crimson's Bill Bruford. (The group went to so far as to ask for Alberto Ginastera's approval to adapt the piece. He was moved to tears by their version, and gave them permission. He said that it was how his piece meant to sound. Yes...weird). This album continues with Still...You Turn Me On, another syrupy Greg Lake ballad. Like his others, this was a radio hit. Don't be mistaken, this a ballad with a progressive twist as only ELP could do. This track features very interesting guitars by Lake, and a great synthesizer break by Emerson. The next track, Benny the Bouncer is a throw away song, the obligatory western styled 'comedy relief' of the album, in the vein of Jeremy Bender or The Sheriff. Not much to say about it, except it is the only weak point in the album.

Karn Evil 9, like Genesis's Supper's Ready, is ELP's magnum opus. This 30 minute track is simply brilliant. It features Emerson's usual stinging synthesizers, impassioned vocals by Lake, and excellent drumming by Carl Palmer. This track is further augmented by the lyrics of Peter Sinfield (ex-King Crimson), who joined the group in 1973. Lyrics had always been a weak point for ELP, and Sinfield helps greatly in this department. The Karn Evil 9 lyric "Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends..." became the groups slogan, and was the title of their 1974 live album. The single cut of Karn Evil 9 also gave ELP their first truly progressive radio hit - their former singles were usually Lake ballads. The first impression of this piece (suite really) is very symphonic progressive rock, with aggressive lyrics and instrumentation. It is one of their best known, and best works. The second impression shows Emerson showing his talents at jazz piano. This is a far cry from the free-from jazz of The Soft Machine, and it a well composed piece, featuring Emerson's more acoustic keyboard talents. It offers a nice break from his thunderous synthesizers. The album closes with Karn Evil 9's third impression, the most ambitious and progressive of the three. It is the spaciest, and gives a wonderful sci-fi conclusion to the album. It has the best lyrics and music of the three impressions. Keith Emerson leaves no doubt here that he is the master synthesizer-(moog) player of progressive rock. Overall, this is an amazing track, and ranks with Close to the Edge or Echoes as one of the best songs in the genre.

BRAIN SALAD SURGERY is a remarkably strong album, but is not recommended for beginners. It is somewhat hard to absorb at first to non-fans, who should begin with the softer TRILOGY. Nonetheless, it is ELP's most exciting work since their eponymous debut in 1970, and is a masterpiece -- 4 1/2 stars.

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Send comments to NetsNJFan (BETA) | Report this review (#37243) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3.5 stars

Emerson's last great album, after this one, ELP started going downhill with their works, the poppy love beach, the mediocre Black Moon, and the disaster 'on the hot seat'

JERUSALEM (7.5/10) Starts the album nicely, it is a short but good accessible piece. IT is followed by TOCCATA (6/10) which is very interesting, yet too chaotic for many people's tastes. STILL YOU TURN ME ON (6/10) is a not so great ballad from Greg Lake with a decent electric guitar chorus. BENNY THE BOUNCER (3.5/10) .. why do they keep ruining their albums with this kind of silly music???

The Second Side is Karn Evil which I would rate it an average of (7.5/10) as a whole, It is an attempt to create Tarkus II, It is very good, but it doesnt' reach the level of their previous work.

Pt 1 (9/10) is a great starter of the album and my favourite part of it. It contains AMAZING musicianship, plenty of good solos, and nice drumming. The main sticky melody appears close to the end.

Pt 1 1/2 (8.5/10) follows the beginning well, with that very sticky 'welcome back my friends...' line. The line is followed by great hammond organ work.

Pt 2 (4.5/10) I can't help but not like this part. It is just a dull jam that is mildly interesting. I think it kills the piece, and I don't understand the purpose in it. It is filler for me.

Pt3 (7.5/10) This is ELP at their most pretentious and pompous, they even have machine voices in this track. This is an overall good piece with one of the most creative endings in the history of Rock : An electronic loop that rotates around you (on headphones) that keeps going faster until it stops suddently.

Overall, I recommend this album to ELP lovers, but it is not essential at all I think, and it is far from being a masterpiece. Instead, download the part 1 of Karn Evil here on progarchives.com and you will have the best part of hte album

My Grade : B-

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#41730) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, August 05, 2005

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have two ears, a brain and a more than decent feel for rhythm and other musical things - nurtured by these powers, my aesthetic instincts push me to regard "Brain Salad Surgery" not only as one of ELP's masterpieces but also as the trio's definitive apex. By the year of this release, 1973, the prog rock movement had already made quite an impact in the music press (even if it were for the worst in some cases), and the most famous prog acts of that moment managed to sell out big venues over and over again. ELP being one of these, they created at the time one of the most explosive manifestos of prog during its era of maturity. The 'Jerusalem' cover kicks off the album with full majesty, respecting the original solemnity of this classic Christian hymn while providing an extra orchestral drive that takes the song's mystical essence to a more pompous level. We're continuously welcome to witness the pomposity never ends, since Ginastera's 'Toccata' gets deconstructed and reconstructed with an infinite vengeance and an uncompromising penchant for challenging the listener - what ELP create in this particular occasion is not merely music, but a cathedral of sound whose scary grandiosity cannot (and perhaps shouldn't) be grasped by words. 'Toccata' is, most of all, an exercise on catharsis wrapped under customs of unearthly fire. Emerson's constant Moog and organ aggressions find an appropriate partner in crime in Palmer's occasional drums connected to Moog effects - a pioneering act for what would later be called electronic percussion. These two pieces, while alien to ELP's thinking minds and creative pens, are turned into ELP 'genuine' classics due to the threesome's endless ability to turn tables on other people's material and reconvert them into their own musical world. So far, it would be too much for the listener to take were it not for the following presence of two not-too-transcendent songs; not too transcendent, indeed, but vintage ELP-ish all the same. The Lake-penned acoustic ballad 'Still. You Turn Me On' provides the mandatory portion of the band's feminine side (as they like to call it in interviews) in the context of a tale of frustration in a romantic relationship. There's something really tricky about this ballad: it's hard to believe how could a harpsichord, an accordion and some wah-wah guitar strumming fit into a 12-string acoustic guitar centered song. but they do, yes, they do: the accordion and harpsichord provide some gallant spirit, while the wah-wah seems to symbolize the beating of the turned-on lover's heart. The other not-too-transcendent song is yet another Cajun song, 'Benny the Bouncer' - IMHO, the best Cajun song by ELP, especially because of that pretty mute movie coda. Up to this point we've been finding genius instilled in the bombast, the romantic and the easy going tracks, but the best of this particular album's genius is yet to come, incarnated in that incendiary prog carnival that we all know as the 'Karn Evil 9' suite. Even though all three Impressions are conceptually linked around the idea of a decadent future world in which self-destruction and self-indulgent reign supreme, each Impression stands out as an individual item in itself. The 1st Impression is, IMHO, the most accomplished one, comprising two defined sections in a typical ELP-ish bombastic manner. This Impression's second section - focused on the excesses of TV entertainment - is the most famous one, but I personally enjoy the first second even more: its portrait of modern times' massive alienation is properly conveyed in the lyrics and the hyper-intense instrumentation. This is, definitely, one of the most emblematic ELP compositions ever. But the greatness of 'Karn Evil 9' does not end here. The 2nd Impression shows yet another showcase for Emerson's grand piano jazz-oriented grandiloquence; the novelty is the clever use of polyphonic synthesizer in the samba- like interlude - so much excitement in a less-than-3 minutes span!! The following four minutes are filled with a softer interlude section, displayed with a calculated texturial piano-based motif that gradually finds its way back to the opening theme. Finally, comes the 3rd Impression, the explosive closure that recapitulates the fire of 'Toccata' and '1st Impression': this last Impression is the ultimate expression of the idea of a "concerto for rock group". Mood shifts, melodic variations, majestic keyboard orchestrations, complex rhythm patterns, constant display of rocking energy, all those things that we love about the most aggressive side of symphonic prog are comprised here beautifully, turning excess into a positive source of creativity. The final conflict between man and machine leads to the latter's collapse - the price that what goes up has to pay for the heights it dared to reach. That was the same price that ELP eventually paid, since everything they released after "Brain Salad Surgery" paled in comparison, but that should be a matter for other reviews. In this final sentence, I'll stick to this album and give it the rating it deserves: 5 stars for one of those magical pinnacles of prog!

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#43707) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2005

Review by erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Hello, here is just another PA reviewer with two ears, a brain and two hands that can even play some guitar and keyboards.

For me this album from ELP is an exciting, mindblowing and pivotal progrock document that must have stunned the press and fans in 1973 (a very prolific progrock year!). The very good thing from ELP on this album is the balance between bombastic, self-indulgent music ("Toccata" and the titletrack), romantic acoustic driven music ("Still you turn me on") and a funny interlude ("Benny the bouncer"). Thanks to my two ears and brain I have noticed this!

EXCELLENT AND EARTHSHAKING!

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Posted Sunday, August 21, 2005

Review by Eclipse
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars The most overrated album of all times!

Sorry for saying this folks, but i don't see how this album can be considered a masterpiece by so many people. For me, a masterpiece is something that is top quality from begining to end, and this album again suffers from ELP's traditional lack of consistence problem - there's two very dry and plain prog numbers, one horrid pop song, then an annoying fuzzy track all of them directing to a thirty-minute pretentious "epic" showing what ELP does best: instrumental show off, totally lacking of emotion and passion just to prove how awesome they are playing their instruments very fastly. In fact, after seeing the "Pictures in Exhibition" video and feeling embarassed after seeing Emerson jumping over his keyboards i lost the respect for the band considerably. Is all that show off necessary? Do they really need to keep proving that they are great musicians on their respective instruments? Emerson is the one that likes to show himself more. Lake is a great vocalist and is apparently the more feet on Earth of the trio. There's no question about how good Palmer is on drums, but i personally prefer Nick MASON's melodic and simple drumming, because it has much more soul on it - something none of ELP's members ever managed to put in their music: their soul, their emotions, there's no beautiful music, they only seem to try to prove that they can play their stuff well and fast.

That said, the main reason i listen to music is to be taken to unknown places on the several corners of my mind and feel moved on my heart by the melodies created. This is something ELP certainly does not do for me (where bands like PINK FLOYD, KING CRIMSON and CAMEL never fail to make me feel warm and impressed by the beauty of their compositions).

Sorry for being so harsh, but this album (and band) in my opinion are extremely overrated. I don't think a song like "Benny the Bouncer" can be ignored when giving this album five stars, neither i think bad lyrics like on "Still You Turn Me On" and an annoying thirty-minute piece like "Karn Evil 9" can be in any way enjoyable, but that's just my opinion.

Again, sorry for the perhaps unnecessary harshness contained in this review.

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Send comments to Eclipse (BETA) | Report this review (#45081) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Review by Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's not the best ELP album, but it is close. The only out and out throwaway is the completely execrable "Benny The Bouncer", with a ridiculous attempt at Cockney music-hall-style vocalizing from Lake and some of the worst synthesizer sounds committed to vinyl courtesy of Emerson.

An air of kitsch opens the album with the rendition of the famous hymn "Jerusalem". Since I always associate this tune with the mattress sketch from MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS, it always raises a chuckle. But "Toccata", while based on a classical piece, is anything but kitschy. As with the pieces from the debut, they chose a sympathetic 20th-century piece rather than going for the easy recognition factor, and came up with another winner. This is as close as ELP have come to out and out avant-garde music, and it never fails to absolutely floor me. The "cameo" portion of the album is rounded out by "Still...You Turn Me On", another decent Lake ballad.

The half-hour long epic "Karn Evil 9", originally split between two sides of vinyl, is one of the band's high points. Sure, it's not quite as intense as "Tarkus", but it is heartening to know they were still capable of producing epic long-form pieces of great quality. Emerson is now using an experimental prototype polyphonic Moog mega-synth (that later got compartmentalized into the Multimoog, the Polymoog and the Taurus) and a vocoder, giving the piece an impressive, futuristic feel echoed in the science-fiction-oriented lyrics.

So, throw out the hideous "Benny The Bouncer" and you'd have had an album that could quite likely have stood next to their fabulous first as an all-time prog classic. As it is, it's still an excellent work (with only one blemish), and recommended to all who wish to discover their music.

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Send comments to Progbear (BETA) | Report this review (#45486) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 04, 2005

Review by kunangkunangku
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This, of course, is the trio's most ambitious album. With its louder (the loudest of the group, some would say) volume, its dense electronic sounding that is so infectious, and most of all its three-movement solid and elegance composition "Karn Evil 9", this album is a luxurious showcase where Keith Emerson stretched his powerful keyboard attack out beyond one can imagine at the time.

Emerson had the support of The Great Dr. Moog himself who provided him with an improved synthesizer well-suited for this effort. Throughout the album, especially from "Karn Evil 9" piece, one can capture so many great moments in which Emerson treated his keyboards as if he was Jimi Hendrix with his guitar -- he delivered a flamboyance, jaw-dropping keyboards playing.

Beside "Karn Evil 9", the other songs are also among the best of band's work. The opener, the band's arrangement of Sir Charles Hubert Parry musical setting of William Blake's "Jerusalem", is a killer tone setter. Reverent, yet rocking. The follow-up "Toccata", a smart reinterpretation of the Argentinean Alberto Ginastera's serious work, extends the musical enjoyment the listeners can get. Greg Lake's ballad "Still... You Turn Me On" add the experience with a beautiful melody and (again) arrangement.

To save the lame part for the last: yes, there's one more song that is -- you may say -- basically a throwaway, "Benny the Bouncer". But the three songs mentioned above are mighty enough to, say, ignore its presence.

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Posted Monday, September 05, 2005

Review by Starette
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars When I first heard this album I was ready to give it a 2-star rating. It seemed to waft over me like a synopsis of a sickeningly pretentious play. After a while I let it grow on me to the extent where I couldn't get the melodies out of my head and I couldn't deny the genius of the music (mainly Emerson's genius on the keyboards). By this stage I was ready to give it a 4-star rating. Then I tried listening to it as if it was for the first time again...3-star rating. Then the absolute adoration of before wfted ove rme: 4-star rating it IS! This is music is not 'easy' enough to appreciate at first. At times it's not even 'engaging'. But within it there are features which (to the average intellectual listener of music) are breath-taking. ELP did things that had never been done before and you can't deny their brilliant creativity mixed with their amazing talent: one for the keyboard, one for the drums and one for the singing and guitar!

Jerusalem: Catchy drumming and a rythmic, jazzy organ come together to make this 'popped-up' version of a traditional hymn. Christianity is seen in many of ELP's songs- both in good ways and (to some) bad. It's enough to start pointless and pro- longed topics on the forum about them. *cough cough* In all honesty, this track didn't do a lot for me- it's rather bland. However- it can be seen as a 'ritualized' start to a great album...a loud bang of a start too...and it shows the abilities of all three musicians. Yes- Greg Lake's voice IS gorgeous one. And yes- he DOES sound like a choir-boy on this track.

Toccata: aHA! A helluva lot more interesting- this time a 'popped-up' version of a twentieth-century orchestral work written by the obscure composer from Geneva- Ginastera Alberto. There were many great composers who died in the 1970s (eg: Katchachurian and Stravinsky) but this guy was still composing. When Ginastera heard ELP's version- THIS version- he consented with much enthusiasm, and you can see why! Even though most of ELP's instruments don't have the advantage of controlled piano-forte (volume control- for example: when the strings in an orchestra die right now then blast up again etc...Emerson and his keyboards can only do that to an *extent*!) Now, although this piece can be a tad too dreary at times (such as Emerson's 'take-me-out-to-the-ball-game'-style organ playing at the start- any more cheesy and he'll be Swiss) thre are also times when it can't be described as anything else then..DAMN cool!! (Watch out for Palmer's solo on his trusty electronic drum-kit.) I believe this piece gets more sophistocated towards the end. It's the OPPOSITE of easy- listening. But then, what do you expect? It's a rock version of a post-modern 70s orchestral work- you can't get any more Post-Modern! One thing I like about the ProgArchives definition of Progressive Rock is the fact that it describes the close relationship between Prog and classical music: ELP affirm this relationship through Toccata.

Still...You turn me on: The first absolutely original ELP work of the album- this is a beautiful and (almost) simple love-song. (YES- it's a love-song! They say Prog Rock is a masculine thing- one of the reasons being that there are hardly any love-songs in Prog. This is one of the many songs in prog that proove that assumption wrong.) The entertaining wah-wah pedal is used by Lake everytime after he sings the title of this song- giving it a very 70s sexual overtone indeed. Lake has a lovely voice when he sings this song- very dreamy. But what needs work in this song? Lyrics. I know this has been mentioned time and time again by others but I just need to reinforce the fact that the lyrics of this songs are just plain FUNNY in some parts: "You can be the lover of another, you can even be the man on the moon!" But that doesn't stop it from being a wonderful love-song. Or maybe it's a 'lust'-song, what with the lyrics being as bizarre are they are. Meh...either way it still pushes MY button! I applaud Palmer's echoing- effects and Emerson's pattering-playing. It's very floaty, very dreamy, very romantic in it's own way.

Benny the Bouncer: I have nothing fantastic to say about this one. Annoying. VERY annoying. By singing in an irritating rough voice, Lake has emphasized the beauty of his sincere and GOOD singing voice. Actually...is that really Lake singing at first or one of the others? I'd gladly have someone P.M me to inform me if it's otherwise....please. In short- this is a good pub-song for the very drugged.

Karn Evil 9: Okidoki- here we go! My first take at analyzing a half-hour prog epic! *gulp* I must apologise in advance by the way: I have my copy of the piece all one one track on a cd- so I'll try to divide it up into the original first, second and third 'Impressions' that one gets on the old records/LPs- but forgive me if I announce them at the wrong place. First Impression: Fun, fun, fun organ-playing Emerson! "I'll be there! I'l be there! I WILL be there!" from Lake. Lake introduces us to this 'Carnival' but he only sings in clumps. Keyboard playing reminscent of what's heard at a magicians show: first fast then slow then fast and you can *feel* the energy pumping through this sexy pianist's hands. Palmer isn't excluded from this though: drum-beat changes are heard through- out the piece. Lyrics get more interesting: it appears this Carnival shows everything from a "stripper in a till" to (pulling) "Jesus from a hat". And I thought Genesis were weird! Later- Palmer drums as if he's not human. You gotta wonder- with how long this piece goes on for- how did they manage to keep up the energy in performing this? Timpani drums and it seems the piece has ended...but no. Second Impression: In comes our beloved Keith Emerson on his piano- with a jazzy 60s style of playing. Miramba and 'Carnival-sounds' are heard. (Some little boy yap-yaps in the audience it seems) Never-ending riffs of the piano and drums seems to build-up some kind of chant. Emerson's classical-style playing is gorgeous. I don't think I'll ever get over it. Silence. Piano. Spooky sounds. Sparkling inverted-minor chords arpeggiated on the piano and a bass in the background; it's like the music one hears in an old scray film. Then the beat picks up and everything's jazzy again. Back to the organ and we're in 'Carnival-mode' again. Third Impression: Greg Lake sings with a passion and another being is heard yelling 'Danger!" - an Android. A Computer. (I believe this is symbolic of how technology can, or can't, take over society- but I'm not completely sure.) "I'm...your...programme....I...am...Yourself." it says in a robotic and synthetic voice, to which the handsome Greg replies "No computer stands in my way, only blood and FLESH are my pain!" It's only this part that causes me to label ELP 'pretentious' . Organ playing goes on and on- to the point where I almost hear a bit of the soldiers guarding the Wicked Witch of the West's tower- then the hurricane going round and round to pick Dorothy's house off from Kansas. (Pardon me- I'm not all there upstairs.) Then Lake sings another conversation with the Computer: It calls him (as a human): "negative...primitive...limited." "But I gave you LIFE!" he protests. "What else could you do?" "To do what was RIGHT!" "I'm perfect...are you?" Yep- this part is definitely the pretentious part. You can only be so symbolic. We leave this epic with Palmer's electronic devices flowing up and down- getting louder and louder and faster at random. At this point- whenever ELP were performing live, the Computer unfurled it's wings! VERY classy imagination ELP have- as I said at the start of this review. My conclusion is that the end was a bit too over-the-top in comparison with the rest of this Masterpiece. Sure it takes a few listens to let it's aura get a hold of you..but it IS a Masterpiece!

Some of the best music in your life doesn't jump at you- it HAS to grow on you. This had to grow on me in order for me to love it. Only then can you appreciate the complex art- forms held within the music itself. ELP are different, more in the way they perform than how they sound. I can't really say I've come across anything quite like them. Oh- and Brain Salad Surgery refers to a blow-job. Interesting but a little too avant-gard for me.(And I admit that Greg Lake was quite hot in the 70s...before he turned into Mr Blobby-man.) Though this album is good all-in-all, I've heard better pieces by ELP (such as 'Threefates' or 'Trilogy' or 'Tarkus'...not forgetting 'Take a Pebble' of course!..all the T's!) and I look forward to hearing more of their albums.

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Send comments to Starette (BETA) | Report this review (#45954) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Review by Yanns
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I really don't know why it took me this long to review this album.

I mean, this album was my very very very first prog album. Ever. Not counting things like Sgt. Pepper. This was the first.

I remember coming home from school. My science teacher had showed us a video of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in class, and as a keyboard player myself, I was highly intrigued by Emerson's playing, and I loved Lake's singing, not to mention the drumming of Mr. Palmer.

I come home. I ask my father about a band caled Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He walks over to our massive shelf of albums, looks for a second, pulls off an album, and hands it to me. I look at the weird cover art of this, like, weird, girl, computer type thing.

He takes it, puts in the the player, and skips to a song that's called, as he points out to me, Karn Evil 9. And so I listen.

I fall into a new world. Nothing else matters. The world of Karn Evil 9 is all that needs to exist, and it's all that exists at the moment. I listen straight through to the end of the 3rd Impression.

Much to my own surprise, I listen to the entirety of Karn Evil 9 an average of 3 times a day for the next 7 weeks.

It took me a while to start researching the first half of the album. The song Jerusalem I Learned originally from the live Welcome Back... album, and I loved it there. While I might actually prefer it live, it is still great on the studio version.

Then Tocatta. Same deal; learned it live first. And, same deal again; I prefer it live. And, again again, same deal; I like the studio version very much as well. The pure, raw craziness of the song drives me crazy every time I hear it. A track unlike most others ever made.

Still... You Turn Me On is another one of those Greg Lake acoustic ballads. My favorite of his songs, I think, is From the Beginning, but this is close behind. His songs are, most of the time, very enjoyable, even though they aren't the most proggy of ELP songs. Benny the Bouncer, then, changes the feel a little. Some weird bar fight story comes in, backed by this weird uptempo beat. It was played before every listening for Karn Evil 9 for those 7 weeks. Need I say any more.

And then, the suite. The 1st Impression (Parts one and two) easily blow away the listener with the atmospheric keyboard work and Lake vocals. So utterly unspeakable, I think I won't speak about it. The 2nd Impression is where some people start to lose it. It sounds to most as rambling piano work with an over- stretched middle section with steel drums and other weird noises. LISTEN, buddy. Not quite. It is the only interlude between the two behemoths of Impressions 1 and 3. A most mindblowing piece of art. Then, Impression 3, when it comes back around. The battle with the computer comes together, with an untimely end. The instruments battle in the middle to form the ultimate climax to this work.

In my top ten. Easily. Many, and I mean MANY, of you disagree, especially because of the so-called pomposity of the band. Again, I disagree, but to each his/her own. Have a good listen, guys. 5/5 stars.

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Send comments to Yanns (BETA) | Report this review (#62739) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, January 02, 2006

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars One thing is quite certain: ou can love this album to death or loathe it with every fiber of your being, but you can't really ignore it. From the gorgeusly disturbing gatefold sleeve, displaying a masterpiece of Gothic artwork by Swiss cult artist R.H. Giger (of "Alien" fame), down to the unabashed self-indulgence of its musical content, "Brain Salad Surgery" is a compendium of everything progressive rock is all about, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is loud, metallic, and harsh, undeniably bombastic, though it can also be melodic and soothing - a true rollercoaster ride of an album, swinging from the beautiful, English choirboy vocals of "Jerusalem" (with wonderful lyrics courtesy of one Mr William Blake) to the all-out progressive orgy that is "Karn Evil 9". < BSS is not an easy listen, despite the presence of the obligatory Greg Lake ballad, the much-maligned (especially in a lyrical sense) but moving and vocally stunning "Still...You Turn Me On", which offers some much-needed respite from the relentless bludgeoning of Keith Emerson's keyboards and Carl Palmer's percussion in the preceeding "Toccata". The piano-driven "Benny the Bouncer", instead, is undeniably the only weak link in the record, good for a few laughs but nothing more. However, silly and pointless as it may sound, it prepares the listener for the album's pièce de resistance, the 30-minute-plus "Karn Evil 9", one of prog rock's defining moments (for better and for worse). A weird sci-fi tale of man versus technology, it contains more than a stab at political and religious institutions, especially in the famed "1st Impression - Part 2", better known as "Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends". Emerson and Palmer have a field day on this epic tour de force, creating all sorts of eerie, dissonant sounds, on which Lake stamps his presence by singing in a more assertive, even aggressive way than his usual, elegant delivery. < As with all ELP albums (with the possible exception of their debut), this one is not perfect either, containing as it does both priceless gems and disposable filler. So, why 5 stars? Because it's one of the absolute highpoints of its genre, and no one can say to know prog rock without having ever listened to it at least once. Call it pompous, overblown and outdated, it's still a hell of a record, one many contemporary bands can only dream of producing. Nowadays, no one would probably have the nerve...

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Send comments to Raff (BETA) | Report this review (#74836) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 13, 2006

Review by Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Maybe this album is for some people a clear example of the "excesses" done by some Progressive Rock bands in the seventies. Albums like this maybe created the criticisms done by some people to this kind of music. Yes, this album has some excesses, and it really neeeds repeated listenings to have a better impression as a whole, but IMO, it is maybe ELP`s best album, their peak as a band.

"Jerusalem" sounds like a Religious anthem (I really don`t know if it is a Religious anthem), but I like very much this arrangement of this piece of music.

"Tocatta" is heavy in some places, noisy in some places (with the use of synthesizers), and with Palmer playing timpani and gongs.

"Still ... You Turn Me On" is a ballad with acoustic and electric guitars, and I also can hear that Lake even used a Wah-Wah pedal. It is a very good song that the band could not play it in the proper way in concert, as Lake only played it with his acoustic guitar.

"Benny the Bouncer" has some humour which balances the musical density of the next song:

"Karn Evil 9", which has several parts with different musical styles. Emerson sang lead vocals on the "First Impression (parts 1 & 2)", and his voice is very similar to Lake`s, and I could not believe that he was singing these parts when I read the credits on the cover. This "First Impression" is musically the most interesting part of this album, very Progressive, IMO. The "Second Impression" part is very influenced by Jazz. The "Third Impression" part is also progressive, but the rhythm has not many changes as in the "First Impression" parts. "Karn Evil 9" needs more repeated listenings to be appreciated better a s a whole piece of music, but in the end the listener (at least in my case) has the impression of a very good piece of music.

In conclusion, this album is not an easy listening for the first time, but, as I wrote before, repeated listenings are needed to discover how good it is.

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#80665) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, June 08, 2006

Review by 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.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#81797) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, June 23, 2006

Review by evenless
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars After so many positive reviews on this album this was the first ELP album I ever purchased and it will probably be my last!

This album is considered one of the best albums of all time in the progressive music scene. Then why am I so disappointed? I was also disappointed in most work of KING KRIMSON, except for a few excellent songs like "Epitaph" and "In the Wake Of Poseidon". Maybe it would have been better for me to keep away from ELP.

1. Jerusalem (2:44)

Did we end up in a church here on a Sunday morning? I have nothing against Christian songs, but with so much organ it feels to me I'm in a church and I don't like to go to church very much. Therefore I don't like to listen to this kind of music at home either.

2. Toccata (7:23)

An adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th movement. I'm not really into classical music even though I can listen to light classical music. This piece is basically to heavy classical for me. It's very cinematic and I suppose it would do great in a movie theatre while we are watching a "big car chase", but other than that I don't like to listen to this "just for the fun of it". In a while all the noises just get on my nerves. Definitely not my cup of tea. 3. Still... You Turn Me On (2:53)

This is a nice acoustic ballad, but sounds a bit to "smooth" to be progressive. Aren't progressive songs supposed to last a bit longer than 2:53 ?

4. Benny The Bouncer (2:21)

In this case I'm happy the song only lasts 2:21 because this song is just too simplistic to be on a "masterpiece of progressive rock".

5. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (8:44) 6. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4:47) 7. Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (7:07) 8. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (9:03)

I suppose you could reduce tracks 5,6,7 and 8 just into 1 long track of almost 30 minutes and this is the only track worth while buying this CD for.

Another reason to buy the CD is for the great artwork by the Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger, creator of the terrifying life forms and their otherworldly environment in the film classic ALIEN, for which he received the Oscar in 1980. Painter, sculptor, designer, interior architect, Giger extends his artistic vision into all domains. Fundamental to the nature of his work is his Biomechanical aesthetic, a dialectic between man and machine, representing a universe at once disturbing and sublime.

Final score: 2 stars for Karn Evil 9 and the sublime artwork from H. R. Giger.

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Send comments to evenless (BETA) | Report this review (#90258) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars There is nothing I can say about this album that hasn't already been said. It's probably my second favourite from this band but I feel it (like "Trilogy"&"Tarkus") aren't even close to being as good as the debut.

"Jerusalem" is led by organ and drums then vocals come in and the drums stop.This sounds like some countries national anthem or something, very epic. Drums are back when vocals stop. Good song but not overly impressive. "Toccata" is all about showing us how well they can play. And that's impressive even if the song itself isn't that enjoyable. "Still. ..You Turn Me On" is a nice mellow track. "Benny The Bouncer" is one of those "why ?" songs. "Karn Evil 9" really has it's moments but also passages that I can't get into at all.

This is one of those highly rated albums that I just don't appreciate at all. Great cover art though.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#94740) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars First of all, I'm not going to do a song by song description...I think about hundred reviews before mine did that well enough so, I'm just going to give my point of view in this historical album....

In terms of ratings, this could well be a 6/5 stars ... or a -1/5....let me explain this, from both points of view:

6/5:

- The musicianship here is just superb, amazing. We can tell the three guys playing their instruments were at the top of the crop in rock music. Each ELP member is a master of their respective sound machine (how funny to learn that one of them couldn't read music and another could barely do that...that shows you you not only have to study theory, you have to practice, and, let's be honest, you have to have been born with something special within you).

-This is not every guy's music...in fact, I just don't understand how could this album sell millions...it's not in my mindset, probably because I was born after that time when finding musical intelligence was not like finding a rock in the ocean, probably because today the closest that we come to a decent rock album that sells millions is....well, we don't. This days (I'm talking 2006 here) there's no good rock selling millions, nothing (if U2 or RAdiohead is great rock for you, well, maybe you're right, but first and foremost, those two are POP, then rock....)

-This is so complex....ELP didn't limit themselves to compose music and play it for us...they adapted music pieces, and they didn't choose the lame "rock legend to prog rock" way of doing covers...no....first, they adapted a hymn-like song in their country, the UK....but that's not such a big deal...they ADAPTED GINASTERA...a musical composer of the 20th century....music full of atonalities, intricate harmonies, assaulting, complex rhythms....and they did it well, even according to the argentinian master's review of the piece....a whole orchestral piece only in 4 instruments....now let's have your rock stars doing that! Zeppelin adapting Ginastera? The Who adapting Ginastera? Please.... Not only they dind't want it, if they'd tried they couldn't have done it....you have to be a great musician, UNDERSTAND MUSIC, NOT ONLY BE A SUPERB INSTRUMENTALIST to adapt coherently a piece of the art's most glorious genre....

-We get rock, we get ragtime, we get jazz, we get classical...all in 45 minutes....man how did they manage? No wonder their band collapsed....their brains must've been torn apart in exhaustion....

So, I guess I made my point, didn't I? This album deserves a 6/5.

...or?

-1/5:

-This is just unlistenable. Yes, they are masters of their own instruments....but they are just showing-off at times when we could've used more restrain, sections were a little less showmanship would've bring the album closer to a bearable level....

-This is not every guy's music.... but whose music is this? My point when listening to prog-rock has always been: I WANT BETTER ROCK, NOT LESSER JAZZ OR LESSER CLASSICAL or whatever.... so, I still want some ROCK in my songs or instrumental pieces...and here? I get almost no rock (a few passages in KArn Evil 9 and that atrocious Still you turn me on)...I swear to you: tried as hard as it might, this is not jazz, nor is it classical, it's supposed to be a combination of all three? IS IT POSSIBLE? could be, but....if you want to mix rock and classical, maybe you have to aim at classical pieces with more traditional harmonies and melodies and rhythms....FOR ROCK WAS BORN SIMPLE....so if you mix something simple with something marvelous BUT RELATIVELY SIMPLE, you could get a result....but Ginastera? Man, why they just not tried and adapt Lygeti? When yhey adapted Mussorgsky, well, that's less complex music (not less marvelous, in fact I think is more sublime than Ginastera), so more suitable to adaptation....If I want classcial music, I'll listen as the composer intended, were it for full orchestra or chamber or whatever....not three petulant rock geniuses...

-Is this an influential album? I can see that Genesis gave birth to MArillion and thousand more, Yes did so with Flower Kings and hundreds more....But ELP? ....Par Lindh maybe? No, that guy makes more accesible music...so...

-But above all, the songs are just bad:The first one has no soul.... maybe the original one has (haven't heard it) but this one is neither rock nor is it soul-lifting...is AS BLAND as it gets....About Toccatta, I've given my point of view already...Still you turn me on is just atrocious, it's not too progressive (not progressive at all...I could play it I think!!) and as a rock piece, it's awful, boring....(and, for all knowledge Lakel had about his instrument, DON'T TELL ME HE COULD SING...this voice is as vulgar as it gets) I don't know....then the ragtime piece: yes, funny, yes, nothing to write home about...and then Karn Evil 9: at times incoherent, without unity...the second Impression, with the piano solo, well, I reckon that's amazing...but again: WHERE's THE "ROCK" PART OF THE PROG?

Oh!!!! I think I got it!!! I know why I don't get this album!!!

This is not prog-rock,

this is not rock,

this is PROG... one of the only albums ever made that were JUST PROG (whatever the meaning of that may be)....

So, ELP, in a genre of their own, PROG.

For that, I give them 6/5 stars.

For rock, I give them, -1/5 stars

so, for Prog-rock, let's do the math and give them 3/5.

But I still reccomend you to get it. It's an essential album...if only to understand why that glorious era when we ruled the world came crashing horribly to the end.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#95522) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, October 23, 2006

Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After reading the reviews of this album for more than half an hour, I started noticing sentences like "What can I add that was not already mentioned before?"...and I was only halfway through the scroll bar. So, after more than 200 reviews so far, what can I contribute?

Let's see. This is not ELP's best album. "Brain Salad Surgery" is a starting point of long (and painful) slope downwards both in band's career and imagination. In my opinion, "Trilogy" is better, and "Tarkus" is the best, beating "Brain Salad Surgery" for 2 stars in ratings. Every ELP's album contains some inconsistency and this one is no exception. The point is, the inconsistency in predeceasing albums is, so to say, normal, because even the masterpieces can show some weaker moments here and there, and the composers, no matter how intelligent they are, are human beings and therefore not prefect. But the term "inconsistency" is not the same one if we are talking about the rest of the ELP's career - albums like "Works" and "Love Beach". The sad atmosphere provided on their later works started sneaking in on "Brain Salad Surgery". I don't have an impression that they made "Benny The Bouncer" for the same reason they made "The Sheriff" or "Jeremy Bender". In their earlier days somehow they managed to represent their open-hearted attitude and sheer joy of creation (despite the fact that most of the songs are quite dark) no matter whether they were composing glorious epic or 3-minute cowboy silliness. Therefore, I'm considering this album "beginning of the end" of their career rather than "the end of the beginning". The difference between "Surgery" and the other ELP's albums widely accepted as weak ones is set of good tracks. This is the MAJOR difference, and this set do not only help the whole album prevent from being drowned, it actually launches it into a stardome within other constellations of masterpieces.

I wouldn't describe how "good" or "breathtaking" the tracks like "Toccata" or "Karn Evil 9" are, but there are few things that are usually not mentioned.

Keith Emerson is using - along with his ubiquitous piano and Hammond - a Moog synthesizer. This is nothing new, Keith played various types of Moog Modular before, but for the first time Moog Polyphonic Ensemble saw the light of the day.

But wait a second...there is no such thing named "Polyphonic Ensemble" in the whole Moog Inc. catalogue at all! It was never produced! Indeed, no. It was produced in the factory specially for Mr. Emerson,. the man who had been requesting new sounds and sound explorations. Now, that's what I call progressive! The whole production line went improved because of one musician. As far as I know, only Peter Baumann did the similar thing, ordering E-Mu Proteus in 1979. (I'm not counting the Wakeman's Birotron because at the time it came in, digital samplers already hit the market.)

Carl Palmer experimented with electronic percussion...and I love that sound of still drums in "Karn Evil 9". Although I'm not sure are they real percussions, or some sort of electronic treatment - on live version they sound quite distorted (you can hear the similar thing in LED ZEPPELIN's "Bonzo's Montreaux" tune). Speaking of electronic percussion, I will dare to make a stupid comparation...some moments from "Toccata" could easily wipe the floor with every frenetic break-bit that Prodigy did 20 year later. These guys just set too many standards, and if I may say, they founded so many genres that will be explored in years and decades to come.

There is not much to say about the music itself, simply because it's way beyond any description. It is daring, imaginative, unique, ranging from beautiful to nasty. You will rarely experience such a wide palette of musical genres: from calypso & ragtime to classical & techno. You can even find a traces of flamenco. Therefore, although I said that this is not the best ELP's album (neither the second best), I'm rating it with five stars. Six stars to "Trilogy". Seven to "Tarkus".

Am I being childish? Who cares. Certainly not me when I am talking about one of the finest pieces of music in the history of the mankind.

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Send comments to clarke2001 (BETA) | Report this review (#97467) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 06, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This one's a head scratcher.

ELP made many "interesting" choices to say the least in their selection of songs on this album. Half the time I'm wondering if it might be some of prog's best moments or if it's something I'd hear at a carnival before an elephant walked a tight rope.

Starting with Jerusalem, an average track with nothing quite memorable. Toccata sounds entirely like an early nintendo game, but it is still quite good and entertaining, especially if you about to face King Koopa. What's remarkable about this is that it's years ahead of it's time in terms of video game music, so props to ELP there. Benny the Bouncer is completely laughable and almost impossible to take seriously. The album finally gets good with its epic piece Karn Evil 9, although the pieces really have no connection to each other.

Movement 1 is my personal favorite, with probably the most solid and accessible effort, and I'm not one you would typically associate with accessible. Movement 2 begins with an upbeat piano and delves into some kind of congo pattern intended to show off musical virtuosity, and once again ahead of its time, ELP seems to have Donkey Kong music down pat. Followed is a feign attempt at artistry with a soft passage with little to no relevance to anything that's been done. I'm left wondering "what's the point?" before I even get to the closing track.

Sloppy, discoordinated, rambling, noodling: all are adjectives that could describe what is going on here. Some might describe it "artistic", other's "bs". I happen to be in the latter group. Sure, we have a few good passages here and there, but the lack of songwriting keeps anything from being interesting for more than a few listens.

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Send comments to OpethGuitarist (BETA) | Report this review (#97882) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, November 09, 2006

Review by 1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Brain Salad Surgery, ELP's fourth album, is their creative peak. It would prove to be their final great studio album, though the excellent live "Welcome Back My Friends..." had yet to come. If you want pompous, proficient work of the highest caliber, look no further.

The album opens with "Jerusalem", an adaption of a church hymn. The song is strong and displays the talents of the band well. Keith's organ refelcts its church background.

The adaptions continue with a phenomal reworking of Alberto Ginasteras' "Toccata". Great keyboards from Keith as well as inventive drumming from Carl Palmer, one of the most original drummer ever. This is hands down ELP's best instrumental, and it's one of the ten best off all time.

"Still...You Turn Me On" is another great ELP ballad. Listening to this makes you wonder how much better Love Beach would have been if they wrote songs like this instead of pandering to the mainstream. This, along with Lucky Man, constitute the only great ballads by ELP.

"Benny the Bouncer" serves the role of a sort of comic relief filler, like The Sheriff or Jeremy Bender. It's decent, but it's the weakest song on the album. As with every ELP album but the debut, it detracts from the superb quality of the rest of the album.

Then comes the behemoth, "Karn Evil 9". this song is the most pompous epic in the ELP catalogue and, by extension, music. Pompous doesn't mean bad, though, as evidenced by this beauty. Keith gives his newly unveiled toy the Moog polyphonic ensemble. On that note, many musicians can say that their instrument was replicated, but how many can say that an instrument was designed soley for that person? Keith's one of a kind Moog Polyphonic Ensemble is capable of anything and it makes me sad that it was never again used to great effect. Lake's bass is thunderous and his personal best. Carl Palmer takes his place right behind Neal Peart in my list of favorite prog drummers becasue, like Peart, he combines the intensity of Keith Moon and John Bonham with the celestial sensibilities of Bill Bruford. The song drags a bit during the second impression, but a few repeated listens later it grew on me.

This album is a must have for fans of prog, but it still contains that blasted ELP filler. Rush has this same problem; gems are kept from being masterpieces by filler. Still, you need this. As Lake would say, "SEE THE SHOW!"

Grade: B+

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Send comments to 1800iareyay (BETA) | Report this review (#100518) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 26, 2006

Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Intriguing title, fine cover artwork, great production but I think that this album should be named "Karn Evil 9" instead of BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, since the mentioned epic-lengthy piece takes 2/3 of the entire work leaving a sensation that shorter tracks are only filler stuff (and they sound like that). Bonus tracks on CD, used to write this review, softened a bit the feeling that we had back in the 70s that BSS was only and simply the KE9 album. Being so able to produce filler material, EL&P could extend KE9, add a couple of new songs and release 2 LPs or maybe a double album.

"Karn Evil 9" looks like an attempt to produce something spectacular, majestic, perennial and unforgettable but the final result isn't exempt of flaws - other previous EL&P long pieces like 'Tarkus', for instance, work much better. The almost half-hour of contradictory sounds and bounds is boring and few people are able to hear the entire track in a daily basis.
But here and there, one either may find pleasant parts and segments or also enjoy the notable and notorious skills and musicianship of band's members - although Greg Lake, who I consider one of the best vocalists of the entire rock scene, shouts more than sings in this particular track. And yes, 'Part 2' brings the emblematic phrase: Welcome back my friends/To the show that never ends, a kind of slogan that all fans of prog-rock know by heart.

Other songs are dimmed by the KE9 factor but they are not stripped of quality:
"Jerusalem", an old hymn adapted to shape band's reality opens agreeably the album (promises not accomplished, however), Lake's vocals are amazing and provide an extra colour to the song.
"Toccata", an adaptation of Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera's 'First Piano Concert, 4th Movement' is unarguably a Keith Emerson's sprout, a piece arranged in a way he could perform his excellencies and oddities at the keyboards. Noticeable in this track is Carl Palmer's outstanding drumming effort.
"Still. you turn me on" shows the balladesque face of the band, a grimace always inserted in each of one of the classical EL&P albums. Lyrics are a bit confused but once again vocals supply the peak of the song.
"Benny, the bouncer" is the weakest of album's short tracks, a skipping action doubtless.

Bonus tracks (on 2001 re-issue) add few to the entire work, a place to be visited mainly when it comes the will to hear the full CD.

BSS final consideration is totally attached to the highs and lows of main track, 'Karn Evil 9', in the same way it happened for TARKUS/'Tarkus'. However, while 'Tarkus', the song, saved its namesake album, here KE9 helped to bring an insecure navigation through album's tracks and at least two stars shall be extracted from the masterdom plateau - a good but non-essential output.

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Send comments to Atkingani (BETA) | Report this review (#102263) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 09, 2006

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have no acrimony toward Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They're one of the most important prog rock bands in history and I loved their unique sound since the very first time I listened to such pieces as "Lucky Man" and "Tarkus". In Trilogy I've found their most convincing peak, with regards to my personal tastes, at least. Brain Salad Surgery is something different. It's their peak of maturity and complexity and Emerson really Is the band here. No doubt about that.

By the way, the whole result appears to me "light and shade". The album opens magnifically with the memorable "Jerusalem" and "Toccata". This last, in particular, is a very successful job: pompous and classical, structured upon a wise transplant of "old" into "new". One of the best efforts of Keith Emerson.

"Sill...You Turn Me On" continues the tradition of Lake's mellow and acoustic songs as "Lucky Man" or "From the Beginning" and features a wonderful electric guitar and harpsichord's effects. Unfortunately it's only under three minutes long.

"Benny the Bouncer" is also traditional tune (honky tonk) in their discography and it's justly reduced at 2,21 mns 'cause it's only a pause of meditation for the listener. But then, what's up? Does "Karn Evil" is really the masterpiece that many tell it is?

The first two parts of "Karn Evil" are still exciting, for sure, but the remaining two lacks of freshness, in my humble opinion, at the risk of being cold and boring. Rick not avoided by the more "improvisation-like" music' structure.

All in all I cannot deny the intrinsic value of the opus from a prog point of view but it is not the album I usually like to enjoy from them.

3.75 stars.

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#104867) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, December 29, 2006

Review by fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Pompous? Outdated? Overblown?

It's funny that ELP have always enjoyed a bad reputation with rock critics. Punks and Rolling Stone journalists hated them, of course, but such people hated Led Zeppelin just as much - and look what an amazing rehabilitation Led Zep have undergone since the 1980s! Why is no-one prepared to judge ELP's music on its own terms? You'll hear people call BRAIN SALAD SURGERY outdated (because of its lyrics, because of the analogue synths) but surely you could say much the same about Jimi Hendrix's classic albums, which are full of cheesy wah-wah guitar and silly ditties about mermaids. Why has Hendrix remained untouchable then?

As some critics (notably Paul Stump) have pointed out, most rock writers don't really give a damn about music. In 9 out of 10 rock reviews (not to mention band interviews!) it's a band's ATTITUDES that will be discussed.

When you hear an ELP piece like 'Toccata' for the first time, it may sound chaotic and brash - but isn't brashness approved of in rock, when the performers are the Who or the Sex Pistols? I've got a hunch that most casual listeners are actually put off by Toccata's complexity. Well, some music lovers are ATTRACTED to complexity, and we can safely assume that most Prog Archives readers belong to this category. So dear reader, if you've never heard this album, and if you're not afraid of some (well-structured) musical chaos, you're in for a treat: 'Toccata' will blow your mind. It's more avant-garde than anything on Bowie's LOW or Pere Ubu's first few albums. Whether it is a convincing adaptation of Ginastera's first piano concerto I cannot say, but (in contrast to ELP's earlier treatment of Mussorgsky) it definitely works as an exciting piece of music in its own right.

And you could say similar things about BRAIN SALAD SURGERY as a whole. Listen to this album with an open mind, and you'll definitely find it exciting.

I first got to know BSS in the 1970s, when I was still wet behind the ears, and I loved it. Having read a lot of vitriol about ELP since then, I was ready to go in for the kill, but when I played the album last night (for the first time in a couple of years) I still found its piece de resistance, KARN EVIL 9, irresistible. Although that piece is half an hour long, it's well-structured, inspiration never flags, the band's playing is first-rate, Lake's singing is youthful and energetic, Emerson's use of synths is truly inventive, and his Hammond organ solos are up there with the best.

KARN EVIL's only problems lie with its SPACE ODYSSEY-inspired theme (do YOU believe our lives are about to be controlled by an evil Super Computer?), and with the fact that it never really stirs the listener's emotions (even though it's a helluva ride). Therein lies the main difference with 'epics' such as SUPPER'S READY or THE GATES OF DELIRIUM: I just can't imagine anyone will find ELP moving. And for that reason I can't call BSS a true 'masterpiece'.

I also have a problem with the album's opening track, 'Jerusalem'. If this number truly fulfilled its role, you could say BSS is perfectly structured : (1) Majestic opener - (2) complex instrumental - (3) cool acoustic ballad - (4) bar room brawl - (5) thirty minute epic. Unfortunately, Lake's singing on 'Jerusalem' is glib and insensitive, and Emerson's synth embellishments (during the song's final verse) simply sound ludicrous.

The original 'Jerusalem' is a slow and solemn hymn, set to wonderful words by the visionary poet William Blake. ELP's vulgar treatment is a throwback to their (ridiculous) PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION. I find it every inch as insensitive as Madonna turning Don McLean's wistful 'American Pie' into generic radio fodder.

Fortunately, the unconvincing album opener is followed by 40 minutes of hugely enjoyable classic prog.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#105639) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 05, 2007

Review by The Wizard
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Is Brain Salad Surgery really the classic it is claimed to be? To many, it is the brilliant climax of classic progressive rock, defining the genre itself. Unfortunately I find Brain Salad Surgery takes prog's weaker sides and focuses on them while containing little of the brilliance that other prog bands carried.

While Brain Salad Salad Surgery is bombastic, over-the-top, and pretentious, it lacks well thought out compositions and any real emotion. The solos are long and obnoxious, like the musician is soloing just to prove how good he is instead of trying to express something musically. The whole album is based on Emerson's egotistical solos. If half of them were removed, there would be little left in the album. I love a great keyboard solo, but the Emerson solos is annoying.

BSS is basically half-assed. There is little songwriting, the most well written songs are covers of classical works. Not a single melody written by the band is memorable. The lyrics are trite and cheesy too, not helping affairs. 'Still... You Turn Me On' and 'Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression)' are the biggest examples of poor lyric writing. Just more cheese, sloppily sprayed over the platter. 'Toccata' is a very cool idea and I must say it starts out nice, but eventually it becomes an excuse for Emerson to stroke his ego even more with yet another obnoxious solo.

I find that Emerson tries to show his classical influence too much. It's like he's trying to prove that he is a real artist and that he's really turning rock into an artform by marrying it with serious and intelligent music. But the beauty and compositional intricacy of classical music is absent. Emerson brought pretentious to a new level in rock music, I seriously doubt he even enjoyed rock'n'roll.

There are redeeming qualities to the album, but they are so overshadowed by it's weaknesses that they're not worth. BSS lacks intricacy and emotion, two of prog's most important quality's. If you are a newcomer to progressive rock, I suggest you don't waste your time on this album. Try Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator or Jethro Tull instead, but just stay clear of this album.

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Send comments to The Wizard (BETA) | Report this review (#106096) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 06, 2007

Review by FruMp
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I hate it when stuff like this happens, when people love a prog album and say it's a classic etc and I just can't see it, I feel like I've missed out on something or I'm out of the club but to be honest after many relistenings and deliberations my opinion has been cemented think this album is just boring, overblown and overrated.

The first thing that I noticed was the weak production, a very thin sound with very little bass quite disappointing. I thought the first track 'jerusalem' was and interesting rendition, not really my cup of tea reminded me of being bored in my school chapel when they were singing that song, not very exciting stuff.

Then on to' toccata' I like this song it takes what I love about classical music and adds synth to it, I'm not much of a fan of the lacklustre drum solo half way through.

'Still you turn me on', poppy laid back acoustic number, pretty catchy - nothing special, the single on the album.

'Benny the bouncer', upbeat ragtime number with some cheesy synth and some skillful piano work, didn't really appeal to me I must say.

Then onto the 29 minute epic 'Karn Evil 9', god 'the show that never ends'?, more like the song that never ends, it just seems like it doesn't seem to go anywhere or do anything interesting, it really really bores me I can't stand it, it does have the odd good part though so I can't completely write it off, I wont be listening to it any time soon though.

Then the bonus title track 'brain salad surgery' which I have on my version which isn't listed here, funnily enough it's by far the best song on the album, very catchy, great synth, not boring, it's got everything going for it, the highlight of the album for me.

Overall 2.5 stars rounded up because it does have some decent tracks and is historically important I guess, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is bored easily or doesn't enjoy synth.

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Send comments to FruMp (BETA) | Report this review (#117195) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Beginning with their stunning debut in 1970 Emerson, Lake & Palmer had steadily drawn more and more music enthusiasts into their camp with every new studio release and supporting tour. With a hit single under their belt from "Trilogy" they were ready to unveil the album that would propel them to the top of the rock heap. Utilizing fantastic, revolutionary cover art by H.R. Giger, a 12"x12" full-color folded insert that included individual portraits and millions of dollars worth of ads and marketing salvos from their own label's distributor, Atlantic Records, ELP would change the progressive rock landscape forever with "Brain Salad Surgery."

While "Jerusalem" may be as familiar as "Amazing Grace" to Englanders, it's a relatively obscure song in the states so (as far as we were concerned) they may as well have written it themselves. It sure sounds like something they could have penned. Anyway, it's a grandiose opener with Greg Lake's stately vocals and Keith Emerson's terrific organ and synthesizer sounds augmenting a regal melody. This is followed by "Toccata," Keith's arrangement of Ginastera's 1st piano concerto and a fine example of modern composition. It's what ELP does best instrumentally with its tight, intricate segments that weave a dizzying tapestry of musical hues. The first half is excellent, then Carl Palmer performs a tympani solo before he moves to the drum kit. Keeping in mind that in the early 70s synthesizers were still a novelty, the noisy display of annoying electronic sounds still gets to be a bit much before it's over. Next up is Greg's "Still. You Turn Me On," which has the same aura of their previous single, "From The Beginning," but is just as alluring. The lyrics seem to convey that, despite the craziness and intensity of life as a rock star, the singer is still "turned on" by the audience. It's a well-written tune but some of the quirky guitar effects haven't aged well and now sound understandably dated. ELP was notorious for injecting cornball detours from time to time and this LP was no exception. "Benny The Bouncer" is a fluff piece about a ferocious club doorman who finally gets the crap beat out of him and ends up with a hatchet in his head. Not exactly standup comedy material but I guess it was funny to the trio. In their defense the music isn't horrible, the honky-tonk piano work by Keith is authentic and they even throw in a false ending to boot. However, one has to believe that by then they surely had better songs than this meaningless ditty to include.

"Karn Evil 9" is the focus of the album and their most adventurous epic. "1st Impression" is nothing short of amazing. Divided into two sections on the LP, the second part is the one that became the most recognizable due to its being ushered directly onto the heavy rotation of FM radio stations all over the free world. I personally prefer the first part but, along with tunes like Yes' "Roundabout" and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," "Welcome Back My Friends." is one of the essential classic progressive rock songs that keeps the genre on the aural map of the general populace generation after generation. And for that we should be grateful. Greg's guitar work is surprisingly adroit but everyone in the group is performing at the top of their game here as they flawlessly deliver this supercharged segment about computers being introduced as the benign saviors of mankind. "To take their sorrow from this odyssey/to help the helpless and the refugee/to protect what's left of humanity." Lake and Peter Sinfield (of King Crimson fame) contribute brilliant lyrics to describe the resulting amoral scene after the machines have taken over everything, including entertainment. For example, religious sacredness has been debased to a trick as they demonstrate "with our hands behind our backs/we pull Jesus from a hat!/get into that/get into that!" and nature has been ravaged to the point where "there behind a glass/is a real blade of grass/be careful as you pass/move along, move along." Truly disturbing images.

"2nd Impression" is Keith's instrumental creation and it is phenomenal. Starting with sublime jazz piano and evolving into an energetic Latin rhythm complete with synthesized steel drums, it's an exhibition of Emerson's immense keyboard talents. After a quieter yet ominous bridge the band breaks into a high-speed piano-led section that will leave you breathless. "3rd Impression" is a return to the rock format with a big dose of dramatic vocalization from Greg. To my ears this is the weakest of the three impressions but only because the first two are so spectacular. There's a rather mundane synthesizer segue before the stirring organ comes back and Palmer's tempo is, shall I say, "variable" at times. The story line here is that the computers now rule mankind, much to the regret and chagrin of human beings and, though there is a rebellion, the machines win in the end. The feeling I get musically is that the band was building up to a huge finale with the concert audience in mind and we'll never know what it might have sounded like if they had followed their muse rather than what they thought the live crowd would want to experience. The saga ends with the computer exclaiming, "I'm perfect! Are you?' and then proceeding to demonstrate its idea of music by performing a programmed pattern that can only repeat itself over and over as it accelerates as fast as it can go before stopping on a dime. In this nightmarish vision of the future human emotion has been purged from art.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer would never attain this level of excellence again. The adoration and popularity that came after this album would eventually tear them asunder and cause personality clashes and ego-fueled rifts that would diminish their ability to work together efficiently as a team. But nothing can take this achievement of prog rock away from them (or us) and future music archaeologists will admire it just as much as we do now. It's not a complete masterpiece but it's a landmark nonetheless. 4.4 stars.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#117604) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 07, 2007

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Respect to all those for whom EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER is an essential progressive act. This is a band I avoided while growing up, based on what little I'd heard of them. I decided to revisit them recently. Bad move.

Oh dear. Is this a joke? 'Jerusalem'? The piece was hackneyed to begin with: a song redolent of colonialism, played at the Proms and lampooned by the likes of Monty Python and the KLF. With good reason! But I suspect this isn't supposed to be funny; the ELP lads are actually trying to perform a serious piece of music here. And Emerson ruins it in the way only EMERSON can, with his cheesy synth slides and stabs.

'Toccata' is more of the same. The thing that turns me off ELP is EMERSON attempt to use his organ (I've always wanted to say that) to substitute for guitar, keyboards, flute or whatever variety of instruments other groups use. Those incessant whoops in 'Toccata' do nothing for me. I guess they sounded futuristic at the time, but they have certainly dated. To be fair, there's actually an excellent composition hidden in here: Ginastera's original version would no doubt be well worth a listen.

'Still. you turn me on' is a lovely piece of music, instant proof that the band would have been better as LP. This is about simple enough for GREG LAKE'S thin, overstretched voice to handle. Despite the negative press, 'Benny the Bouncer' is fine, the requisite piece of British oddball humour that is such a feature of 70s progressive rock. Pure vaudeville.

Now for the point of the album. 'Karn Evil 9' Now this is much better. EMERSON has the space to fiddle without overpowering the song. His baroque ornamentation fits better here than on the shorter pieces: the album would have been far better had this piece been expanded further to cover both sides of the disc. It's all too easy, though, to get sick of the synth-brass sound. And I hate to say it, but LAKE'S voice is often flat: listen to 'Roll on and see the show' without cringing, I dare you.

Despite the low rating, this is an album everyone should listen to once. It will give your progressive leanings a frame of reference: if you like this, no excess will be beyond your tastes. It's a bridge too far for me, I'll be honest with you.

Nice cover though.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#118919) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars SEVEN OUT OF TEN BUT SENTIMENTALLY UPGRADED TO FOUR STARS

This was the first ELP studio album I purchased at the time time of release. I had already "Pictures" and knew "Tarkus" pretty well. In these ancient times, ELP was one of my preferred band. The packaging of the original vinyl was a great artwork.

When I listened to "Jerusalem", I was blisfully happy. What a nice melody, what a somptuous keys throughout this short number. It is of course very commercial but it is one of my all time fave of the band. Not essential in terms of creativty but exceptionally emotional.

"Tocatta" is a showcase for Keith and Carl. Some weird moog sounds and great drumming. This number is better while played live. Very pompous finale (but we are talking about ELP, right ?).

They will also renew the tradition of sweet songs (like "Lucky Man" on their debut). "Still..." is the ocasion for Lake to show his great vocal capabilities. I have always love his voice (from the early Crimson days, actually). This track is very pleasant (especially after the rather complex "Tocatta", but does not reach the level of "Luck Man" or "C'Est La Vie".

"Benny The Bouncer" would have perfectly fit on the B-side of "Tarkus" (I guess you understand what I mean). This Country & Western farce is completely useless. Just to be played in a saloon.

Now, the pièce de résistance (or main dish if you prefer). The extremely long "Karn Evil". Twenty-seven minutes and forty seconds divided into three parts !

"First Impression" is brilliant. Fantastic bass and drumming play to sustain the incredible keys part. Vocals are a bit yelling though. This movement is the best one of the three. Strong from start to finish. Difficult to approach for non-fan I guess. I think that the pompous ELP has never been highlighted so much. But I have to say that I like it a lot. Otherwise, one could hardly be called an ELP fan.

I wonder why they split it into two parts (well actually it was the occasion to turn the vinyl record on the B-side because it starts exactly where the first part ends with these electronic sounds. It will shortly be interrupted by the famous lines : "Welcome Back My Friend To The Show That Never Ends". But that's another story. I would have liked that this split would have disappeared in the CD release (but I had the same feeling for "Thick Is A Brick") but it won't be the case. Anyway the second part of "Karn Evil" is just as good and the whole (13'30") which can be considered as the highlight of this album.

"Second Impression" is somewhat jammy. Great piano and drumming, but I very much preferred the mood of "Tocatta". After almost three boring minutes, the songs turns to a very quite mood. You can almost not hear anything (again "Islands" from KC is not far away). Almost fully experimental, improvisation-like for about two minutes. This part is really heading nowhere. By far the weakest and truely useless part of this suite.

"Third Impression" is again a more "normal" song. It remind me at times the track "Salisbury" from "Uriah Heep" and its pompous passages. A pleasant and jazzy intrumental (although I do not like this genre very much) in the middle part will precede a very powerful finale with a great Lake on the vocals again. It reminds at time the track "Jerusalem".

This "suite" can hardly be considered as one piece of work. The three parts are really different from one another. No continuity at all. Each section being really a track on its own.

As for many ELP works, the best ("Jerusalem", "Karn Evil First") will cross the poorest ("Benny The Bouncer").

This is a true ELP effort, but rather difficult to appraoch. I would not suggest this album to start your ELP experience. But I feel it rather difficult to recommend one because each of them is good (except "Trilogy" IMO) but lacks in consistency (except their debut one probably).

I would rate this album seven out of ten but I will upgrade it sentimentally to four stars since this album that might well be their last good one.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#122769) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Worthy of its high praise, "Brain Salad" features just about everything ELP is famous for: gigantic organ melodies, smooth and beautiful vocals, skillful and dynamic drumming, pretentious bombast, occasionally brilliant but usually interesting epic songwriting and mediocre filler material. "Brain Salad" has it all (plus HR Giger ta boot)!

In all seriousness, "Brain Salad" is a hallmark of the genre, whether you like it or not. It is aggressively creative technologically, and shows the respected prog-giants further experimenting at what the limits of their respective instruments can do. I hate "Jerusalem" just as much as the next guy, but "Toccata"-- and of course the "Karn" suite-- are simply stellar. The requisite Greg Lake ballad is delightfully sinister and catchy, and the even more requisite "rowdy rock-n-roll" song can is actually a fun listen. "Karn" steals the show (it's a dynamo), making for a exciting mixture of sci-fi sing-along and instrumental complexity.

More importantly, this is the only ELP album in which Emerson's huge keyboard's don't completely squash the sound and leave the listener wishing for a guitar lead.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 5 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#126409) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Though additional albums were to follow, Brain Salad Surgery was ELP's last hurrah. Regarded by many as their pinnacle, it is perhaps their most consistent album, though not without fault.

The first song -- Jerusalem -- gets the album off to a great start, courtesy William Blake. Ginastera's Toccata is up next, and ELP are in great form on this song, which is virtually tailor-made for their style. These two songs are among the best ELP ever recorded. Unfortunately, Benny the Bouncer is typical ELP filler, a la The Sheriff and Jeremy Bender. Still You Turn Me On is the requisite Lake composition, obviously included for commercial potential, but it is lacking when compared to From The Beginning.

Which brings us to the Karn Evil 9 suite. There are many who feel this is ELP's masterpiece, but to me it's a step below Tarkus. While Part 1 starts off with great promise, Parts 2 and 3 drag on a bit too long for my tastes, and the production is muddy -- it seems as though I get aurally strained trying to take it all in. But there is certainly a lot of great playing here -- it's ELP after all -- and this was the last time they were able to capture the magic on tape. I'd say Jerusalem and Toccata are required listening for any prog fan, with the rest being merely recommended.

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Send comments to jammun (BETA) | Report this review (#139223) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Review 3, Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1973

StarStarStarStar

Some fans like to think of this album as ELP's magnum opus. It certainly shows technical skill, power, a complete disregard for musical conventions and grandiose pieces that don't wear too thin after a few listens. It also has the added bonus of relatively diverse musical choices (from the heavy electronic classical(?!) interpretation of Toccata to the soft tones of Still..You Turn Me On to the progressive beast that is Karn Evil 9). The biggest let-down on this album is that it doesn't really feel like an album, but rather like a collection of several very good songs. There also isn't really any single track that I'd consider absolutely vital to someone who isn't an ELP fan already (well, maybe Toccata). There's no weakness, and everything's great, but this album doesn't really have a Tarkus or a Musical Box or a Gypsy or a Schizoid Man to leave you gasping for more and riveted to your chair. Perhaps my favourite part of this album is Palmer's drumming throughout, especially on Toccata. It always annoys me to see Phil Collins, although he's good, getting way more votes than Palmer on all those best drummer ever polls.

The version of Jerusalem was a fairly ambitious choice. However, the arrangements are great, Emerson's organ backing Lake's triumphant 'Bring me my bow of burning gold...'. It's great entertainment, an original take, and a good opener.

Still... You Turn Me On is pretty obviously a Lake composition. Short, melodic and with gorgeous haunting verses interspersed with slightly awkward choruses that take a few listens to acquire. If you like Lucky Man, you should like this, if not, I can't see it being too annoying to listen through.

Benny the Bouncer is another short track, based on a weird club-style piano, light drums and Lake's half-drunken vocals. It's quite amusing, but nothing really superb.

Toccata is a driving reinterpretation of a classical composition. The drumming; chimes, electric drums and all is absolutely amazing, the Moog is hectic, screeching and energetic, and, most importantly of all, the atmosphere and direction is always there.

Karn Evil 9 may not be every progger's piece of cake, but is definitely something most ELP fans should enjoy. The concept is the enslavement of humans by computers, which at times has superb lyrical results, and at others lines like 'no man yields who flies on my ship'. The first impression pt. 1 is opened with a good vocal part, together with Emerson's Hammond organ, and has a moody energy, great keyboards and foreshadowing perhaps weakened by an occasional moment of tacky lyrics and vocals.

The First Impression part 2 is a big improvement on that, full of energy and bursting with lightness, and the bass is supporting suitably silly keyboard parts that take the serious edge off the song. Lake's vocals are as good as anything he's done, and the lyrics aren't bad, per se, and the instrumental section is as polyphonic as you could expect from a three-piece band. I love the thing that sounds like a great guitar solo, but could be a keyboard solo. I particularly like the brief moments when Palmer's left alone. He can both hold up the rhythm section throughout the song flawlessly and also develop on that any time he wants.

My criticism for the second impression is that it is really nothing except good music. I can't see any real relation to the concept, or musical ties between the pieces. The music is all very cooperative, and usually seems to have all members of the band playing. The random yipping after the opener only improves it, and Palmer's drumming is eclectic and sounds like steel drums. The second part of it has some echoes of Toccata and excellent drawn out atmosphere with bass and piano together with the occasional hollow tap on a percussion instrument. The shift to a slightly heavier and more pompous piano part doesn't come off too well. It goes back to some variations (I think) on the opener section, and there are some brilliant moments. Unfortunately it still overall feels to me like a bunch of random ideas thrown together into a bit of a mess. It changes abruptly and obviously to an overblown third impression.

The third impression starts well with bits of pseudo-classical organ interspersed with light moog, a good sung part continuing the concept. The 'computer's lyrical parts were obviously the good ones, and its . The instrumental section is again the real triumph here, though the keyboard parts sometimes seem a little brainlessly or ostentatiously added. Additionally it doesn't really, for me, evoke the idea of a battle. As hard as I try, I can only think spacey or confused when listening to this. When the vocals kick in again, it's to good effect, and the computer's final duet with Lake is pensive and impressive, and shows why I don't dislike the concept overall. Although I've come to accept the ending, as is the case with King Crimson's In The Wake Of Poseidon, its feeling is ruined by the inclusion of bonus tracks.

Of the bonus tracks, there's not much to say, they'll get a fuller mention on the Works II review. Brain Salad Surgery itself has an almost spitting drum-part, silly keyboards, basically random lyrics, and a generally laid back feel. There's a good 'lead' guitar part in the background and the quiet bit in the middle, which is always a nice change from pure keyboard-domination. Not brilliant, but good.

When The Apple Blossoms Bloom is basically a nice jazz fusion piece, with eclectic keyboards, good percussion and a quiet bass part. It's great. The excerpts just irritate me. I can only listen to the opening of BSS itself once in a sitting before it annoys me, and I get equally annoyed if I have to dash to the stereo just to turn it off at the exact moment WTABB ends.

Overall, a very strong four stars that only misses the fifth because of a lack of overall direction and personal nitpicking in Karn Evil 9, as well as too much keyboard dominance on that song for me. I'm one of the unconverted heathen who likes polyphony and thinks that In The Cage is vastly overrated, and proud of it. Despite the high rating, I wouldn't start an ELP collection with this. It's not massively accessible, and if you just don't like ELP, I can't see this having anything really which you'd like.

Rating: Almost. Almost. Four stars. Favourite Track: Toccata

Edited up to a 5, at last. Not because my fundamental views on the album have changed all that much, it's still got a flaw or two. On the other hand, this is possibly the best played album of all time. Three very distinctive, absolutely mindblowing musicians (and Carl Palmer and Greg Lake at their finest are every bit the monster that Bruford and Squire were, in fact, I'd say even more so), pulling out fantastic tones for the entire thing and working together astoundingly closely. As I've got more and more capable of listening for the actual musical components, this has become comfortably my most listened to, and possibly even my favourite ELP album, and so I think it might be unfair to, on a technicality, deny it the fifth star. So, crank the volume up, and enjoy. And yes, now it feels perfectly like an album to me, not a fully resolved one, but nonetheless a brilliant, brilliant album.

Edit, and I'm now of the view that Toccata is ELP's crowning achievement... that's a must have, along with Jerusalem and KE-9, 1st Impression pt. 2.

Rating 14/15, and five stars. With a recommendation, if you're new to prog rock and don't like this at first, explore a few other albums and subgenres, wait for your ears to get a bit more experienced and then give it another go. It only gets better.

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Send comments to TGM: Orb (BETA) | Report this review (#159568) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars A really pleasant and diverse ride. Nothing for the nervous though, as this contains musical extremes from both ends of the spectrum. This healthy mix of old and new, strange and accessible must have been one of the keystones in making ELP the great commercial success story they became. Self-indulgence and bombast are almost synonymous with much of prog, but never more so than with ELP, making this a showcase of both the negative and positive sides of this style of music.

For me, that's all good. ELP isn't a shy group of musicians, so there's no chance of this not being overblown, because these guys are it by nature! If you don't really care about the guitar, do it properly.

Jerusalem is a remake of a traditional, patriotic English hymn and also the official song for Englands cricket team. Cricket fans? Most importantly though, it serves as one of the cornerstones in one certain Monty Python-sketch, making it a glorious tribute for Britain's best comedy gang. That's what I've always hoped, and for reasons unknown, it sure wouldn't surprise me! The remake is in one word, that's right, bombastic, and one of my most played songs. Soaring church organ, massive drum beats from Palmer. Makes it hard not feeling pride and strength, if not for England, for something.

Next up is a song that seems to polarise a lot of fans. Toccata is an interpretation of a classical piece and features one of the most devastatingly heavy, violent organ passages I've come across, after an eerie intro. Again powerful percussion from Carl Palmer, with an impressive solo in the middle section, showcasing the fantastic skill of the man. One of the best!

A well-needed rest sure is needed after these two monsters and they come in shape of Still...You Turn Me On and Benny The Bouncer. Nice and tranquil 12-string guitar work from Greg Lake makes the three minutes of the first one a worthwhile excursion. Benny The Bouncer on the other hand. Where to begin? Spectacular is the wrong word. An epic of disgrace. The keys! The vocals! The bar piano! The fight! But what you can't deny is: you always end up smiling...

Much can be said about Karn Evil 9. I'll settle with saying that the introduction of 1st Impression, Pt. 2 and 3rd Impression never fails to send chills down my spine. And yes, Keith Emerson sure knows what he's doing.

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#164984) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Review by ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Get Me a Ladder, The Only Way Is Down

I tried, I really did, honestly (to find a weevil in these martian fire-flowers) but have to confess that this is probably the closest you will find to the unattainable perfection we all search so futilely for.

ELP had learned the lessons from its predecessor Trilogy, i.e don't write anything that you can't reproduce on stage and end up touring just half an album of new material. No weak tracks here, and I can say that every one of them has been my favourite at one time or another.

Interestingly, the band was not allowed to perform Jerusalem in the UK, presumably on the reactionary advice of the censor who hesitated at the idea of some dirty long-hairs 'butchering' a national hymn. Shame really, as this version is completely respectful to the original and Lake's vocal is one of his best ever. Palmer's drumming is sublime, and manages to be incredibly busy AND utterly supportive despite the plethora of spectacular rolls throughout the track's short duration. Not sure if fatboy actually plays bass on this as the bottom end, to my ears at least, sounds as though it comes solely from Emerson's Minimoog bass?.

Tocatta - Ginastera's music is something of an acquired taste and certainly not for the feint-hearted so Emerson has done a remarkable job of transforming the 3rd movement of the Argentinian's 1st piano concerto into a format that displays the band to best effect. This is the closest ELP came to abandoning conventional tonality altogether and certainly a close run thing with The Barbarian as the heaviest and most challenging piece they ever recorded. For years I thought the electronic 'oscillator epilepsy' that comes near the end was contributed mainly by Emerson's modular Moog system, but I have been advised that most of the sounds here come via Palmer's electronic percussion.

Yep, we need a soothing ballad now after that onslaught, and they deliver in style with Lake's Still You Turn Me On being a contender for the best song he ever wrote. This would have been the perfect single from the album but rather pedantically, the performing rights 'bean counters' deemed that as Palmer does not play anything on this track, it could not therefore be released under the name ELP.

The intro to Benny the Bouncer contains one of the first instances of a polyphonic synth being used in recording history, and on reflection, this hilarious vaudeville parody seems an odd choice on which to debut such innovative technology. The track gets some flak from ELP fans, but I love it to death and the piano solo is one of the most exhilarating sections in popular music EVER. Very funny and witty lyrics from Lake and Peter Sinfield which serve to undermine the charges against the latter of being a pretentious dilettante and ELP as humorless.

Karn Evil 9 on its own must be deserving of being considered Prog's equivalent to Pop's 'Sgt Pepper'. In it's 30 minute span it encompasses everything that visitors to this site value above all else. Fantastic playing, innovative technology that ENHANCES the music as opposed to DISGUISING same.

Economical solos and breathtaking exploitation of dramatics and accents?. (Check)

Key changes, tempo changes and timbral diversity? (Check).

Humour, Irony, Wit, Gravitas, Good and Bad Taste, Irreverence, Anarchy and Conservatism? (Check)

There is no noodling over a riff for 10 minutes here and the music is meticulously conceived right down to the last high-hat stroke to be faithfully reproducible within the live environment. If proof were needed, the resultant tour and triple live album Welcome Back My Friends is testimony to this artistic rigor. Similarly, the description 'Symphonic' is usually a lazy misnomer when applied to the majority of Prog giants.There is very little formal symphonic development in Yes, Crimson or Genesis. However the term is perfectly apt for this triumvirate suite where themes and motifs are developed with the conventional academic discipline as deployed by the likes of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Copland, Bartok, Janacek et al.

The lyrics in Prog are normally one of its weak points but Lake and Sinfield really make a great effort here to explore the ramifications of the dawn of a dystopian technological age where our inventions ultimately come to destroy us and our human values. Some may now consider the corrupt 'circus' analogy as somewhat cliched but in 1973 this was thought provoking and extremely prescient, so full marks to ELP for that.

It is strange however, that the acoustic 2nd Impression is based on themes contained in the following 3rd Impression which has led me to believe it was composed AFTER the 3rd part of the suite?

SUMMATION: At least 30 years ahead of its time as evidenced by polyphonic synths, electronic percussion and sequencing (the classic swept filter effect that segues side one and two of the original vinyl)

From this point on, there was nowhere else for ELP to go, (electronically at least) as they had taken analogue technology to beyond the limits dreamed of in 1973. It would be another 8 years before MIDI appeared and thereafter the digital revolution of sampling.

Best album by the best band in the best genre with the best cover. (A Full House)

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Send comments to ExittheLemming (BETA) | Report this review (#169570) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 02, 2008

Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ELP reached the height of their powers in 1973. They were one of the most in demand acts right up with Led Zeppelin, The Who and Deep Purple. Building on the success of the first three studio albums and one live one ELP was now on top the rock world. Excess everywhere Persian carpets, groupies galore and the excess food, alcohol and drugs. In the midst of that came Brain Salad Surgery. Even though all the other albums to date had their special moments and wow factor ELP was the most experimental on this one. Starting with taking on of the most popular hymns in England and turning it into a single much to the chagrin of the conservatives in England or the synthetic wonderland of the adaptation of Italian classical composer Ginastera's Toccatta to the seemingly out of place vaudeville style Benny the Bouncer to a three part unrelated Epic in Karn Evil 9 ELP ventured into a lot of areas. The question was would there fans come along?

Trilogy was a studio masterpiece that couldn't be reproduced until the 90's because of the overdubs so what to do if your looked at as the creative electronic wizards? Simply put as lavish as the production is ELP was able to simplify the add ons and still play the whole thing live. What a show it was!

Karn Evil 9 1st Impression (both parts) was a highly energized rocker that while had different sections related brillianty and rocks tremendously. (My favorite part is the transition at around the 5 minute mark.) Something ELP never again really captured. The second part of the 1st impression was actually due to time constraints of the vinyl became a classic rock staple. The second Impression is noted for Keith's piano work. In an interview he explained this was to be his first piano concerto that somehow fell through. The band then adapted it as an instrumental again using Carl's synthesized percussion as on toccata. The impression is really a fusion piece with a lot of trading off between Keith and Carl. Finally building to the climax of the 3rd Impression the album closes. The lyrics would have you believe in the future world of a computer gone mad to take control of the one who created him. There are some beautiful melodies and some dark and evil sounding parts as well.

So add all this up and this classic of Prog and of rock and a tribute to a band who would never find themselves again. After BSS and subsequent tour ELP took a 3 year leave of absence and came back with the misguided Works Vol 1. That is another story this one ends with 5 Stars. See the Show!

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Send comments to Garion81 (BETA) | Report this review (#170817) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008

Review by progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Of all the albums ELP released, Brain Salad Surgery is the best. But it's still far from being what ELP could have potentially done. Unfortunately after this release it was a never ending downward spiral for the group, with an occasional hiccup (like the Emerson Lake & Powell effort in 1985).

The album doesn't really start off on the right foot, with a boring adaptation of William Blake's Jerusalem. Fortunately it's a short piece which leads into the wonderful Toccata, an adaptation of Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement. Emerson's heavy use of synthesizers in this piece is a fine example as to why Emerson's name is so popular among progressive rock fans.

Unfortunately, ELP drops into mediocrity with another acoustical ballad by Greg Lake, followed by the silly Benny the Bouncer. At best, both are forgettable and easily fit the ELP formula of some great pieces amidst a bunch of shorter filler tracks, a formula that has prevented ELP from ever having the masterpiece it potentially could have made.

Fortunately for the world of Prog, ELP save the rest of the album for one of their best and well-known pieces, the nearly 30-minute long Karn Evil 9. Unfortunately the entire performance of this song had its first movement split into two parts because it could not fit on one side of an LP. Even when it came out on CD, this remained so until later re-releases had the performance whole as it was originally intended. For ELP, these circumstances provided an unusual side-effect, as the second part of the first impression became a big radio hit on AOR stations.

Penned by Peter Sinfield, the story of Karn Evil 9 is told in three impressions, with the second being an instrumental interlude. The first impression tells the story of a world in which the decadence of the old world is preserved in carnival exhibits along with some things which are rare in the future. The third impression is about a war between computers and humans. Both the first and third impressions are absolutely amazing and are probably the best tracks ELP ever made. The instrumental interlude, on the other hand, is pretty tame stuff.

Not quite a masterpiece, but definitely the best of ELP's albums. Easily four stars and highly regarded by the majority of symphonic prog fans.

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Posted Monday, July 07, 2008

Review by ghost_of_morphy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I can't believe that I haven't reviewed an ELP album yet.

Let's start with their best, Brain Salad Surgery.

This is the album that epitomizes everything that ELP was about. The grandeur, the fantasy, the technical skill, the offbeat interest in other genres, the classical influence, the weird humor that doesn't quite work, Lake's sentimental guitar pieces... everything is packaged in Brain Salad Surgery. If you haven't heard it, get it. If you have heard it, revisit and take a pleasant stroll down memory lane.

Here's what you get on this great album.

Jerusalem (4/5): ELP is known for occasionally drifting into disparate genres, but who would have expected them to cover a hymn from the Church of England? That they can make even this appealing to hard core prog fans (albeit with help from the most brilliant poet of the English language, William Blake) should earn them some kind of award.

Tocatta (4.5/5): Take the award that they earned with Jerusalem and multiply it exponentially. These guys take a weird modern classical composition and crank up the weirdness to ELEVEN. (If you haven't seen This is Spinal Tap, then the allusion probably eludes you, but take my word that this is a compliment.) A difficult piece is made an even more difficult piece, but by God, it's rewarding if you listen to it more than once.

Still... You Turn Me On (3.5/5): One of the best compositions to feature Lake's guitar. Predictable and poppy, but Keith stir things up enough to reward your listening.

Benny the Bouncer (2/5): This is the odd track that doesn't measure up. It's got the same feel that Jeremy Bender has (even to the ragtime influence) but it isn't as attractive. Fortunately, it doesn't last long.

Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (4/5): Introducing the epic that earns ELP favored status in the Valhalla of prog. This really could be cut into two parts. The parts that are introductory are just above average, but the parts that lead into part 2 are just as good as part 2. If you like part 2, you owe it to yourselves to listen to part 1.

Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4.5/5): This was split up into parts 1 & 2 in order to make part 2 the single. It was a wise commercial decision, as part 2 is the most likeable work on the album. It also is great at showcasing ELP's various talents. Enjoy.

Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (5/5): If I had to choose one track that epitomized ELP's creativity and technical skill, this would be it. This thing has classical art written all over it. You don't get symphonic prog if you don't get this.

Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (5/5): This gets 5 out of 5 too, but for very different reasons. This track is the sublimation of the ELP sound. Working together, they never reached heights like these again. We aren't talking technical skill, as in the last track, but we are talking about overpowering symphonic power, with decent lyrics to match. This is my favorite ELP track.

Anyhow, this is definitely a masterpiece of prog. 5 stars all the way.

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Send comments to ghost_of_morphy (BETA) | Report this review (#176384) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
5 stars

This is the album you must hear before you die - three words sum up the peak of prog excellence bar none: 'Brain Salad Surgery'.

Forget what it means, forget the concepts, forget the innuendos throughout, and the infamous H R Giger cover, instead simply put on the head phones and sit back to be treated to some of the best prog you are likely to hear.

It starts with the 'Jerusalem' track that is as bombastic as any ELP track. 'Toccata' follows and is one of the greatest instrumentals. The keyboards are played with such a fury they seem to strip the wallpaper of your walls. Emerson revels in his world as he thumps the keyboards with virtuoso playing that I have never had the pleasure of hearing before.

'Still you turn me on' is the romantic ballad that was always present to garner and appease female fans, a mainstream song that never really impressed me, though I can appreciate its appeal.

'Benny the Bouncer' is the satiric jaunty little ditty laced with black humour that always seemed to defile ELP albums. However, nothing compares to the awesome 'Karn Evil 9'.

Virtually every moment of Karn Evil 9, this multi-movement suite, is awe inspiring. Rarely have a band been so precise, so in sync, so brilliant than this track. It moves through a series of impressions in the same way as a classical piece is structured. The first impressions are often found on best of ELP compilations and for good reason, but its great to hear this track in its entirety. Like the astounding 'Tarkus', it is a long, highly complex example of virtuoso playing and showcases in particular Emerson's incredible talents. It's frenetic pace transfixes from beginning to end of the first impressions. It slows in the 2nd impression so that we have room to breathe within the wall of sound that is at times suffocating, but then picks up the pace again in the 3rd impression with Lake's vocals dominating.

I love the huge finale with the robot voice that seems to explode. The headphone sound zooms in and out from left to right and then fades out. Its masterful and one reason that this album has to be at the top of prog rock album lists as one of the greatest.

There are bonus tracks and they are good. The excerpts from the album that were once only available as a flexi disc are quite interesting. 'When the apple blossoms bloom...' is OK but is on one of 'the Works' albums.

Overall the album is one of the masterpieces of prog and pure ELP at their ultimate best.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#177907) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
5 stars Still... You Turn Me On

What to say about this classic Prog album? Well, firstly, it is a masterpiece! Secondly, while a masterpiece it is not perfect. The first half of the albums suffers a bit from being put side to side with the epic Karn Evil 9 which is clearly the centrepiece of the album. Still, the first side holds up rather well too.

The album starts with Jerusalem, a great traditional hymn reworked in typical ELP fashion. Toccata is a highly experimental classical piece re-arranged by Carl Palmer. This is probably one of the most experimental things he and the band ever did. Greg Lake also gets his place to shine, of course. This time it's Still... You Turn Me On. This is not Lake's best song ever, but it is a good one. Benny The Bouncer injects a bit of humour into the music.

Then there is the massive three-part epic Karn Evil 9. This is a true masterpiece of progressive rock and in my opinion by far ELP's very best work. Every fan of progressive rock needs to hear this one.

Absolutely essential album!

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Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The cover art is one of the most fantastic things I've ever seen on an album cover. The prog has very much promise; with lots of Hammond organ pumped riffs, synth experiments, great bass line, propulsive drumming, epic pieces and a few sci-fi themes, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY has a ton of potential with progsters. But upon hearing the first notes of ''Jerusalem'', you may not realize this at first, but the album is missing one thing; great production.

The production throughout most of the album is just flat. ''Jerusalem'' is one of the better adaptations ELP ever did, but is marred by weak production. I could say the very same thing for the first impression of ''Karn Evil 9''. I remember when I first heard this album, I thought it was one of the best pieces of prog ever, overlooking the production faults.

Another thing that has changed from first listen to now is how much throwaway material is here. ''Still...You Turn Me On'' is just another sappy ballad from Greg Lake that is dispensible to my ears, ''Benny the Bouncer'' sounds like ELP goofing off one day in the studio, and a lot of elongated soloing with the keyboards happens too much everywhere else. For instance, ''Tocatta'' is a very bouncy, energetic piece of work only to be ruined by Keith and Carl playing with their new toys for too long.

''Karn Evil 9'' has potential to be one of the best prog epics ever. Unfortunately on my part, I can't seem to get over how uninteresting I find the second impression, and the third one has too many stupid sci-fi themes perfectly coordinated to battle music I could find in Star Wars. The first impression is my favourite of the bunch, but I would like it more had it been produced better.

It's a great springboard into the world of prog for any new progster, as I was when I first heard this album. The prog essence will grip you right away, but the album's many flaws start getting more noticeable as time wears on. I can't give it less than three stars, but my opinion gets weaker the more times I listen to the album.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#178568) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, July 31, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If further explanation is required, check your Webster's under 'Fellatio' - Liner notes from the '96 remaster

The Story

My tale with this legendary effort from Emerson, Lake & Palmer [ELP] begins the same way a lot of my tales with classic albums do. In my younger days my father had bought me a magazine seeing that it featured articles on Pink Floyd and Rush (two of my favorite bands, then and now), but it also featured a lot more, since that particular issue was a special edition, The Story Of Progressive Rock and had articles on many other artists whose name was completely new to me. Among the sea of reading about bands that I was familiar with already, but hadn't heard (Jethro Tull, Genesis), and bands that were completely strange and new (Hawkwind, The Soft Machine) I found one group to be particularly interesting with the stories and essays about them - ELP. Not to mention that within the magazine's top 40 progressive rock albums of all time (I had only two of them at the time - Dark Side Of The Moon and Rush's A Farewell to Kings) number five sported a chilling cover art and the same name of the band that had entertained me without even having heard them. Naturally, when I returned home from the trip that we were on when I received the magazine I set out to buy these classic albums, now fallen in love with the genre that I had come to finally give a name to - progressive rock.

I'd find the album rather quickly, (much to my surprise in hindsight, since I've only ever seen about 2 or 3 copies of it over the years) and on first listen I was more than impressed. A young mind such as mine would have trouble comprehending just what it was that I was listening to, but I knew that I liked it. There was no doubt about that. I remember sitting around with some friends at home one day when an unfamiliar person approached me, he had been playing poker a couple of rooms over with my father and had heard Toccata playing loudly. He came over and said, ''ELP?? Man, you listen to them?'' I proudly proclaimed, ''yeah! they're great!''. He gave an approving nod and we chatted for a moment before he had to return to his table and we continued to groove to the tune of Still... You Turn Me On. Looking back on that moment shows just how universal the music is for the people who know it. It moves through generations and is just as fresh to new ears as it was to the people who knew it from the genre's heyday.

It's funny to note that before the discovery of this website it seemed that progressive rock was a perfect mystery to everyone I met, except for some of the most random people that I would meet in record stores or friends of my parents who had followed the genre since it's inception. For a young King By-Tor and his friends though, the genre offered unlimited possibilities, and this album was just a scratch on the surface.

But let's get to the music:

The album

What makes Brain Salad Surgery as legendary and generation transcending as it is is a combination of many things. The bombast and virtuosity of the players on the record make for a larger than life sound, and the album's themes make for a wonderful combination. An album which features a 31-minute epic about a dystopian future can only be accurately represented by such music, after all, can you imagine any other band attempting this project? Carl Palmer sets up the frantic pace as only the founder of heavy prog legends, Atomic Rooster, can and Keith Emerson puts his alumnus skills of The Nice combined with his already rampant talent to use making the album as creepy as possible with his key work. All the while Greg Lake seems to have learned from his time with King Crimson and he puts the lungs and the bass to work in ways some might not have thought possible.

Who in the progressive world can honestly forget or deny the wonderful opening of this disc? All three members attack at once at the queue of Emerson's keys on the (somewhat maligned) Jerusalem, the band's chosen single for the album which would never be released in Britain thanks to it's content. Lake's vocals are immediately noticeable on the album thanks to the power they already present (yes, not everyone is a fan of his, but still - it's hard to deny the emotion he was able to put behind his vocals) and singing such a wonderfully constructed poem as one written by William Blake (And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time). Emerson shines immediately as well, soloing to his heart's content over the frantic drums and relatively simplistic bass that keeps the beat and makes the song more approachable on the whole. A wonderful piece.

Of course the album would not be without it's signature interpretive instrumental. Story tells of Emerson playing in The Nice and hearing a piano piece that absolutely wowed him to the point where he had to grab the player and ask ''what the hell'' he was playing. Toccata is the adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th movement, of course the manic drum section coming into the middle would be an original segment as written by Palmer. Each member of the band is absolutely furious in this track. Emerson lets loose on the keys and stirs up some of the creepiest sounds ever made coming into the section half on which Palmer continues to absolutely fly on the drums. This is easily one of the most impressive instrumentals in the history of prog rock. Is it over the top? Yes. Is that a wonderful thing? You'd better believe it.

Things had better slow down about now or we're all in danger of our heads blowing clean off. ELP takes the time to chill in the next composition, the relaxed and wonderfully melodic Still... You Turn Me On. Calm keys and drum parts turn into an almost porno-groove section at the chorus and then slow back down again. Lake's vocals are soft and serene in this track, and Emerson's playing, though much more subtle, is still highly impressive. The bass parts acually play a large part in the mood of the song, even if they're barely audible at times. This is a great track to really groove out to, even if it is unfortunately short.

ELP was also very infamous for their more comical pieces. Benny The Bouncer is that piece for this album. A rather funny story is backed by saloon piano and a wonderfully jumpy bass section. Emerson's solo is still rather impressive, even if it's rather funny in context, and Palmer's drumming is so frantic that can't be missed, even underneath the vocals and piano parts. This is the shortest composition on the album and also the one that gathers the most complaints. While prog rockers tend to be highly serious about their genre with no room for comedy there comes a point where one song really can't spoil an album. This song shouldn't spoil anything as it is since the musicianship is still tight, even if the content isn't 100% serious. How a 2-minute song can spoil an album that is 45-minutes in length is beyond me as it is. Just sit back and enjoy.

Of course, the album would probably not be as acclaimed as it is without the behemoth that sits in wait at the end of the album. The song is structured the way it is since in the days of vinyl Karn Evil 9 was too long for one side and had to have part 1 of the first impression housed on the first side, but many cd remasters have the song as one complete track. And what a track it is! Truly one of the best of the many masterpiece compositions released by the classic prog artists. This one sits pretty along side Close To The Edge, Supper's Ready and A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers with it's wonderful playing, melody, solos, story and concept. The first half of the first impression features so much amazing work from Emerson that it's hardly believable! Emerson's backing of his own keyboard work sounds so good, and so impressive, Palmer is his always impressive self and Lake just belts out those excellent vocals as he does. Some purely creepy and some more comical lyrics from this one ranging from ''bishops' heads in jars'' to a ''stripper in a till'' and the show keeps going indeed until the end of the first side.

The oh so famous lines (legendary, even, by now) open the second half of the first impression along with a tambourine and some more synths ''welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends!''. Emerson's keyboard works in tandem with Lake's vocals on 1st Impression - Part 2 making for a very surreal mix while the deep synths of Emerson's first solo put that uneasy feeling back in your stomach which is later soloed on top of with a lighter sounding tone which is no less impressive. Another stellar section from Palmer reintroduces the band and the First Impression soon comes to an end, but not before getting louder for a grand finish.

Frantic drums and a soft but fast paino are all that's left for a moment as 2nd Impression gets on its way in it's impressive fashion. The keys become more synthetic sounding deeper into the song, but this is completely appropriate in context. This instrumental section does slow down into the middle of the song, but soon picks up again with more fast piano work and the ever-frantic rhythm section of the combined Lake and Palmer.

A triumphant synth and some lighter keys underneath introduce a passionate Lake and everything is back on its way after the instrumental interlude. Some wonderful lyrics (''his hands strike the flame of his soul') make for a wonderful conclusion with 3rd Impression as Lake's vocals compete with Emerson's computerized voice for domination of the song. What a truly terrifying piece, certainly not one to listen to late at night with the lights out (believe me, I've done it - and that was not smart). More classic moments come later on in the song (''I~am~perfect!~Are~you?''). Emerson's triumphant keys come back for yet another impressive solo partway into the song and after a couple minutes of rampant playing the vocals come back for one last competition and then everything fades into nothing... until the keys come back for one last strike, getting faster and faster until the song ultimately closes.

There's a lot of progressive rock in the world today and this was easily one of the pioneering albums. While many people may not find it to be perfect it can't be said that this is not a masterpiece. From skilled and highly impressive playing to the lyrics that can really make you think to the disturbing sleeve, this is one of the pinnacles of an era. There is nothing unessential about this album, and if you're going to have a progressive rock music collection this album should be one of the first ones in it. 5 stars out of 5 - there's a reason I decided to make such a long deal out of this review, the album is fantastic and anyone remotely interested in prog should hear it.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#182599) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review by J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Wow. If this album so critically aclaimed, than a lot of other stuff should be too. Often looked at as ELP's best album is, in my mind, the most overrated album of all time. True the extremely high amount of talent in the band is clearly shown, but they seem to have forgotten that music is supposed to be catchy. Prog is my favorite genre, but in some parts of Karn Evil 9 and other songs, they made it almost too proggy to the point where it isn't even catchy, which essentially is the point of music.

Jerusalem 4/5, A short song of ELP's with really nice organ. Probably the seond best on the album (with the exception of a few parts in Karn Evil 9).

Toccata 2/5, ELP's version of a classical peice. It shows the great amount of talent of ELP, but this song is really, really bad.

Still You Turn Me On 5/5, A very nice ballad with great guitar. Easily the best on the album simply for being the most solid on the album.

Benny the Bouncer 1/5, What on Earth is this?? This song is completly terrible. It's simply an awful ragtime song by Greg Lake gone wrong.

Karn Evil 9 3/5, Well, this song is certainly hard to pinpoint. It has such genius moments, and then such horrible moments (3rd impresion ending). This song is probably one of the only songs in my mind that are actually TOO long. I'm sorry to say, but many parts need to be cut out. It seems like this song is just a bunch of random ideas that don't fit stuffed together. Great moments, but many bad moments.

Overall, I think this album is simply acquired taste. Some will veiw it as really bad, but some will veiw it as a work of art, and some will think it's just okay. This album is certainly a work of art that many people have to stand VERY far back to appreciate.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#182608) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review by crimson87
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars You know , reviewing your favourite album isn't a gratifying experience because you may feel your cohesion , spelling and writing skills may no be up to this masterpiece.However , I 'll do my best and if I come with a better idea I ' ll edit it.

1973 was probably the year of progressive rock and also the year in which rock music was in better shape.Take as an example , Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy Queen's debut album Black Sabbath's Sabbath Bloddy Sabbath Ziggy Stardust Made in Japan and many more may come to your mind if you think of it.Prog rock was at the top of their came having: Dark side of the moon Selling England by the Pound Tales of Topographic Oceans Lark's tongues in Aspic In a glass house Hymn of the seventh galaxy A passion play Focus 3 and I may not do justice to a lot more that I forget right now.

The purpose of this was to set up the context in which Brain Salad Surgery was released.Emerson recalls that the band was in good spirits at the time and everyone were on their most receptive phase.This fact is important probably because ELP were very talented but also ambitious and competitive.Now let's go straight to the matter.

The album opens grandiose enough with an English anthem called Jerusalem that talks about the possiblility of Jesus being in England in his lifetime.Well the only thing I can say after hearing such opener is:Holy Jesus!!! This song is terribly moving , I wish I had this as an anthem in my Country.

Carl Palmer recalls the album as a junction of Talent , timing and technology.These three aspects really can be noticed on the second track Toccatta a rendition of Alberto Ginastera's 1st piano concerto 4 th movement.Palmer forgot a couple of words about this song: Power Adrenaline.Without those two you may not imagine how this song is.It's the most aggresive and complex piece of music ever written alongside Red and Larks tongues in aspic for you to have an idea.I feel like Alex De Large when listening to this song.

Greg Lake alway wrote exellent ballads that were the point of entry for many ones to the band Still you turn me on is not an exeption and also gives us the chance to relax after such a demanding piece as Toccatta

Benny the bouncer is a ragtime piece that gets the most bashing from not ELP fans.The only thing I can say is how can a 2 and a half minute piece spoil such a masterpiece!!!!

Now we get to the most important part of the record , the core , the 30 minute epic Karn Evil 9 with it's 3 impressions.This song is a rollercoaster that goes to an average speed of 300 mph non stop.But without lacking techinque , the tighness of the music is simply outstanding , Palmer makes himself a name as a drummer's drummer on Karn Evil 9.Greg Lake manages to deliver killing bass lines (and guitar solos , if you had a doubt concerning his musical skills)to heep up with Emerson's keyboard , which is slaughtered through this unforgettable half hour

. Now , How would you close an album like this one?? Just call Peter Sinfield and write an epic which is half as long but twice as intense.And the good thing is , in the final verse Lake sings Rejoice!!! Glory is ours!! Yes , they were true , they have earned all that glory and reputation for creating a genre defining album. And you see ELP are labeled as bombastic , pretentious , overblown but I would also add another adjectives that will do justice to them: creative , talented and charismatic.And I won't forget the qualty that best defines progressive rock , nor pomposity , neither mucisianship...Its the guts , the guts to play the music that you love no matter how hard the bashing is , the guts to experiment with synthetizers when no one used them , the guts to be in the Isle of Wright in your first concert and not play tunes from your previous bands but to rework a Mussgorsky's theme in great form.Those are the qualities I would like to remember when someone names Emerson Lake and Palmer.

For the newcomers to progressive music: This album is not a masterpiece , it isn't even an exellent adition to your music collection , it's a duty as a progger.

Martin Deluca

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Send comments to crimson87 (BETA) | Report this review (#182892) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, September 19, 2008

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Some classic albums are so important to rock history it really makes you accept the fact they are masterpieces even if some parts of it clashes with your personal taste. To me, Brain Salad Surgery is one of them. See, I was never a truly ELP fanatic. Sure I liked them a lot, but I never bothered much to the case of actually have to have all of their albums. In fact, I bought only one (Trilogy) at the time. To me bands like Yes, Genesis, Renaissance, Gentle Giant and others were on the top of my list. ELP was never a priority. However, I was not foolish enough not to reckon their importance. And important they were!

This is clearly the case of this CD: Brain Salad Surgery is definitly one fo the top ten albums of the 70's if you want to know about prog music. It was the trio's peak of creativity. It won high praisng and sales and deservely so. Again I should point out that it is not perfect for my taste, since some of the piano solo parts seem a little boring and Benny The Bouncer was never a song that captivated me in any way. Still it amazes me that such elaborated, dense and outright non commercial stuff reached the top of the charts by the time it was released. Good timeing? Maybe. The band would never release such a work in their career, but after this one, how could they? Most bands would die to have only one timeless CD, and ELP did more than one for sure. Hats off to them.

Brain Salad Surgery is the kind of album that takes some time to really sink in as a whole. It is not for your easy listening time. It is a bit like classical music: you have to be in the mood. But then, there is nothing more rewarding. Highlights for me are the most popular tracks: Jerusalem is one fo the most gorgeous songs ELP have ever recorded, while Still...You Turn Me On is maybe Lake's best composition. Karn Evil 9 (ist Movement) is also great.

I rate this album somewhere between 4 to 4,5 stars, for personal reasons (it does have some faults according to my taste). But it is one of prog's finest hours in prog's heyday. A must have to any music lover.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#186679) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars In 1973, Emerson, Lake & Palmer returned to progressive rock magnificence by putting together an album in the vein of Tarkus, only this time, the epic piece is situated at the end of the album. Here, they managed to bring some of the quirkiness under control, even though it is still (understandably) present in "Karn Evil 9." The themes are wide-ranging, from English patriotism to machines taking over the planet. While the album has its share of weak moments (as all ELP albums do), this one should not be missed.

"Jerusalem" William Blake's English anthem is given a bold treatment, full of organ and words that are sung with a valiant passion.

"Toccata" One of two instrumentals, this is Emerson's version of Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 28 by famed Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. It relies heavily on the synthesizers and features a drum solo in the middle. In the liner notes, Ginastera himself stated, "Keith Emerson has beautifully caught the mood of my piece," even though Emerson's synthesizers during the last two-and-a-half minutes are unruly and primitive-sounding (one cannot help but think of "Space Invaders," for instance).

"Still...You Turn Me On" This is the obligatory Lake-penned acoustic song. It unfortunately lacks both the commercial appeal of "Lucky Man" and the mystical air of "From the Beginning." Still (no pun intended), it is an enjoyable little song incorporating a sitar.

"Benny the Bouncer" This is the obligatory comic relief. It's a ragtime song with Lake singing with a cockney accent.

"Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part One)" The centerpiece of the album is split into three impressions but four tracks. It begins with tricky organ runs before quickly introducing a thundering bass line and pounding drums. Lake begins singing over an alarming piano run before repeating the refrain, "I'll be there." The synthesizers are prominent but kept tasteful, letting the organ and bass guitar bear most of the musical weight. Palmer's drumming is at its best on this track. The list of exhibits in the sideshow represent Lake's eccentric lyrics when they're good (rather than absurd). There is also a rare energetic guitar solo that will be reprised in part two.

"Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part Two)" Part two fades in and welcomes us back to the circus freak show; it is a continuation of the second half of part one.

"Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression" The second impression is a strange interlude between the first and third. Essentially, it consists of Palmer's jazzy drumming and Emerson's showy piano work, with Lake demonstrating some flashy fretwork on bass guitar. The jazz feel quickly gives way to something more primitive. Soon the music becomes slow, barely hearable, and creepy. Eventually the music picks up and goes into a raucous double time segment. The second impression doesn't fit the overall feel of the other two impressions of "Karn Evil 9" at all, and it doesn't flow very well, but perhaps that was the intention.

"Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression" The final division is a return to the dark grandeur that characterized the first impression. Emerson makes great use of synthesized horns and other sounds. The lyrics were penned by the one and only Peter Sinfield, describing how it comes to pass that computers have taken over and mankind is defiant toward the rule of the machines. While Lake does the singing, Emerson's voice makes a rare appearance, albeit through heavy distorted effects. There is a fine organ solo in the middle, and, while the music during the instrumental interlude sometimes sounds out of control, ELP does a fantastic job using the chaotic parts to lead up to the final vocal segment. All in all, this is one of their best.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#190645) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008

Review by MovingPictures07
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Pretentious, overblown, keyboard-driven prog madness. If you think you're knowledgeable of prog and you don't have this, what are you waiting for? This is a landmark in progressive music.

1. Jerusalem- The music is a hymn adapted by ELP and the lyrics are a poem by Blake. It works as an extremely effective opener to this album, and the instrumentation is spot on. Great, majestic entrance. I couldn't see this album being opened any other way. This is definitely my favorite church hymn! 9/10

2. Toccata- Here comes the prog. If you are one of those listeners who shies away from ELP's notorious pretentious tendencies, this song will most likely annoy you. This song is genius, from the electronic drums to Emerson's driving keyboards. I've heard accusations that this song sounds like a video game, and that's actually a funny way to describe it, since it almost works. However, it is definitely in a good way; this song is a masterpiece adaption and ELP really crafts their signature sound perfectly here. Never a dull moment! 10/10

3. Still.You Turn Me On- What would an ELP album be like without the necessary Lake ballad? It is a good acoustic ballad with good vocals by Lake, but I sometimes skip this if I don't feel like listening to it. The wah-wah guitar is amusing, however. 7/10

4. Benny the Bouncer- A joke song. I prefer joke songs like the Sheriff and Jeremy Bender, though this song has really grown on me over the years. I used to skip it all the time, but it's at least enjoyable and contrasts with the more serious material on the album. A great song to introduce what comes next, when you think about it. 8/10

5. Karn Evil 9- I'm not splitting this up. Every impression is ABSOLUTE GENIUS. This is one of the pinnacles of progressive rock, and for good reason! The instrumentation is amazing, and the structure is always interesting and innovative. If ELP made more epics like this, they wouldn't have as much controversy. Flawless. 10+/10

When first thinking about what to rate this album, I was going to give it 4 stars for being a flawed masterpiece. I then re-considered and realized that this is the only ELP album that is an absolute masterpiece of progressive rock, despite a "joke" song and a ballad that interrupted the flow. Really, the album wouldn't be the same ELP style without them, and this album is worth owning for Karn Evil 9 alone, let alone all the other goodies.

ELP at their best.

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Send comments to MovingPictures07 (BETA) | Report this review (#194081) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review by Matti
COLLABORATOR Neo-Prog Team
2 stars ELP has never quite reached the list of my favourite prog bands (but I do like SOME tracks by them, so they might reach... ehm, something like the 40th place in my prog list - surely no higher than 300th on my list of ALL artists). But the reason why I haven't bothered to review their works before is their massive popularity. This particular album I picked up from the PA's list of the Most Popular Albums of all time. And right now I enjoy presenting the opposite opinion. In short: Brain Salad Surgery is mostly awful stuff. I like their version of the famed church hymn 'Jerusalem' with William Blake's superb lyrics, and Greg Lake's folky ballad 'Still... You Turn Me On'. But the rest... Aargh!

'Toccata' (rapery of Argentinean Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto) is horrible keyboard noise I can't stand for one minute - and it lasts over seven minutes. But even more unbearable is the "humorous" 'Benny The Bouncer' with Lake's idiotic shouting, not singing. The album's musical centerpiece is naturally the half an hour long 'Karn Evil 9'. It is everything that later made Prog a bad word in a nutshell. Oops, only that it's way too LONG to fit into that nutshell, of course. Play that to your date if you wish never to see her again. You can't fail. On some compilation was an excerpt of it, you know what I mean, it's the well-known "Welcome back my friends to the show thatnever ends" carnivalism. I wished, as I listened to this album, that it would a worse part of the opus, but no, instead it is its best part actually.

The liner notes (in the 2004 edition with bonuses I don't bother to talk about; just the same awfulness) point out how fantastic work this is from the technical view. So what. Sure, Keith Emerson is a virtuoso keyboard player, and Carl Palmer can give you a hell of a drumming, but in their musical battles they miss, in my opinion, the idea of good music. An idiotic Hammond riff is an idiotic Hammond riff, no matter how skillful it is.

A word about the album title and the cover art. No doubt it's been repeated over and over in the reviews how it refers to oral sex. Original working title was Whip Some Skull On Me (tasteless!), which was replaced by Get Me A Ladder (a line from 'Still...'). The final title came from Dr. John's hit 'Right Place, Wrong Time'. The art work originally had a penis in front of the female mouth but was airbrushed away. H. R. Giger later raised into bigger fame with his design for ALIEN movie. Naturally the cover art is one of the most famous rock album covers, but is it good-looking really? No, in fact it's mostly hideous. But as such it fits the music perfectly.

PS. I like ELP's debut much much more than this one. If you think I wanted to bash the band itself, you're wrong. I'm not attacking against ELP in this review but against Brain Salad Surgery. Thank You.

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Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 1973-- what a year for music. Especially progressive rock where by now the gloves were clearly off and being firmly slapped in the face of the listening world. This was no longer an experiment gone too far or a misled product of a post-drug culture. No, prog rock was real, tenacious, and for a short while during '73, in charge of popular music's cutting edge. A fully-functioning and completely viable art form that was actually starting to turn a healthy profit and Carl Palmer, Greg Lake and Keith Emerson understood that better than most of their peers. That's not to say artistry wasn't crucial to the new high-minded atmosphere but if it could be tamed with a bit of discipline and a sense of showmanship, it could be turned into something everyone might enjoy, not just lovers of complex rock. Perhaps this is what makes Brain Salad Surgery both a pinnacle and a breaking point for the genre, a farewell to the organic explosions of Tarkus and hello to the big time of better equipment, light shows, and sold-out arenas.

But the music didn't suffer. This fourth studio LP from the trio with Giger's biomechanical eroticism gracing the cover was as accomplished as anything they'd done and in many ways better than the previous and less focused Trilogy. In fact of their studio releases this one best stands the test of time. Not as restrained as the debut but more palatable than Tarkus, the three musicians had found an ideal blend of flash, form, function and fun. Keith Emerson's compositions are as inspired as always, Carl Palmer's performance is much tighter than in the past. And Greg Lake firmly at the heart of things making it all come together and smooth out with a big, rich studio timbre and cohesive lyrical content. Considering it's nearing 40 years old, Brain Salad Surgery sounds remarkably fresh. The eternally cool 'Jerusalem' is a fine start though could've been placed anywhere in this set and worked beautifully, the sheer weight of Emerson's pipe organ, Lake's boyish vocal delivery and Palmer's soldierly drums. 'Toccata' sends in the troops and maneuvers into a drum/keyboard volley sounding quite like an old video arcade on a Saturday afternoon filled with kids feeding handfulls of quarters into squealing machines. Lake's 'Still..You Turn Me On' is a successful ballad, lovelorn and sounding of distant times, and obligatory saloon silliness of 'Benny the Bouncer' the comic relief here. Finally the huge 'Karn Evil' movements are a triumph for this band, a perfect moment where everything they did well came pouring out, their Sgt. Peppers moment, gloriously good.

A flawless album? No. A masterpiece? Could be. Certainly a summit for them and the era they represented, and an undeniable victory for prog that year along with Selling England by the Pound, A Passion Play, Tales from Topographic Oceans and many other great releases during a spectacular time for modern music. Imperfect, and quite essential.

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Posted Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Classic of the Worst of Prog, but Not so Fast!

For haters of prog rock music, there is probably no better album to pull out than Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery. Nearly everything that was ridiculed about the genre is here in spades: loud organ wankery, overly bombastic theatrics, and bad lyrics that think they're somehow deep. The magic P-word applies here perfectly. Direct quotes from jazz, swing, and classical pieces appear throughout, often imbedded in almost painful re- interpretations.

But wait, we are not prog haters. We are prog lovers!!! So a piece like Toccata, though chaotic and over-the-top, is probably my favorite part of the album. Dark, dissonant, and exploratory, I feel like the band truly is pushing the boundaries of themselves and the piece. Whether it works is a matter of taste, in my opinion. Another matter of taste regards Keith Emerson's keyboard tones. I frankly get sick of his organ sound after awhile. It's a bit plain, he doesn't vary it enough, and it overpowers the mix all too often. At the same time, I've always liked his definitive use of the Moog. Similarly, I really enjoy the clean piano used in the jazzy part of Karn Evil 9, which is perhaps the only part of the disc I truly enjoy along with Toccata.

The pop parts of this album are not pleasant to me. I disliked the 1st Impression ? Part 2 of the epic Karn Evil 9, which is played on classic rock radio, long before I even knew which band played it. Still You Turn Me On is a good enough Lake ballad, but Lucky Man and most of all From the Beginning are so much better. Benny the Bouncer is an annoying throwaway. Jerusalem is the kind of Crimson-y slow prog that bores me, but I recognize that many enjoy it.

The defining element of this album is the monster ELP epic Karn Evil 9. As I said, the third section (Second Impression) is my favorite part. The more experimental prog, played with clean jazzy piano rather than the classically inflected organ, is much more my style. I don't mind the tango section or the steel drums, though I recognize that these parts are just as over-the-top as the louder sections in their own way. In the end, I think it comes down to the tonalities of the keyboards, the instrumentation. (I also much prefer when Lake gets to play guitar, either lead or acoustic, but of course those moments are few and far between). The first and last sections of the epic are enjoyable but not where my tastes lie. Again, the second section (the main "Welcome to the Show that Never Ends" theme) is just bad rock posturing to me, something I actually avoid.

So, more than anything, this album suffers from being extremely uneven and simply not matching my taste for prog very well. The high points (at least for me) are actually buried in the album, and there are plenty of cringe-worthy sections. Enough so, that if I were to make an album of ELP for my own enjoyment, most of this album would be discarded. This album gets a little tip up just for its significance, but still lies right in the middle of the prog stack for me. 3/5 stars.

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Posted Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
2 stars I remember hating this album. I got to know it quite a few years after their first albums and it struck me as the downfall of ELP from a tight creative unit into a battleground of 3 self-indulgent individuals that started releasing incoherent junk that even sounded pompous on 2 minute songs. I guess such a response is normal if you get to know this album when you're in the middle of a serious Joy Division phase. It's quite another frame of reference...

Well, we're a good 20 years older now and because of the incredibly high ratings here I had to have another go at it. I picked up the 2008 deluxe version and I was presently surprised generally, even though it doesn't come anywhere near to the debut or Tarkus. The songs and especially the vocals are just too average for that, but at least I hear three guys having fun at what they doing. At times they're jamming their guts out.

Jerusalem is still as bad as I remember it: empty pathos on top of a badly produced mess of an organ that is too loud and drums that are barely audible. Toccata is more fun. Emerson is still doing exactly what he was doing with The Nice seven years earlier; he just got himself some new expensive toys to batter. Still You Turn Me On is Greg Lake's best moment on the album. I like his sugar sweet ballads, his warm tone and melody is irresistible. I can't help it. The wahwah at the end is most enjoyable. Of course everybody skips Benny so on to that Karn Evil thing. That used to be the track I hated most of all. And the passing of time hasn't been gentle with it. It's still ridiculously overstated but somehow it's fun once you get to ignore that, especially the first impression radiates with playing pleasure and boast a few good solo's and melodies. Impression 2 could have been on the debut. Nothing new but interesting nevertheless. Impression 3 is an impression too much. Both Lake and Emerson are desperately trying to come up with an interesting tune but it doesn't happen. The vocals are bad, the keyboards annoying.

But look here, there's an extra CD! More of the same? Definitely, but with a few goodies at least: The Apple Blossom is a fun little instrumental, Brain Salad Surgery is ELP doing their known 'light rock & roll goes all wild over a crazy moog'-thing. But the best addition would be the instrumental version of Impression 3. Without those pointless vocals it works a lot better. The keyboards and drums have ample room to breathe and the track is more relaxed and balanced as a result. Good addition this one.

So where do I stand now? I still wouldn't recommend this album to anyone, so the 4 and 5 stars are out of the door. It's not good enough for 3 stars (especially not in its original form) and because this would be zero stars for anybody with a normal (that's non-prog :) taste in music, 2 stars will have to do.

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Posted Friday, September 25, 2009

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars I can never understand why there are so many ELP haters out there. Sure, after this album, the quality went down. Eventually way down. But there are plenty of other great prog bands whose output declined even more than this band (Genesis, anyone?).

Sure this is bombastic, overblown, and showy. But that's part of what made ELP so much fun. And this is one of their finest efforts. They even make the British standard Jerusalem big and majestic, making you want to stand up at the pompous lyrics.

Toccata, ELP's first foray into the works of Ginastera, is a complex wonder of early synth genius, with amazing drumming by Carl Palmer.

Still...You Turn Me On is a nice quiet song, despite having the silliest lyric on any Grag Lake song: Every day a little sadder, a little madder. Someone get me a ladder. ?!?

Benny The Bouncer is a cool honky tonk song. Many people here don't like these forays on ELP's albums, but I've always found them to be a nice diversion.

And finally, Karn Evil 9 is one of the great prog epics, a suite in three parts that rivals, and even surpasses in many ways, amazing epics like Close To The Edge and Thick As A Brick. Here, Emerson shines as both composer and player, weaving incredible keyboards whether in classical, jazz or rock styles, all of which are blended amazingly.

This is almost as close to perfection as an album can get.

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Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review by 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

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Posted Monday, September 28, 2009

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
2 stars I rue the day that Greg Lake walked from KING CRIMSON to join up with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, sending KC down the path to jazzy and metallic glory. Lake's voice, properly deployed, is a joy to behold, as in the first couple of KC albums and a handful of ELP tracks. But for the most part he was buried in Emerson's keys that were beyond bombastic. While ELP redefined the makeup of a rock band, their best material was that which more closely followed the dicta of the genre, which was seldom on display.

By the time of "Brain Salad Surgery", the dinosaur was flailing big time. This is an even more polarized effort than the uneven "Trilogy", with few examples of even the level of songwriting and restraint shown on that effort. Apart from a reverent version of "Jerusalem" and the emotional ballad "Still You Turn me on", here we have virtually non stop histrionics and grandstanding that helped to epitomize what a few loved but most hated about progressive rock, even some of its biggest fans. The absolute low point is Lake disingenuously screeching something about "rock n roll", as if to say, hey we're elite intellectuals but we still have machismo.

I do feel a twang of regret at the idea of rating such a historically significant group so poorly, but then I force down a mouthful of this salad and realize two stars is all I can muster. Too much processed cheese.

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Posted Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Roughly this release in the early seventies is similar to their album Tarkus. One great epic and several insignificant short songs. At least that's how it works on me. Biggest difference between the two albums is that BSS is far more experimental and all things considered the epic appeals to me far less than Tarkus.

In fact if I analyze it more detailed I conclude that the first 13 minutes (1st Impression) of the Karn Evil epic do the job really. This is memorable, nicely flowing music. Second impression is more mr. Emerson demonstrating some piano play with a bit of structure but it sounds more like a piano solo on a live gig, showing off what he is capable of. But that's something else than playing a great song. Last nine minutes (3rd impression) the structure returns slightly but it's not my favourite part by any means. Sounds distorted especially towards the end.

The short songs are very experimental but not in an enjoyable way as far as I'm concerned. It's probably the reason why this is a controversial album even amongst prog reviewers. A typical love or hate album. I join second option if you don't mind. Not my cup of tea this one. But I do understand why many call it a masterpiece. That is when I put my personal opinion aside. One thing is certain. This is not a dull, 13 in a dozen album. But that's still something else than enjoyable music. So I will have to give 2 here because of required taste. Mainly for fans.

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Posted Thursday, February 04, 2010

Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars UPDATE: Hmmmmmm... Very difficult not to give this five stars. I think if we had "out of 10" ratings on this site I could give it a nine and finally sleep at night. I even enjoy the third impression of KE9 a lot more nowadays, though I'm no Star Trek fan.....

REVIEW: Loving this dosage of hardcore keyboard prog. If there's ever a 70's album which succeeds to sound almost heavy or "emo", without featuring any guitar, it's this.

Emerson's keyboard work is perhaps the most virtuosic in the band's career. The same can be said for Palmer's drumming. Lake has a strong voice and faultless bass too. So it's obviously the peak. But that doesn't make it automatically perfect, and not a 5-star album by any means (none of ELP's are in my opinion). The bombastic and very impressive nature of this record, takes something important away from it's potential warmth. There's less compositional depth than something like 'Trilogy' because the focus is on the impressiveness. Having said that, 'Trilogy' isn't very impressive...

'Karn Evil 9' is fantastic overall but let down by the overblown, sci-fi-esque third impression. The 30 minutes is generally well-spent though and the storyline is very thrilling. 'Toccata' I love. This is a good slice of classical-cover prog, complete with drum triggered synthesizers! 'Benny the Bouncer' is okay, nothing special and rather out of place (but better than the other ragtime/pub-piano offerings in the ELP catalogue). 'Still... You Turn Me On' is another fine Lake acoustic. 'Jerusalem' just isn't really neccesary.

So for me, this album is great all over, no real filler- but some weakER points. The main attraction is obviously 'Karn Evil 9', which packs in a lot of great material, but some padding as well.

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Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review by Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 8/15P.: Sometimes less is more - and more is less.

Unfortunately ELP's albums became uninteresting for me after Trilogy which in my opinion was a terrific record filled with many highlights. Brain Salad Surgery is sheer megalomania, to a very big extent blown up and not the real music for me. I know Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends (the 1974 live album with 15 minutes improvisations framed by parts of other songs), the California Jam film (here, Emerson plays his piano solo while spinning around with the piano in the air) and the Works albums (including Emerson's piano concerto, lots of honky-tonk classics and loads of Greg Lake ballads), and each of these recordings is in a way symptomatic of the decay of the progressive rock genre. Brain Salad Surgery is where it started, and it proved that music theory doesn't help you make a good album when you aren't inspired. Or rather when you want to be bigger than you can be.

Brain Salad Surgery's breaking point, in my opinion, is definitely the "Karn Evil" suite which just doesn't captivate me. But sadly, side one isn't better.

Jerusalem is my favorite song of the record, appealing with mighty Hammond organs and Greg Lake's superb vocals which create a beautiful British feeling. Everyone who knows the original version of this British hymn (for example from the Last Night of the Proms transmissions) knows that ELP have changed the piece a lot; especially the Moog synthesizers during the stanza in the middle are really uplifting and pleasant.

Toccata is interesting, too, but in a different way. Ginastera, the writer of this piece, is known as quite an experimental composer, and Emerson captures this manic, frantic mood very well with distorted Hammond organs and futuristic synthesizer effects (by the way, Ginastera approved of Emerson's adaptation quite a lot). The second part features Carl Palmer with his composition for drums and percussion, making use of both untypical percussion instruments (tubular bells, bells or gongs) and futuristic drum synth effects which were somehow invented by him in those days. This is not music to listen to every day, but a thrilling try at more experimental music, somehow continuing what has been begun with the Gnome and Old Castle parts of Pictures at An Exhibition and the beginning of The Endless Enigma Pt. 1 on Trilogy. But admittedly this music is by far better on the paper than on the CD. At least I regularly catch myself feeling that this music is a total mess while thinking that it is challenging and hence good.

Still... You Turn Me On is Greg Lake's ballad which in my book is less spectacular than comparable pieces like The Sage or the beginning of Take A Pebble which were simply more charismatic; Still... sounds a bit thin, something which may be also due to the minimalistic and 'futuristic' production. Emerson is featured on the harpsichord here, a nice timbre, but it doesn't change that Lake's previous ballad were better. An okay song, but no stand-out track. And I better don't mention the lyrics...

Benny The Bouncer is a joke, I know. But Greg Lake's voice is annoying here, the music isn't appealing in any way and the composition is forgettable. The keyboards, whatever this exactly is, are dull, too. Dull and thin, to say the least. The Sheriff from the previous album had a full and powerful sound, fat Hammond organs, an interesting rhythm and more relaxed vocals. Unfortunately, a really weak track which should have been replaced with the at that time unreleased title track of the album, Brain Salad Surgery.

Now we arrive at the last track, Karn Evil 9, stated by some as the best work of ELP and of music in general. Until now I didn't make it listening to this track in total because it is so overdone, but still quite empty in its core.. The main riff of the pretty rock'n'roll part 1st impression, Pt.1 wouldn't be bad when being integrated into another track, but I think that it simply lacks substance to be stretched out to a complete longtrack. From time to time there are nice passages, but for me this track is pointless and doesn't really go anywhere. Pt.2 isn't any better, the vocal melody (and how it's delivered) and the whole design sometimes are very straining and I don't get much listening pleasure from it. The chord progressions sometimes remind me of Focus (especially Sylvia), but Focus are more successful since they take their time and do not race through the composition. It seems the band has lost its complete feeling and emotional resonance by concentrating on the more shallow aspects of music, i.e. the athletic and record-establishing aims which too many metal and progressive rock musicians of today also share. The Second Impression, entirely instrumental, is the part which I like most of Karn Evil. Here we get superb keyboard improvisations by Mr. Emerson, especially on the Moog synthesizer and the grand piano, and Carl Palmer (employing shakers and other groovy percussion instruments) and Greg Lake accompany these improvisations in a very skillful and playful manner. Doubtlessly, Lake and Palmer are a superb rhythm section, and one instantly hears that the music gets more impressive when they are allowed to play more freely. Finally, the Third Impression is quite similar in mood and sound to the first one, and again the melodies aren't really fitting with my taste; the computer voices may have been very progressive in 1973, but I don't get the use of this science fiction thematics at all, as much as I'm not interested in the see the show!-theme which is present everywhere in this track. The instrumental part in the second half of the third impression is also a bit too directionless, although the ending with the sequenced synthesizer melodies is an unusual, but nice way of ending the album.

So, all in all a really weak 3 star rating from my point of view for a doubtlessly important and significant, but ultimately overblown record which I just am not able to listen to all the way through - and this statement comes from someone who adores Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer. Those who do not know Emerson, Lake and Palmer should, in my opinion, start with Trilogy, which has a more 'organic' and rich sound and more concise compositions. It would have been two stars had it not been for the big effects which this album had on the music scene.

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#282389) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars This album is indeed difficult beast to tame. But I won't like to listen prejudices and simply refuse this album as incompatible with me. I have tried it. After all, it's masterpiece for many, isn't it ? They can't all be fooled by ELP fame (option I don't like to think about). So I've tried it. And failed. Then I've tried it again and again failed, but with bigger success (in failure). This time, it's better again so it's obvious now, this album is a grower, you have to understand how to play its game to look behind the curtain and move to backstage.

I see this as that there are accessible/simple (Benny the Bounder)/melodic (Jerusalem or all three at once. Tracks are forming one group and then more experimental (what makes ELP unique) and virtuoso-like - which of course means synths (for some it's sad fact, but I say why not).

Tracks like Toccata are this kind of song. My girl said about this album one word: "weird" and it's what it mostly is, trying to find something new, combinations of sounds unseen before and a lot of these strange noises that can bring some people to ecstasy. Not me though.

I said it few times, but either I don't believe in concept of "pretentiousness" at all, or everything in Prog is pretentious. It doesn't matter, being pompous isn't negative for me (being arrogant is, but every one of us has his disadvantages and bad habits, some of us are simply more visible).

Fanfares ? I like them, so because I have to decide, I can both like and appreciate this epic track.

4(+), some things prevents it from being the highest rank.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#287860) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This used to be my favorite ELP album, back when I didn't like them on the whole as much as I do now, but even after losing that distinction, I still hold this album in high regard. Well, sort of. It's a fine album, but over time, I've come to this conclusion: no album is a better summary of the good sides and the bad sides of British prog rock, and I almost shudder to guess whether the band could keep walking this dangerous line without falling into a total lack of quality control.

The biggest thing I notice is that, in a lot of ways, this album is less "ELP's take on prog" than "ELP does a generic prog album." The surface elements are the same as before, of course - same immaculate keyboard technique, same Lake singing and guitars, same Palmer as ever - but there's a crucial difference here from previous albums. However "overblown" or "pretentious" or whatever epithets one might have thrown at the band in the past, one could not deny that the core of much of the band's work was solid, no BS "normal" songwriting, albeit surrounded with all sorts of abnormal trappings. On this album, though, it's increasingly difficult to isolate Lake's impact, apart from "Still ... You Turn Me On" (it's no coincidence, I think, that Emerson gets the sole music credit for almost everything else); this album is very heavy on the synth jam aspect of ELP's shtick, and while the band members are certainly just fine when playing in that mode, they also lose much of that special something that made them so fascinating from the very beginning.

It also doesn't help that the album, in terms of pretense, is bloated even by ELP standards. Part of the blame for this comes from bringing in Pete Sinfield as the band's lyricist (though he actually only contributes on two parts of the album); I'm sorry, but while he is the clever dude who came up with lyrics to "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Epitaph," he's also the idiot who came up with lyrics to "Cirkus" and "In the Wake of Poseidon," and his contribution to part 3 of "KE9" is definitely one of the greatest negative factors here. Even disregarding lyrical pomp, though, there's something about the production that has come to bother me quite a bit over the years; all that overdubbing and echo and whatnot may make things sound more important than otherwise, but I'd much prefer it if the music itself were the driving impressive force instead of the production trying to tell me when I'm supposed to be in awe. As mentioned earlier, this sort of approach to prog makes me uncomfortable, as it's the approach taken by far too many bands that have destroyed prog far more effectively than any punk revolution could.

And yet, for all of that, the album gets a high grade; I did, after all, say that the album also represents the good sides of prog. ELP may have lost some of their restraint and discipline when making BSS, but what they didn't lose was their talent. However misdirected their efforts may be in some aspects of the album, the power of the band members' talent was such that they couldn't help but still entertain the listener a good portion of the time (how large a portion would depend greatly on one's already determined attitude towards prog, whereas the first two albums could possibly be enjoyable even to a non-prog- devotee). Funny how certain bands can still produce good works even when largely on creative autopilot ...

Anyway, the album kicks off with "Jerusalem," a cover of an old British hymn with lyrics by William Blake that's sort of an unofficial British national anthem (kinda the UK equivalent of God Bless America). Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure what the point of this track is in this album's context. The band seemingly knew that to try and do anything 'creative' with such a well-known and revered number would lead to the British political establishment falling on their necks, and as such the arrangement is very conservative for ELP. This unfortunately isn't a good thing, as the regal and majestic nature of this performance involves a lack of novel keyboard parts or creative adjustment of tempos or, I dunno, interesting thematic overlays. Even Lake's voice isn't given much of a chance to shine here, buried as it is beneath the keyboards. However, I don't want to convey the idea that I dislike this track, because I don't - it's perfectly ok, and actually works in a sense (for me) if I think of it as the band warming up for the remainder of the set.

Besides, "Toccata" is next, and this is where the album truly begins its greatness. An adaptation of the 4th movement of the 1st Piano Concerto by an Argentine composer by the name of Alberto Ginastera, this may or may not be the best of ELP's classical adaptations, but aside from a couple of parts of Pictures, it's certainly their most creative. This is an incredible piece of modern-classical discord, driven forward in the first half by some of Emerson's best ever playing for the band (best defined not in terms of speed, but rather in aggression and well-made choices for keyboard types and sounds). Then Carl manages to do the unthinkable, to begin playing an ostensible drum solo but one that I didn't even conciously notice was a drum solo the first ten times I heard it, if only because it doesn't exist solely to draw attention to technique. No, this is a very deep, low-pitched solo, one that you feel more than you hear ... until, that is, he starts triggering all sorts of cool and nutty electronic swooping noises with his drumset, creating a disorienting wall of sound until Keith chimes back in with the main theme and we close it out. Now THAT's the sort of thing I'm talking about when I almost consider maybe giving this a ***** rating.

The next two tracks are also excellent, and each represent the continuation of a niche that fans had come to expect on ELP albums. The first is the album's obligatory beautiful, excellent ballad, here called "Still ... You Turn Me On." While it has one of the worst lines EVER (I'm sorry, but "every day a little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder" is unforgivably bad), the lyrics are quite nice otherwise, and while the porno wah-wah guitar in the chorus is totally out of place, the melody is incredibly beautiful. Maybe songs like this weren't where the band wanted to go, as if they thought they had become too good for such pittance, but man, Lake was GOOD at writing these sorts of things. Ah well, c'est la vie (which isn't a very good song, but that's for later). Closing out the album's "introductory set" is part three in the band's goofy keyboard ragtime series, the ever so hilarious "Benny the Bouncer." The horrifying lyrics about Benny getting in a fight, getting his head chopped up and ending up as the bouncer at St. Peter's gate are delivered with aplomb in Greg's nastiest voice, and even though I didn't come around to "Jeremy Bender" and "The Sheriff" right away, this was an instantaneous success with me when I first heard it.

As good as the first four numbers are, though, the crux of this album's reputation lies not with them, but rather with the behemoth that occupies the remainder of the album. This is the "Karn Evil 9" suite, taking up just short of half an hour and the entirety of the second side (as well as the last eight minutes or so of the first). It is divided into three parts (or "impressions," the pretentious boobs), with the first impression split over the two sides and the second half of this impression serving as one of the band's radio hits (unlikely as it may be). Both musically and lyrically, it is unbeLIEVably bombastic and overblown - I kinda get the feeling the band (particularly Emerson) aimed to create the most grandiose, important, epic piece of music the world had ever seen, but since they weren't the earthly incarnation of Apollo, God of Music, but instead 'just' a nicely talented trio, they of course fall very short. The lyric theme tries to be deep and scary (all about a future where the 'bad' things of today only exist as spectator attractions, and where machines rebel against their human masters in the end), but while sometimes they're amusing, other times the lyrics are just so stupid that I can't take them seriously without feeling extremely ashamed of myself. So yeah, it's kinda freakin' flawed.

But dagnabbit, this suite may be a failure on a certain level, but what an INCREDIBLY entertaining failure in several parts. I just can't help it, I am still passionately in love with the whole "1st impression," even as the better parts of my nature assail me for being such a dweeb. I love how it starts as this menacing tense epic prog anthem, with Lake not really singing anything neat melody-wise but still making it come alive, and then becomes a GREAT synth-led jam which in turn becomes a GREAT bombastic pop song. I love that incredible "epic" guitar line Lake plays at various intervals between verses. I love how the music stops when Lake sings the word "shocks." I love the break into "WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS" and how the song just keeps grooving on that melody and how these cool jams that exist only for the sake of having jams are so entertaining anyway. Pure dorky prog bliss for 13 or so minutes, that's what this is.

The suite starts to lose people a bit in the "2nd impression," a lengthy instrumental focused around (of course) Keith's keyboards, but I enjoy it just fine. There's no discernable structure to it, and it's probably overlong, but I can honestly say that the 'boredom sensors' within me don't begin reacting during its ramblings. It varies well in mood, texture and speed, so monotony is hardly a problem, and overall it's the closest that ELP have come (for me) to making a "sit back, relax, listen" piece. However, while the "2nd impression" does me no harm, the "3rd impression" has most definitely grown off me over the years, and while in some sense I get a bit of dorky pleasure from it, it's much harder for me to enjoy it than before. There's a decent sci-fi vibe running through the music, but it gets really difficult to enjoy them after the lyrics turn into "Star Trek: The Musical." Add in that the jamming here isn't anywhere near as enthralling as the jamming in impression the 1st, and you have a serious nine minute let down at the end of the album, one that unfortunately slightly spoils my impression of the whole. That said, though, the ending up-and-down synth arpeggio is pretty amusing, so that's at least something.

So there you have it, the prog album that simultaneously makes me want to praise and curse the entire genre. I apologize to worshippers of the album if I seemed overly mean throughout - I really do enjoy and respect a great deal of it, and a high **** is definitely nothing to sneeze at. But there's no question that I prefer the debut now.

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Send comments to tarkus1980 (BETA) | Report this review (#295110) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
2 stars This is where Emerson, Lake & Palmer went over the top! It's pretty clear that these guys were suffering while recording Brain Salad Surgery and it really showed in their arrangements and conceptual themes. Just look at the rehearsing video of Karn Evil 9 on YouTube and you'll see what I mean!

After the band released their first consistent studio album in the shape of Trilogy, they swiftly returned to the mixed bag format that was so prominent on Tarkus. Unfortunately Brain Salad Surgery doesn't have a suite that is worthy to be compared with Tarkus, but allow me talk about the album in its chronological order. First off, we get two very pleasant adaptations of classical pieces among which Toccata is arguably the most well recognized thanks to its breathtaking performance on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. The studio version feels a bit stale in comparison and just doesn't reach the magnitude that I expect of it.

Songs like Still... You Turn Me On and Benny The Bouncer sound like what we've come to expect from ELP albums since both of their two previous releases also featured at least one joke tune and the obligatory Greg Lake ballad. These two performances are easily the bleakest of the bunch and I could have easily done without them. As for Karn Evil 9, I always found it too long and pretentious. Why not shorten it and release a side long epic, it worked for Tarkus so why not here? There is a very good reason behind the fact that most progressive rock epics are around 20 minutes long and this performance could have easily been trimmed down to that format. All this band needed to do was to let go of their egos and trim down all of the sections and, if you ask me, especially Keith Emerson's excessive performance on 2nd Impression.

Even though most fans consider the two Works albums to be the first signs of fatigue in ELP's discography, I never needed to look further than this album to spot some serious flaws.

**** star songs: Jerusalem (2:44) Toccata (7:23) Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (8:44) Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (9:03)

*** star songs: Still... You Turn Me On (2:53) Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4:47)

** star songs: Benny The Bouncer (2:21) Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (7:07)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#304314) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars One of the best albums of ELP and certainly their last good one. Sure, you really start seeing/feeling/smelling the excess and self-indulgence here, but at least they still have good music to offer. One of the things about Brain Salad Surgery(a euphemism for oral sex apparently) that I like but some criticize is Palmer's use of electronic percussion. "Toccata" is one of my favourites here because it is so electronic and crazy. ELP fans were already used to Emerson going apesh*t on his Moogs, but I wonder what they thought when they heard this song. Like me, they probably thought it was Keith making all those strange electronic noises. But no, Palmer had a special synthesizer drum-kit made for him. By the time electronic drums were becoming popular in the early 1980s, nobody was making music this adventurous in the mainstream anymore. Palmer also uses his new toys at the very end of "Karn Evil 9". Come to think of it, it must be him making those weird electro-marimba sounds in the middle of "Karn". (Okay, I admit I'm not exactly sure where one 'Impression' ends and the next begins; I'm used to listening to this as one whole 30-minute piece).

"Benny The Bouncer" is as pointless as "The Sheriff" and "Jeremy Bender". Next. Of Lake's ballads, only "From The Beginning" is better than "Still...You Turn Me On". Although it has some lame lyrics(somebody get this guy a ladder!), the music and Greg's vocal performance are great. I just love that twangy wah-wah part. "Jerusalem" is a fine 'cover' song if you will. One of their best 'cover' songs(some might say "interpretation" but whatever). "Karn Evil 9" is the heart of the album obviously. I've only heard this album on CD so I can't say for sure if the first part of the first impression was on one side of the vinyl and the rest on the other or not. I actually know somebody who has this album on vinyl, but I didn't think to check if this was the case or not before typing my review. Anyway, there are some more stupid lyrics here("seven virgins on a mule, keep it cool, keep it cool"). Didn't Pete Sinfield write some of the lyrics here? He goes from "Epitaph" to writing bad ELP lyrics to writing a hit song for Celine Dion. Yikes.

The music on "Karn" goes from mediocre to great. I love the robotic voice at the end. The playing on the album is generally great with not too much showing off. The cover art is classic (apparently the original painting was stolen recently). The production is a step down from Trilogy, which I think is their best and most consistent album. This doesn't deserve 5 stars mainly for the production, "Benny" and the fact that they didn't compose the first two tracks. So I'll give this a 3.5 but round it up to 4.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#305118) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Brain Salad Surgery is a borderline decent album in my opinion. ELP are definitely very talented and well respected musicians, but this is the album where they started to become ultra-pretentious. After the opening, "Jerusalem", I pretty much knew what was expected. It's a very imperial sounding opening, but not much more. "Toccata" is a loosely classical-inspired jumble of loosely organized noise. I always found this to be abrasive and unimportant. "Benny the Bouncer" is blues-ragtime goofery and only serves as being completely annoying.

But then the record starts to get much better, but not great. "Karn Evil 9" as a whole features tight musicianship as you'd expect from such a band and ELP. There are some fantastic catchy moments here, but they are few and few between some purposeless and random instrumental passages that don't fit at all. Pretentious at its core, but still progressive with undeniably great musicianship. Most people seem to enjoy this, but I definitely don't. This one if for hardcore ELP fans only, in my opinion.

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Posted Monday, April 11, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Many negative reviews of Brain Salad Surgery characterise it as the album where Emerson, Lake and Palmer went too far. I would disagree: for me, it's the album where they didn't go anywhere at all. Whilst most of the other major prog bands who had debuted in 1970 or before had continued to advance and develop and, in the case of King Crimson, completely reinvent their sound, here ELP seem to me to get complacent, essentially following the Tarkus/Trilogy playbook and turning the volume up a bit.

There's an epic track which doesn't even pretend to hang together as a single coherent piece (unlike the masterful Tarkus). There's a jazzy bit, this time crammed incongruously into the middle of Karn Evil 9, to the point where I almost wonder whether it was mis- sequenced there by a bumbling studio engineer and the band decided to declare it the second part of Karn Evil 9 rather than change up the running order. There's a Greg Lake ballad, which is horrendously oversaccharine and sappy and has some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard - "someone get me a ladder", Greg? Are you serious? - and of course there's a couple of classical adaptations in Keith Emerson's usual style, though by this point Keith's method of adapting classical pieces to rock group formats which had been so fresh and novel in The Nice and in the early ELP albums had already begun to seem forced and stale.

In short, this is an album which follows the ELP playbook to the letter and ticks all the boxes without taking any serious risks beyond throwing in a song that's longer than the length of a side, and since (like I said) the three parts of that song aren't really connected and could happily have stood on their own as individual tracks this was completely pointless and unnecessary - a stab at creating another epic purely for the sake of throwing in an epic, but without any of the actual effort involved in producing a coherent 20 minute song.

Whilst Yes were taking genuine risks in making Tales From Topographic Oceans, in a year that King Crimson adopted a completely new and startlingly different sound on Larks' Tongues In Aspic and Genesis brought their pastoral style to its brilliant fruition, at a point when Gentle Giant were masterfully adapting to the departure of their sax player and Pink Floyd were conquering the world with The Dark Side of the Moon, ELP to me seem to be the major band who are the odd men out - the one unit who, rather than growing and changing and developing their sound, were simply riding the prog bandwagon and complacently churning out crap. Brain Salad Surgery sounds like the out-takes from Tarkus and Trilogy, ideas which wouldn't have cut the mustard on those albums but were considered good enough to foist on the listening public in 1973, despite the fact that they still weren't ready for human consumption. There are so many points where just a bit of thought and polishing could have salvaged a composition or song that it makes me angry just thinking about them.

In short, where many see ELP's peak, I see only the beginning of the end, the moment the band project stopped being an experiment and started being a formula. The consequences of such a change in approach - from innovation to simply crafting a product to tick off the boxes on a checklist - would be fatal both for the band and for the original 1970s prog scene. I am full of love for ELP's debut album and the title track from Tarkus, but this album - this is where the rot set in, and it's what made them deserve the critical backlash that followed.

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Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review by baz91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Almost perfect

Donned with one of the most memorable and scary album sleeves in prog history, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 'Brain Salad Surgery' remains a classic in the band's catalogue. More bombastic, more absurd and on the whole just a lot MORE, ELP were striving to create an album that wouldn't be forgotten. $ The album starts with an old English classic Jerusalem. Speaking as a British person, I've always found the lyrics of this song quite hilarious, as it ponders weather Jesus came to England and built a new Jerusalem. Great stuff! Whilst Emerson and Palmer do the best they can to spice up the track with keyboards and drums respectively, this remains one of the drier tracks on the album.

Toccata is a rollercoaster instrumental based on Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto. This is undoubtedly the best instrumental the band ever did. The first 3 minutes of the track are filled with dramatic, exciting musical themes, with great sound production. After 3 minutes, only the drums are left, and the rest of the song is percussion based, with Emerson and Lake only giving a hand here and there, until the main theme is repeated at the end. First class music.

Sometimes cited as the most cringeworthy song in prog history, Still... You Turn Me On definitely induces just a few mental cramps. If you hadn't guessed from the title, this is Lake's attempt at a cheesy love ballad. However, the lyrics aren't just cheesy, they're downright awful! Who can forget the words, 'Every day a little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder!'? In actual fact, I believe Lake purposely wrote hilariously bad lyrics, leading me to regard this as a fun piece after all.

Benny the Bouncer is the second ballad on the album. Like Jeremy Bender from 'Tarkus' and The Sheriff from 'Trilogy', this is the comedic track on the album. Not really prog, but this is a delightful and accessible track to enjoy with a funny story line.

At this point, we're only 15 minutes into the album, but we have just one 'song' to go. The piece in question is Karn Evil 9 a track so long that it had to be split over the two sides of the album originally. In actual fact, this piece is just under half an hour in length, leading one to believe this might be one of the all time great progressive rock tracks. Sadly, this is not the case as the track is split into three 'impressions', all of which share nothing in common. I personally believe the band would have been better off just calling the first track Karn Evil 9, and giving the other two their own name. Rather than having three excellent tracks, we are left with a slightly underwhelming suite. A whole should equal more than the sum of it's parts, but here it feels like less. However, this 30-minute behemoth can still be enjoyed.

The 1st Impression is the most enjoyable, but even this feels like 2 songs joined together! This is a very intricate, complex, dark, progressive track, and quite dense in it's structure, with no time to breathe at all! The first part of the song has a chorus with the lyrics 'I'll Be There', and this is how I've come to know that part of the song. Surprisingly enough, this is actually my favourite part of the whole suite. After the first part is done, we move into the apocalyptic carnival (Karn Evil geddit?) part that most people remember and enjoy. On the vinyl LP, this was split over the two sides of the record, and the second side opened with the immortal words 'Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends...', a phrase that has become synonymous with ELP. This is truly a bombastic, progressive piece that only the trio of Emerson, Lake and Palmer could create, and is one of their best songs.

The 2nd Impression is essentially a jazzy instrumental, which links the first and third impressions. Sadly, this instrumental contains no musical themes from either of the other impressions, making the suite feel incohesive. There's a spooky section towards the end, and it's great to hear what atmospheres the band can create within one track.

The 3rd Impression is a completely different matter. This 9 minute track is a futuristic tale of struggle between man and machine. There is essentially two bouts of lyrics seperated by a monster 5 minute instrumental, which is again very dense and intricate. There's a couple of parts in this instrumental that remind me of film music, especially Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. The suite ends with a strange effect that gets faster until stopping completely.

This isn't the best prog album around, but it's a bloody memorable one. The worst thing about this album is definitely the joining of the three 'impressions' to make one incohesive suite. It's strange to think that if they had been seperate tracks, I might have given this 5 stars. A suite should really feel like a whole, and that's why I cannot rate this as a masterpiece. Nevertheless, this an astonishing classic album, and certainly worth your time.

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Send comments to baz91 (BETA) | Report this review (#544128) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 06, 2011

Review by rogerthat
COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
3 stars For the sake of reviewing this much celebrated ELP album, which I have known since from around the time I got into prog, I listened to it a few times again. And found myself liking it a lot less than I used to. Today, when I eventually got down to write the review after a gap, I find my impressions continue to be similar. So, that's how it will be then. I confess that while I like Brain Salad Surgery and think it is a good album, I would personally no longer rank it essential listening.

The music on this album seems to be quite apt as a soundtrack for a science fi-fantasy or comic superhero flick. It then depends on you how much you warm up to that idea. Me: not very much at all. Quite frankly, this is a niche within rock music that I don't really dig and as such am not very receptive to fantasy in rock music. I make my exceptions and to that extent am guilty as charged of hypocrisy. But then, I guess music appreciation is about one's tastes and perceptions. At the end of the day, I am not quite so fond of how ELP specifically do it.

A good example of this is Toccata, based on the fourth movement of Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto. Independent of the original composition, this is actually my favourite track off the album. It's very interesting to hear ELP grapple with dissonance in a piece of relatively loose organization. But it's not THEIR composition and is quite faithful to Ginastera's so far as the musical passages performed are concerned. Not so faithful is their interpretation. I find Ginastera's composition quite spine chilling while the ELP adaptation has the aforesaid superhero flick soundtrack quality. At the most it induces a chuckle or two from me and that's it. It is the flow and direction of the music, rather than the mood it evokes, that keeps me hooked.

My favourite passage of music off this album, though, is Karn Evil 09 1st Impression Pts 1 and 2. ELP mount a rollicking "show that never ends" as the music moves at breakneck pace, in terms of both tempo and development. I am not so keen on that guitar solo or as such on any of the melodies in the said tracks but am all ears as far as the arrangements go. Greg Lake's style of singing is very appropriate for this kind of track and gives it a kind of macho appeal that is more associated with rock than prog. At this point, the marriage of rock and prog seems perfect.

But the 2nd and 3rd Impressions seriously mar my overall, um, impressions of the epic. Standalone, the 2nd Impression is entertaining but presents precious little progress from where we left off in the 1st and feels redundant. The 3rd Impression has some very interesting moments but overall most strongly evokes the superhero flick feeling for any track in the album. If I said it reminded me of the music that accompanied B-grade Bollywood action flicks from the 70s or 80s, that might put my dislike for the 3rd Impression into perspective.

That leaves us with a trio of short tracks. Benny and the Bouncer is okay but doesn't really gel with the rest of the album and feels like a throwaway. Jerusalem is more sincere to the original but this time, I am not so keen on the original to begin with. Nice but not very memorable in my opinion. Still...You Turn Me On makes the strongest impression of the short tracks. But I am essentially looking at 17 minutes of music I enjoy without any reservations and 7 or so for which my appreciation is qualified, out of a total 45 minutes of music. My rating as far as my personal enjoyment goes is then easily explained.

But what about the influence and importance of this album and its place in ELP's discography? For a better appreciation of ELP, I would recommend their first two albums rather than Brain Salad Surgery. The more controversial question is how representative is it of what a proghead likes in his music. Well, seeing as no two progheads can agree on what is prog (!), that depends on what YOU like in your music. If you look for dazzling technical virtuosity and tons of energy in your prog, you won't be disappointed. But if you regard prog as music that unfolds and explores interesting musical possibilities for rock music, my recommendation to you would be much more reserved. In fact, if as a listener, you are more interested in the compositional aspects of music rather than performance, I'd not recommend this as an album to start your prog journey with and rather suggest the most loved albums of either Genesis or Yes.

Thus, in spite of its immense popularity in prog circles and its place among the top ELP albums, I give it three stars.

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Send comments to rogerthat (BETA) | Report this review (#596352) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 26, 2011

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The last true ELP album before the fall. Even if I love Works, I have to admit that Brain Salad Surgery is the last meaningful and "progressive" thing that the trio has done.

First of all a bit of trivia: The album's title is inspired to fellatio, and if you look carefully you can see the hidden shape of a penis below the mouth on the sleeve design of that Mr. Ginger who has drown the ambient and the monsters of Alien.

The structure of the album is quite similar to that of Tarkus with one difference: the side- long epic starts on side A as it was really too long for a vinyl.

The album is opened by "Jerusalem". It's a religious Anglican anthem with lyrics of William Blake which has been proposed also by Vangelis on Chariots of Fire and later by Par Lindh project, even if in that case we can speak of a "cover" as it's almost identical to the ELP version, apart for the singer who's not at Lake's level. (A lack of Lake....nice joke).

The "Toccata" is the arrangement of a theme from a contemporary Argentinian composer, Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (1916-1983) who was happy enough of the result as on the internal sleeve is present his comment.

The Lake's acoustic ballad is "Still.. You Turn Me On". It has the role of songs like Lucky Man or From The Beginning on the previous albums. It's one of the highlights for me, as I'm a fan of Lake's vocals and it's still progressive enough. Nothing to do with most of his side on Works.

Instead of the poor "Are You Ready Eddie?" or the outplaced "The Sheriff" we have "Benny The Bouncer" that's a nice short rock and roll song and then....the epic.

"Karn Evil #9" with the joke with "Carnival" is a very complex song. Somebody has written that it's a disconnected sequence of different things, but I honestly feel it like a unique thing. At least there are no sudden transitions and in any case all the pieces of the patchwork are very good and in line with the best of the trio. In the CD releases it's more evident as the suite can stay "all together into a single track instead of being split between the two sides of the vinyl. Also if you consider that this epic has been played live for a number of years, even during the last tours of the trio, it means that ELP still believe in this track.

"Welcome back my friends...."

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#763353) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, June 04, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars The fantastic trio "Emerson, Lake & Palmer"'s fourth studio album was 1973's "Brain Salad Surgery" which I now have listened to some times, enjoyed and been marveled about alternately. 1973 these three rockers were progressive mega stars and this is a very interesting record. The cover us quit ... (read more)

Report this review (#1132830) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Brain Salad Surgery" is the absolute apogee of ELP for me. All of their past albums were good, but in my mind they don't at all meet up to this standard. Whilst the album lacks some "true" experimentalism heard on tracks such as "Take A Pebble", I love the over-indulgence of this work, but still ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#984622) | Posted by Xonty | Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars (Includes some info taken from my BSS album booklet) The original album title was "Whip Some Skull On Ya" (slang expression for a blow job). But Manticore Records suggestion was Brain Salad Surgery (another euphemism for fellatio)... Emerson got the first Polyphonic Moog synthesizer, ... (read more)

Report this review (#946104) | Posted by VOTOMS | Thursday, April 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Apparently you either love this album, or hate it. Either way, you can't ignore it. This is arguably the best ELP album. Some say that Trilogy is better. Personally, I think they are different, and I like both about equally. But there is something about this album that has stayed with m ... (read more)

Report this review (#901184) | Posted by wehpanzer | Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Brain Salad Surgery, the fourth album by enormously successful progressive rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer, is chock full of melodies and riffs that will please fans of the traditional 70s style of progressive rock, or any rock fan in general. The album's centrepiece is the massive 29 minute suite ... (read more)

Report this review (#900031) | Posted by zeqexes | Saturday, January 26, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'm surprised that this album isn't as highly rated on this website as it seems to be in other places. Nevertheless, I believe that it truly deserves five stars. Containing one of the best (if not the best) keyboard solo in prog rock history, "Brain Salad Surgery" is an energetic roller coaster r ... (read more)

Report this review (#873818) | Posted by ebil0505 | Saturday, December 08, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In late 1973, ELP put out their greatest achievement. This may not be their best album, but this was their peak in terms of creativity and commercial success. This is either my second or third favourite ELP album. Jerusalem: The opener which is take on the English Anthem by Hubert Parry and W ... (read more)

Report this review (#833837) | Posted by criticdrummer94 | Saturday, October 06, 2012 | Review Permanlink

2 stars One of the most overrated prog albums ever... Toccata is great, even the 1st and 3rd track are fine, but 30 minutes long Karn Evil 9 is hardly listenable for me, too much cheesy melodies and overall bombastic climax of this track give me a headache. Not so far from the feeling a have when I hear Que ... (read more)

Report this review (#614658) | Posted by nephilim93 | Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Brain Salad Surgery ? 1974 (3/5) 10 ? Best Song: Still You Turn Me On? This was originally the centerpiece of the band's legacy. Me, I can see that, I can also see that sometimes abusing drugs is a socially acceptable activity. This is the centerpiece of just exactly why Emerson, Lake, and Pa ... (read more)

Report this review (#441637) | Posted by Alitare | Monday, May 02, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars 1/10 There is something wrong when you admire most in the album is its cover, and nothing more. Excuse me, I tried but could not. Emerson, Lake and Palmer are not for me. From what I've heard in the progressive rock, these are the worst group of all. Pompous, arrogant and cold. There is no hin ... (read more)

Report this review (#414306) | Posted by voliveira | Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars " Guaranteed to blow your head apart." A heaping helping of fodder for critics of progressive rock to eat for breakfast. If ELP went off the deep end with their 1972 album Trilogy and it's subsequent world tour , then they were about to take the plunge with this firestorm embelished with everyt ... (read more)

Report this review (#404620) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Monday, February 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I am well aware that it is fashionable to denigrate ELP for their arrogance and ambition. I know, for instance, that if ELP were a species of dinosaur, paleontologists would likely name them Pompousaurus Rex. Really, I get the aversion. However, most of the negative reviews here neither take t ... (read more)

Report this review (#391959) | Posted by The Dark Elf | Tuesday, February 01, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is an interesting fusion of rock and classical themes. A good friend of mine (and huge ELP fan) lent me this when I was a teenager and I didn't know what to make of it for a long time. I hadn't heard anything like it before. I remember studying the cover too. I found it quite futuri ... (read more)

Report this review (#389741) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, January 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Now let's not be silly... How can any serious prog rock afficionado give a single star for this album? Come on, let's have a little decorum here, this is PROG archives, not POP archives. I mean, even the album art with its remarkable sleeve design is worth 2 stars on its own! Sorry, forgive ... (read more)

Report this review (#369236) | Posted by Stefano di Sondrio | Saturday, January 01, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I am not a huge fan of ELP, enjoying only the first 4 albums. This one, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, is their finest moment. Some of the work on here is sublime and wonderful. However, there is also the usual goofy tune ("Benny the Bouncer"), that ELP could just not do an album without. Why? I usually ... (read more)

Report this review (#296904) | Posted by mohaveman | Tuesday, August 31, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars BRAIN SALAD SURGERY comes at a pivotal time in the history of ELP. Despite already succeeding with several hit albums under their belt, the band had actually been together for only 3 years at the time of this album's release. A virtual overnight success (literally) from th ... (read more)

Report this review (#294780) | Posted by carlmarx38 | Monday, August 16, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is almost like a glimpse of the future of prog, and in some ways the past of prog. All in all this is a little gem of an album, of course revolving around the final track (although on some cd's it is split into parts) KARN EVIL 9, an epic closer at just under 30 minutes, and its a fant ... (read more)

Report this review (#285150) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Saturday, June 05, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars By the time this album came out I was buying ELP's music sight unheard. This album turned out to be my 2nd favorite after "Tarkus," of course. I didn't care for "Jerusalem," but it isn't a bad tune. It did eventually grow on me. I would always skip to "Tocatta" and play it first. "Tocatta" is ... (read more)

Report this review (#278208) | Posted by Keetian | Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars How would I describe Emerson Lake and Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery? Pompous. This album is when this super group said to themselves let's make an album that will put us in the history books as the most talented rock group to be assembled. I don't know if they accomplished their goal but they still m ... (read more)

Report this review (#250136) | Posted by kawkaw123 | Thursday, November 12, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Exactly what is the best ELP album, that is a controversial question. I'd personally vouch for Tarkus, and that's where I'd suggest a newcomer to start with ELP. However, many say that Brain Salad Surgery is the best of ELP, and it's not hard to understand why- this album touches all of ELP's streng ... (read more)

Report this review (#247727) | Posted by Neurotarkus | Sunday, November 01, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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