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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 2126 ratings

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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.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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