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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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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. 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'" 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): "" "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.

Starette | 4/5 |


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