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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 2129 ratings

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4 stars Does the world really need another review of Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake and Palmer? Of course not, but a look back at this album, 45 years after it's debut, seems warranted. Often held up as the poster boy of everything bad associated with prog, BBS has a hell of a reputation.

To start off, let's look at the oft maligned lyrics to Greg Lake's lovely ballad "Still You Turn Me On". The cringe worthy plea of Greg's of "Someone get me a ladder" after declaring how sad and mad the world has become, as if Lake had lifted nonsense lyrics from an epic song by Spinal Tap. Clumsy perhaps, but not even close to absurd. The song is probably Lake's second best after "From The Beginning" with Emerson's accordion-like keys wonderfully melancholy and restrained, and without any input from Carl Palmer to break the song's magical spell.

The lead off track "Jerusalem" still sounds as awkward as the day it was recorded but it's still hard to find a similar opening album track in all of progdom, so it's charm remains. "Toccota", Keith Emerson's arrangement of the 4th movement of Alberto Ginastera's "1st Piano Concert" is still absolutely magnificent with it's tight as a glove playing and excellent tympani and drum work by Palmer . "Tocotta" really put ELP on to a plane almost above progressive rock, so outrageous and spell binding is the song's ability to captivate the listener no matter how complex and complicated the group's playing.

The throw away song "Benny The Bouncer" probably appeals to those who cherish "Jerusalem", but I wouldn't know about that. What I do know is that I'm still floored and intrigued by the fact that the title track "Karn Evil 9's" oft played on radio (Ist Impression part 2) in no way resembles the organ drenched opening of the song's (Ist Impression part 1) until some 3 minutes into the song proper. The familiar radio riff is no more than a tease until it's fully developed and played almost a minute later. Indeed, where Emerson's bank of Moog synths blast their way into the song's mix and into one's brain.

It's easy to see where the acoustic piano of Karn Evil 9's (2nd Impression) caused many to point out that the song was stitched together from disparate parts, regardless of how wonderful Emerson's playing is. The fact is that "Karn Evil 9" is no more or less disjointed than any other 20 minute prog epic with Jethro Tull's "Thick As a Brick" as a prime example and the group's "Baker Street Muse" as a secondary example. The closing of the epic's (3rd Impression) with it's spacy synths and modulated robotic vocal's signaled to all mainstream music reviewers the "Karn Evil 9" was preachy and pretentious while AOR hacks like Styx "artfully" decreed the same about Mr. Roboto in song just a few years later.

Brain Salad Surgery is still worthy of 4 stars in my book. It does have it faults, but much less than the ones that the chroniclers of music history have cast upon it. So, thanks to all the gods for the show that never ends.

SteveG | 4/5 |


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