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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 2128 ratings

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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.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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