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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
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.

NetsNJFan | 5/5 |


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