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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 Almost perfect

Donned with one of the most memorable and scary album sleeves in prog history, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 'Brain Salad Surgery' remains a classic in the band's catalogue. More bombastic, more absurd and on the whole just a lot MORE, ELP were striving to create an album that wouldn't be forgotten. $ The album starts with an old English classic Jerusalem. Speaking as a British person, I've always found the lyrics of this song quite hilarious, as it ponders weather Jesus came to England and built a new Jerusalem. Great stuff! Whilst Emerson and Palmer do the best they can to spice up the track with keyboards and drums respectively, this remains one of the drier tracks on the album.

Toccata is a rollercoaster instrumental based on Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto. This is undoubtedly the best instrumental the band ever did. The first 3 minutes of the track are filled with dramatic, exciting musical themes, with great sound production. After 3 minutes, only the drums are left, and the rest of the song is percussion based, with Emerson and Lake only giving a hand here and there, until the main theme is repeated at the end. First class music.

Sometimes cited as the most cringeworthy song in prog history, Still... You Turn Me On definitely induces just a few mental cramps. If you hadn't guessed from the title, this is Lake's attempt at a cheesy love ballad. However, the lyrics aren't just cheesy, they're downright awful! Who can forget the words, 'Every day a little sadder, a little madder, someone get me a ladder!'? In actual fact, I believe Lake purposely wrote hilariously bad lyrics, leading me to regard this as a fun piece after all.

Benny the Bouncer is the second ballad on the album. Like Jeremy Bender from 'Tarkus' and The Sheriff from 'Trilogy', this is the comedic track on the album. Not really prog, but this is a delightful and accessible track to enjoy with a funny story line.

At this point, we're only 15 minutes into the album, but we have just one 'song' to go. The piece in question is Karn Evil 9 a track so long that it had to be split over the two sides of the album originally. In actual fact, this piece is just under half an hour in length, leading one to believe this might be one of the all time great progressive rock tracks. Sadly, this is not the case as the track is split into three 'impressions', all of which share nothing in common. I personally believe the band would have been better off just calling the first track Karn Evil 9, and giving the other two their own name. Rather than having three excellent tracks, we are left with a slightly underwhelming suite. A whole should equal more than the sum of it's parts, but here it feels like less. However, this 30-minute behemoth can still be enjoyed.

The 1st Impression is the most enjoyable, but even this feels like 2 songs joined together! This is a very intricate, complex, dark, progressive track, and quite dense in it's structure, with no time to breathe at all! The first part of the song has a chorus with the lyrics 'I'll Be There', and this is how I've come to know that part of the song. Surprisingly enough, this is actually my favourite part of the whole suite. After the first part is done, we move into the apocalyptic carnival (Karn Evil geddit?) part that most people remember and enjoy. On the vinyl LP, this was split over the two sides of the record, and the second side opened with the immortal words 'Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends...', a phrase that has become synonymous with ELP. This is truly a bombastic, progressive piece that only the trio of Emerson, Lake and Palmer could create, and is one of their best songs.

The 2nd Impression is essentially a jazzy instrumental, which links the first and third impressions. Sadly, this instrumental contains no musical themes from either of the other impressions, making the suite feel incohesive. There's a spooky section towards the end, and it's great to hear what atmospheres the band can create within one track.

The 3rd Impression is a completely different matter. This 9 minute track is a futuristic tale of struggle between man and machine. There is essentially two bouts of lyrics seperated by a monster 5 minute instrumental, which is again very dense and intricate. There's a couple of parts in this instrumental that remind me of film music, especially Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. The suite ends with a strange effect that gets faster until stopping completely.

This isn't the best prog album around, but it's a bloody memorable one. The worst thing about this album is definitely the joining of the three 'impressions' to make one incohesive suite. It's strange to think that if they had been seperate tracks, I might have given this 5 stars. A suite should really feel like a whole, and that's why I cannot rate this as a masterpiece. Nevertheless, this an astonishing classic album, and certainly worth your time.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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