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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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Prog Reviewer
2 stars ELP has never quite reached the list of my favourite prog bands (but I do like SOME tracks by them, so they might reach... ehm, something like the 40th place in my prog list - surely no higher than 300th on my list of ALL artists). But the reason why I haven't bothered to review their works before is their massive popularity. This particular album I picked up from the PA's list of the Most Popular Albums of all time. And right now I enjoy presenting the opposite opinion. In short: Brain Salad Surgery is mostly awful stuff. I like their version of the famed church hymn 'Jerusalem' with William Blake's superb lyrics, and Greg Lake's folky ballad 'Still... You Turn Me On'. But the rest... Aargh!

'Toccata' (rapery of Argentinean Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto) is horrible keyboard noise I can't stand for one minute - and it lasts over seven minutes. But even more unbearable is the "humorous" 'Benny The Bouncer' with Lake's idiotic shouting, not singing. The album's musical centerpiece is naturally the half an hour long 'Karn Evil 9'. It is everything that later made Prog a bad word in a nutshell. Oops, only that it's way too LONG to fit into that nutshell, of course. Play that to your date if you wish never to see her again. You can't fail. On some compilation was an excerpt of it, you know what I mean, it's the well-known "Welcome back my friends to the show thatnever ends" carnivalism. I wished, as I listened to this album, that it would a worse part of the opus, but no, instead it is its best part actually.

The liner notes (in the 2004 edition with bonuses I don't bother to talk about; just the same awfulness) point out how fantastic work this is from the technical view. So what. Sure, Keith Emerson is a virtuoso keyboard player, and Carl Palmer can give you a hell of a drumming, but in their musical battles they miss, in my opinion, the idea of good music. An idiotic Hammond riff is an idiotic Hammond riff, no matter how skillful it is.

A word about the album title and the cover art. No doubt it's been repeated over and over in the reviews how it refers to oral sex. Original working title was Whip Some Skull On Me (tasteless!), which was replaced by Get Me A Ladder (a line from 'Still...'). The final title came from Dr. John's hit 'Right Place, Wrong Time'. The art work originally had a penis in front of the female mouth but was airbrushed away. H. R. Giger later raised into bigger fame with his design for ALIEN movie. Naturally the cover art is one of the most famous rock album covers, but is it good-looking really? No, in fact it's mostly hideous. But as such it fits the music perfectly.

PS. I like ELP's debut much much more than this one. If you think I wanted to bash the band itself, you're wrong. I'm not attacking against ELP in this review but against Brain Salad Surgery. Thank You.

Matti | 2/5 |


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