Brain Salad Surgery
The title is taken from a line in a Dr. John song and this is my favorite ELP album. Most everything here counts and the usual joke track aside there is no filler. The Giger artwork is iconic and the guys really lost a step by taking four years to release a followup. Though perhaps not as great as other 1973 progressive rock LPs such as Dark Side of the Moon
, Selling England by the Pound
, or Larks' Tongues in Aspic
, this is the ELP LP (see what I did there?) I'd give a newbie. I have this album in two different 5.1 mixes.
Lyrics by none other than William Blake with music by Hubert Parry, "Jerusalem" starts things off with aplomb. This celebration of Englishness was banned by the BBC, natch. Damned if you do, damned if you don't I guess.
A piece by Alberto Ginastera which Keith had used before is given an over-seven minute workout which sounds an awful lot like The Nice methinks. But then the difference between the music of the two groups isn't as vast as some here would believe. Lots of Emerson wankery in the middle but would we have it any other way?
3."Still...You Turn Me On"
Greg Lake does it again. The first bit of music on the record to be written by a member of the band wasn't released as a 45 because Carl isn't present. Pity, as it's one of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer cuts I've heard on the radio the most. Bet it would have charted. Short and sweet.
4. "Benny the Bouncer"
Their 'humor' on display again - they get it out of the way early though. Pete Sinfield had to be enlisted to help Greg with the Shakespearean verbiage. Let's just say it's no "The Sheriff."
5."Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression—Part 1"
And now we're into it! The first part of the suite is over eight minutes and ends the first side of the LP. If the entire half hour thing would've been one track, then this, and not "Tarkus," would be their best long sci-fi song. I'd love to see some kind of video of this. All of the musical motifs are established except for the "Welcome Back My Friends..." part which begins...
6."Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression—Part 2"
I've heard this part on the radio as much as I've heard "Still...You Turn Me On." Again, this sounds like it could've charted to me. Who was in charge of releasing ELP singles at the time?
7."Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression"
The second impression sounds like a completely different song. Wiki tells us that part of the solo very briefly quotes the main melody from Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas". There's a lot of what sounds like a Caribbean flavor to be found as well. At almost the three-minute mark, the music stops and piano slowly starts up again. Keith exploring dynamics I guess, but I'm not sure it works as well as the faster parts. Luckily, after not too long it works up a nice head of steam again.
8. "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression"
The last section is also the longest to end the album with a bang. The tale (in terms of the lyrics) from the first impression begins again after another musical beginning which sounds like yet another new song. Again - I'll point out that I almost never pay attention to prog lyrics (Jon Anderson is the worst offender), and have never contemplated the story being told. Sinfield isn't a bad writer either - some of his Crimson stuff is memorable, but I'm scared that if I scrutinize the words, dismay will follow. I guess joining all these sections into one track wouldn't work as aside from the first two cuts of the first impression, the rest of it doesn't even sound like the same song. I swear, Keith solos more than virtually any guitarist I can think of.Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends...
Sorry, this is another one that I love. A live triple (not to be outdone by Yessongs
!) which sold quite well thank you very much. They should've not taken time off and released another studio album in 1975. Alas - 'twas not to be. Not every moment is transcendent, but it's good enough to count among my top five live prog albums of the '70s. I wonder if they thought they were being ironic with the title?
Taken at an even faster clip than the one on Trilogy
. A dizzying display of pyrotechnics as if they can't wait to jump out onstage and impress the punters.
They dive right into the last album too. Again, a sense of 'we can't wait to give you the good stuff' permeates these proceedings.
You'd think they were gonna do the entire Brain Salad Surgery
album by this point. By the end of the album, they almost do! To be frank - I think I prefer this to the studio version. Louder, more bombastic (been a while since I used that word, but believe me - I'm thinking about it all the time when I listen to this music), and it must have been a thrill to watch this music being performed. The cut fades away at the end as the LP side one finishes.
Oh, you know I'm in heaven now. A "Tarkus" to fill the entire second side of the original album and almost eleven minutes on side three! And it's all on one track on the CD too!! LOL. Look, either this does it for you, or it doesn't. If you're a card-carrying middle aged punk rocker who wouldn't be caught dead with an ELP album and still navigates the world with a "What would Johnny Rotten do?" mentality, then brother - what are you doing reading this? It's over seven minutes longer than the studio cut and functions as a litmus test for fans. Dig this, and you're in the club for life. I'm playing it right now and Greg is slipping Crimson's "Epitath" in - how cool is that?
5."Take a Pebble" (including "Still...You Turn Me On" / "Lucky Man")
This is Lake's portion of the show, combining three of his better-known songs and it completed the third side of the album. None of these numbers will make you forget the studio versions unfortunately.
6. "Piano Improvisations" (including Friedrich Gulda's "Fugue" and Joe Sullivan's "Little Rock Getaway")
The second half of the presentation begins with Keith's piano musings for almost twelve minutes. Do you think his hands ever got tired? Still a virtuosic display of course, because you'd expect nothing less. Don't know why he thought he needed this though when he takes every opportunity to solo during the rest of their repertoire, but there you have it. The least ELP-sounding part of the concert, but perhaps the most Emersonian as well.
7. "Take a Pebble (Conclusion)"
Wait, Greg wasn't done with this song? The shortest cut on the album. More like a continuation of Keith's piano stylings, really.
8. "Jeremy Bender" / "The Sheriff"
Were people clamoring for their hokey numbers in concert? One wouldn't think so, and yet... Or maybe the group was being perverse. The barbarians...
9. "Karn Evil 9"
Yep, the whole thing. Remember how I wrote that "Tarkus" was the litmus test? I lied. What took up three cuts and all of the third LP is on one thirty five minute track on the CD. I'd be fronting if I didn't say it kicks ass! I'm blasting this at the moment, neighbors be damned. I think they're scared of me anyway. Were you wondering where Carl's epic drum solo was? Fear not prog brethren, tis buried within.