Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery


This is, if not in my top 10 albums of all time, certainly in the top 20. It's definitely as bombastic as any other ELP release, but there's plenty of substance here. I may be a little partial to it for personal reasons, though- it starts off with a rendition of the unofficial English national anthem "Jerusalem," which was my school song (although I doubt that the Quaker school that I went to would approve of any version with Emerson's keyboard theatrics).
The best known song off of Brain Salad Surgery is the Karn Evil 9 suite, which outdoes previous sidelength tracks by taking up even more than an entire side. To tell the truth, it could easily have been split up into three tracks that would be merely lengthy instead of the mammoth that it is, but it's still excellent all the way through, and there are smaller, subtler touches that one might not notice at first (the dissonant piano overdubs early on, Emerson playing keyboard bass during a Lake guitar solo, the steel drums in part 2) that really add to the listening experience. There's barely a dull moment, and that's really saying something for a song that's half an hour long. Peter Sinfield also helped to write the lyrics in the third section, and althoughthey're somewhat better than what ELP could come up with themselves- after 9/11, the line "walls that no man thought would fall" takes on a new meaning.
Karn Evil 9 takes up nearly two-thirds of the album's running time, but there are some other good songs. Toccata is reminiscent of the noisy parts in Pictures, but it actually works; it's almost scary in place, and "Still... You Turn Me On" is sweet-sounding even though some of the lyrics are dumb. The only clunker is "Benny the Bouncer," a "humorous" barrel-house ditty that really shouldn't have made the cut. I've also never been a fan of H. R. Giger and his "DONGS ARE SCARY" style of art, and though I'm categorically opposed to censorship, airbrushing out the penis on the album cover probably improved it.
This is one of the crown jewels in the genre of progressive rock. If you don't like it, you're a fucking homo!
(That last part was a joke, of course. As can be seen from my Queen reviews, I can't get enough of the homos.)

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