Friday, October 23, 2009

Brain Salad Surgery

Emerson, Lake & Palmer/1973

“Welcome back, my friends… to the show that never ends…” Let’s be honest. That now-iconic line could very well describe the remastering of the Emerson, Lake & Palmer catalog. I mean, how many times can you buy the same CD because it’s been “remastered” for “improved sound quality” (which these days, usually means ear-shattering loudness, suffocating noise-reduction, fingernails-on-chalkboard harshness, etc.)? But I digress. And to be fair, not all ELP remasters sound horrible. Which brings us to Brain Salad Surgery. Considered the ultimate ELP album by many, Brain Salad Surgery takes over-the-top bombast and pretension to dizzying new heights. And I’m saying that as somebody who loves the album. It’s got all the thrill and excitement of a runaway musical train wreck. Because, by 1973, it seems keyboard maestro Keith Emerson (not exactly a critics’ darling) concluded that if he couldn’t get critics to love his band, then he would simply pummel them into submission. Sonically, of course. Thus, Brain Salad Surgery lacks that one important element that made the band's earlier albums so unique: contrast. You’ll find very little of that. Gone are the nuances and subtleties of earlier songs like “Take A Pebble,” “The Endless Enigma” or “Trilogy.” Here, the band creates a nightmarish musical circus with the manic, multi-part “Karn Evil 9” that makes one seriously wonder how much cocaine could realistically be ingested in recording sessions for one measly little album. Not that the entire album is on substance-fueled overdrive. The stately “Jerusalem” kicks things off with majestic aplomb. And Greg Lake’s pretty acoustic ballad “Still…You Turn Me On” shoulda/coulda been a huge hit. But by the time you finally get to the end of this album, and the “great computer” steps up to the microphone…well, maybe it’s time to take a little break and give your head a rest. Note: Try to find the now out-of-print Brain Salad Surgery DVD-Audio disc. It’s got a surround-sound mix that will truly leave your brain feeling like a tossed salad. “We’re so glad you could attend…step inside, step inside…”

Essential Tracks: “Jerusalem” “Still…You Turn Me On” “Karn Evil 9 Pt.1”

No comments:

Post a Comment