Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (Manticore 1973; Razor and Tie, 2014)

In happier times, I fell hard for progressive rock, spinning the likes of King Crimson, Rush, Yes and even the reviled Emerson, Lake and Palmer. All these bands were quite popular in their heyday, but I was a little bit of an anachronism spinning them in the early 1990's. I recently rekindled my enjoyment of this music: after all, I am a nerd, and what self-respecting nerd doesn't like a little prog? Brain Salad Surgery was the culmination of several years of rugged touring that built the band an audience with some audacious (read: self-indulgent) performances and albums. Things really seemed to click with this particular LP, which is why it is continually re-released in a variety of formats. The stunning H.R. Giger artwork helped reel in new fans, but the songs and the virtuosic playing kept them listening. This collection is made up of three discs: disc one is a newly remastered and remixed stereo version of the LP, disc two is a collection of alternate mixes, takes and singles and disc three is a DVD-A with high resolution versions of the 2014 stereo mix and new remastering of the original LP. If this seems like quite a fuss for an album that originally clocked in at around forty minutes, you are right, but if you are a fan, there's quite a bit of fun to be had. The 2014 stereo mix on disc one sounds great, very bright and punchy, throwing into stark relief the bombast of the music, but also the surprising subtlety of the "Toccata" interpretation and Greg Lake's "Still... You Turn Me On." The ludicrous faux-cockney joke of "Benny the Bouncer" serves as a break between those songs and the "Karn Evil 9" suite that would make up the reminder of the album. Any classic rock aficionado will be familiar with Karn Evil 9 First Impression Part 2" Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends... That may serve as the band's highpoint: interesting sci-fi lyrics, pummeling bass and drums augmented by flashy keyboards, it is an arresting track. Disc two, entitled The Alternate Brain Salad Surgery works quite well, the alternate versions of the tracks of the final LP are not quite different but still flow well, and there are a couple of extras that weren't included on the original LP, plus quite amusingly, the music of a "felxi-disc" that was included in an issue of the New Musical Express that condensed the entire album down to three minutes! The final disc uses the extra space of the DVD to have high resolution versions of the 2014 remix and the original LP. Both sound quite good as can be imagined, with the only noticeable difference being that the original LP had a much more dynamic feel with the spacious bits very quiet and then swelling to crescendos that are more pronounced than the 2014 mix. It's a pretty exhausting set, but if you are a true sadist fan, then there is a super deluxe edition with a vinyl LP containing the original artwork, a surround sound disc and hardcover book. See Darren Lock's review of that edifice here. Still, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and when all is said and done, that is what matter the most. Brain Salad Surgery - amazon.com

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