Sunday, March 13, 2016

Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Brain Salad Surgery


   The legendary supergroup of progressive rock, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was formed in 1970 by pianist and organist Keith Emerson who was known before as a member of progressive band The Nice, Greg Lake, singer and bassist of King Crimson and Carl Palmer, drummer of Atomic Rooster. Trio achieved instant success, in Isle of Wight Festival in August and with their debut album Emerson, Lake & Palmer released in November 1970. Next four albums established their position as legendary band of progressive rock: Tarkus and Pictures at an Exhibition in 1971, Trilogy in 1972 and Brain Salad Surgery in 1973. Especially Brain Salad Surgery was a kind of recapitulation of first chapter in the history of the band. Next albums were released after three and half year period – 2LP Works Volume 1 and Works Volume 2 did not occurred to be the next success and bright ELP fame became fading. 
   Characteristic decision is lack of title composition Brain Salad Surgery, which was recorded but not included into the program. It was published with two other songs recorded in 1973 on Works Volume 2, and as other songs of 1977 gone generally unnoticed. Program opens with Jerusalem song. It is modified version of popular hymn written by Hubert Parry (1848-1918) to William Blake’s poem And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time. Using this anthem as an opening of modern, progressive album was clear and strong statement. The idea of England as Jerusalem build among dark Satanic Mills is strong vision that makes Parry’s song most popular patriotic song and unofficial national anthem. In version modified by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, this song was published as a single to express band’s open affection to England but BBC banned this version. In fact BBC leading personalities John Peel was against ELP from the very beginning, after Isle of Wight performance he said this was “waste of talent and electricity”. Musicians were disappointed with the decision which was probably result of massive use of Moog Apollo, the first-ever polyphonic synthesizer and electronic sound effects.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer • Brain Salad Surgery (1973)

   After this hymnal, sublime entrance, Toccata by Alberto Ginastera, arranged by Keith Emerson shows opposite face of the band, virtuoso, creative and competitive. Its intensive motoric rhythm with irregular accents, already known from Tarkus and Pictures at an Exhibition, was the hallmark of trio music. Here Keith Emerson shows his huge potential as virtuoso of electronic keyboard. Typical element in Emerson, Lake & Palmer albums was the opposition of ballades. Such position in program of Brain Salad Surgery takes Greg Lake’s lyric song Still...You Turn Me On with nice contrasting electronic inserts. This composition in pure style of progrock is overcome with Benny the Bouncer sounding like a glam rock parody with a saloon style piano. But in 1973, in context of the whole genre this was just one more view into the futuristic sound possibilities and progressive arrangements promising new level of musical creativity. This context was reinforced by the album artwork created by H. R. Giger.
   The program is closed by Karn Evil 9, almost half hour long, extended work of three polystylistic impressions and longest studio composition of the band.  It is placed on big part of first side and whole second side. First impression is divided on two sides of vinyl record. Starting with blues phrase, it shortly takes position of hard rock expression with changes of tempo, meter and syncopations. Every previous album of ELP gave new evidence every musician of the trio was musical erudite. Keith Emerson was the leader on this field. Here band is balancing all the styles used by progressive rock bands, even jazz. In climax of Emerson’s piano improvisation one can hear St. Thomas theme by Sonny Rollins played with clearly jazzy feeling. Words were written by Greg Lake with support of Peter Sinfield, poet known for his contribution in In the Court of the Crimson King and member of King Crimson band. Electronically processed Keith Emerson’s voice was used in the end of third Impression. In effect of ambitious idea and consequent work, Karn Evil 9 was not only massive, but spread to cover widely developed progressive rock.

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