Onstage, EL&P; usually overcome the shortcomings of their recordsinsufficient intensity and lack of worthy materialby working hard and busting their asses to play with incredible tightness (witness Pictures at an Exhibition). In the studio, their vision and grandiose schemes dilute the tightness, resulting in things like Brain Salad Surgery, on which their shortcomings outweigh undeniable moments of brilliance. The result: another sadly uneven album from a group with technical gifts equal to that of any British trio.
Save for an occasional blast like "Lucky Man" or "Take A Pebble," songs have not been EL&P;'s strong suite. When Lake is good as a writer, he's very good; when he's off, he has a tendency toward overblown lyrics. Hence, lines like "Do you want to be the lover of another/undercover/you can even be the man in the moon," which drag the conceptually sound "Still You Turn Me On" to near-farcical proportions. And variation or no, each EL&P; disk has contained a needless nonsensical whimsey like this one's "Benny The Bouncer"each a terrible waste of the band's talent and the listener's time.
Two shorter, instrumental-based pieces fare better. One, an adaptation of Albert Ginastera's First Piano Concerto, Fourth Movement, was rearranged by Keith Emerson with an eye toward the piece's inherent violence. The result so moved Mr. G. that his unsolicited review is printed in the liner notes. Enough said. The other, an adaptation of the olde Englishe hymn "Jerusalem," is pulled off with particular aplomb by Lake, whose interpretative vocals often take him beyond the limits of less impressive lyrics.
The real meat of this platter, though, is the "Karn Evil 9" suite whose three movements comprise roughly a side and a quarter of the disk. Another tour-de-force where EL&P; pull out all the sonic stops, this time around the theme's of a tripart epic battle between man and his surroundings. Emerson's keyboards whiz and speak, Lake and Carl Palmer hustle to keep perfect, imaginative time. Nonetheless, it's but a shell of its onstage selfwhere here they cook, in concert EL&P;'s presentation of this number boils over and vaporizes.
This LP only convinces me that EL&P; really ought to record all their material in concert, for short of that I fear we're doomed to more albums like Brain Salad Surgeryanother record that shows this fine band to mixed effect. (RS 153)
(Posted: Jan, 31 1974)
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Jerusalem (track not available in Rhapsody)
Toccata (track not available in Rhapsody)
Still....You Turn Me On (track not available in Rhapsody)
Benny The Bouncer (track not available in Rhapsody)
1st Impression (Part 1) (track not available in Rhapsody)
1st Impression (Part 2) (track not available in Rhapsody)
2nd Impression (track not available in Rhapsody)
3rd Impression (track not available in Rhapsody)
The Making Of Brain Salad Surgery (track not available in Rhapsody)