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ELP As Christmas approaches, the reissues have begun to trickle in. Today's bounty was Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery or what the notes call "Prog Rock's masterpiece."

Listening again after 20 years reminded me what an overblown bunch of jackasses those three truly were. The only three guys in England who could make Rick Wakeman look disciplined. But as soon as I pushed play, the odd pleasures of this record all came rushing back: the bleeding chunk out of Ginastera's piano concerto, the sacrilegious bit of William Blake to open the record, the gongs, the moogs; those guys threw it all into this one. You get the feeling that no instrument was too large or too loud for them. Instead of Bowie's "Meant To Be Played Loud," the exhortation for this record should have been "Dress up like Charles the II, restage the Restoration and then take every drug you can find." Jesus, we were patient in the 70’s. Sit and listen to a whole album of Keith Emerson doing his Phantom of the Opera thing? It's enough to induce spontaneous combustion. Some of the really stoned white teenagers even thought there were profundities to be had amongst all the gnashing keyboard sturm and drang.

What made the record palatable was the completely out of place, "Still..You Turn Me On," still the only rock ballad with a harpsichord and a moog-derived didgeridoo.

That's followed by another oddity, the itchy, growly, barrelhouse piano mess "Bennie the Bouncer." Then BSS got really, REALLY heavy. The main attraction, "Karn Evil 9" is still the most overblown rock opera ever. Makes Tommy look like the touring company of The Lion King. Between the massive scale of this "epic" and the album’s still very cool, slightly Egyptian looking H.R. Giger cover art (a style he later reprised in the film Alien), I will admit to sitting and listening, repeatedly, feeling that there was something techtonic going on, the ground was shifting, but never being able to figure out why. Turns out of course that's what they wanted teenagers to think. Anyone with half an adult brain instinctively knew it was mock triumphant fluppery.

What strikes me now as even more amazing is that kids stood and watched the marathon, "Karn Evil 9" in concert. It's true that marijuana (remember "lumbo") figured heavily in many of the seminal concert experiences of the 70's, yet entertainment choices were severely limited then compared with today and kids quickly labeled ELP as rock pioneers to be admired. For what exact reason I never heard a logical, sober explanation of. But kids buying a record with a juiced up, excerpt of classical music on it ain't all bad. ELP vs Britney. Think about it. Progressive indeed. Back when fans waited for albums to come out. When there was an urgency in both music fans and musicians that does not exist today.

On to the next resurrected gem. Ah, the Bee Gees Greatest Hits! nothing overblown there. Actually,….No, another time.

John Atkinson's picture

...knew that was possible from KE) is still a favorite.

Michael's picture

Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee are plugging in right now. Smiling.

John Atkinson's picture

The irony of ELP is that two of them were veterans of truly creative bands: Keith Emerson from The Nice and Greg Lake from King Crimson. The Nice's "Cry of Eugene," written by guitarist David O'List and featuring restrained, tasteful organ playing (who

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