Reviewed by – Matt Rowe
The fans had been anxiously awaiting Brain Salad Surgery when it was released in late 1973. Brain Salad Surgery took significantly longer to produce than earlier ELP albums but when it finally reached store shelves, it quickly went on to become the crown jewel of the ELP catalogue. It was hailed as the band’s best output with expansive works like the immense, multi-part “Karn Evil 9,” arrangements (“Jerusalem,” “Toccata”), and several Trilogy-like tracks (“Still…You Turn Me On,” “Benny the Bouncer”). Brain Salad Surgery is a unique album in that, it moves away from the tightened perfection of Trilogy, shifting back to the expansiveness of Tarkus, yet achieving a new edge that was a blend of the Trilogy album and the classically oriented earlier albums.
This reissue does the original Brain Salad Surgery proud, and greatly so. Not only does it hearken back to the LP release in look and feel, with a die-cut cover that opens in the same way that the original LP cover did, but it also delivers the same goodies that arrived inside the LP. The fold-out poster found in the LP release is added but scaled down to match the size of the CD packaging. Additionally, the disc is sleeved within a sturdy case. Add the 24-page booklet, with plenty of photography, 8 pages of notes by Dave Thompson – which incorporates interview segments – and credits, making the set a full-fledged, no-brainer addition to your ELP library. I feel that with such attention to detail in the way this CD was assembled; many potential reissues could become essential end purchases.
This reissue offers up two bonus cuts, an alternate mix of “Jerusalem,” and a nice, long instrumental mix of “Karn Evil 9.” The alternate mix of “Jerusalem” differs largely in the vocals, if not a sonically better sounding mix. The original cut is more majestic but otherwise, the differences are somewhat minor, leaving preference to the listener. I prefer the cut that made the album but I love the bonus mix inclusion here. The bonus instrumental mix of “Karn Evil 9” is a great addition to what is already a winner reissue.
The band next dove into an ego-centric project known as Works (Volumes 1 and 2). The first Works volume allotted vinyl space to each of the three members in the hopes that the fans were so enamored of the band that anything they churned out would be embraced. While there was much to enjoy on Works – both volumes – especially Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” this set of releases spelled the downslide of ELP. Regardless, at this point of their career with the release of Brain Salad Surgery, ELP was still at the top of their class.
Shout Factory began an ambitious update of the relatively small ELP catalogue with the 2CD career retrospective of 28 classic, newly remastered ELP tracks from 10 albums, several of which were large in scope (the Works efforts), called The Essential Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Chronologically reissued, Shout Factory then began their ELP catalogue updates with the 1971 self-titled debut, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and the band’s second album, Tarkus, also from 1971, on April 24. Those were followed with Trilogy, and Pictures at an Exhibition, both from 1972 and reissued on June 26 of 2007. The subject of this review, Brain Salad Surgery was originally issued in 1973, with the Remasters reissue on October 2, 2007, while Welcome Back, My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…was officially released in 1974, and already reissued by Shout! Factory.
These albums were remastered from original master tapes by Andy Pearce at Masterpiece London. I haven’t compared these to more recent remasters that are available from other markets however; I can tell you that they are much better than the aging original Atlantic CD releases, which sadly, were all that were in my possession. If there are better remasters out there, I’ll leave those to the more astute audiophiles to bring to attention (however, trusted readers have reported to me that these Pearce remasters are comparable to the best ELP remasters available). But for those that want a reasonably priced, easy to acquire, update of their older ELP catalogue discs, these do the job quite nicely. Some are not expanded with bonus track inclusions but do have 8-page updated booklets with a few photos and artwork added along with a short set of notes from Steve Hochman.
Brain Salad Surgery, however, receives special treatment by its die-cut digipak packaging that replicated the original LP along with its added goodies (the included poster, a super-sized 24-page booklet, two bonus cuts). The series (Emerson, Lake & Palmer Remasters) sets are typically housed in jewel cases except for this Brain Salad Surgery reissue (I think I might have rather enjoyed the quality digipak packaging like those used for the Herb Alpert Signature Series collection and on Brain Salad Surgery). These reissues will nicely replace the aging originals in your collection until someone undertakes a Definitive Edition project for each of these albums, filled with bonus tracks and memorabilia. Watch for the next batch of ELP remasters, Works Volume One and Works Volume Two. Both titles are planned for January 22, 2008.
Release Date: October 09 2007
Produced by: Greg Lake / Derek Dressler
Jerusalem / Toccata / Still…You Turn Me On / Benny the Bouncer / Karn Evil 9: First Impression – Part One / Karn Evil 9: Second Impression – Part Two / Karn Evil 9: Third Impression / Jerusalem: Alternate Mix (Bonus Track) / Karn Evil 9: Instrumental Mix (Bonus Track).
Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP):
Keith Emerson – Hammond B3 Organ / St Marks Church Organ / Piano / Celeste Moog Synthesizer
Greg Lake – Vocals/ Bass / Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Carl Palmer – Drums / Percussion.