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Reviews: Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery

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Reviews: 4

Review by Goodwood October 17, 2008 (11 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This review is exclusively about the SACD disk and listening in stereo - listened to through my speakers and headphones.

I am more familiar with the first four albums so its nice to hear something I am less familiar with but as we know some things improve with greater listening. I am mixing views of the music with opinions about the sound quality. I should also admit that Emerson is someone I have huge respect for.

A quick comment on the packaging. Itís essentially a double package with the third disk wedged in the end of the sleeve with the booklet and yes itís the SCAD that they chose to give this treatment to. Also apart from the small SACD logo on the disc all the packaging refers to all kinds of formats other than SACD. The booklet gives a good insight into the compositions, band memberís thoughts and the original sleeve design and a good read.

In general the sound quality is very good indeed with excellent dynamics both in terms of the drama of things like percussion and also the quality of both soft and loud sounds. The balance is neither dull nor overly bright.

Hereís my take on the different parts of the album.

Jerusalem

Sorry but I find this track completely pointless. A cover by any other name. I also find it has a slightly scooped sound especially with the vocals.

Toccata

This is where things get interesting. This is ELP with more percussion and less keyboards than usual. The booklet describes Emersonís reasons for recording this. It isnít especially melodic but it doesnít have to be. If you have a system that is balanced more for drama than accuracy you should enjoy this and if you like to hear percussion again it will satisfy. Carl Palmer on fire.

Still...You Turn Me On

A pretty song with a curious synth choral line. This is more classic Greg Lake with a strong melody and acoustic guitars. Could have done with being a little longer maybe. Lakeís vocals are a little too distant for my liking otherwise a nice track with interesting production.

Benny The Bouncer

Did they have to? Another Are you ready Eddy, Sherriff type song. Sound quality is good though and overall it sounds like a mixture of various Tarkus Side 2 songs.

Karn Evil 9 Suite

This is more classic Prog ELP. Where this differs from say Side 1 of Tarkus is that these 4 parts are more like discrete compositions, to the point where they could almost be shuffled around without any detriment. Sound quality is excellent, with fantastic separation, and hints at what the other ELP albums will sound like when they are released one day.

Conclusion? The booklet tells of the band considering this album to be their creative peak. Itís certainly very entertaining. Inevitably, having made 3 earlier studio albums that were so different with this album you can now begin to recognise the DNA from the other albums so Iím not sure that itís up there with the first three albums but it certainly stands up well in its own right. A very welcome SACD and despite all thatís said itís quite listenable and I have played it a number of times now. Buy and enjoy.

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Review by chromal February 14, 2009 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
You're going to get some raw impressions; I've just finished listened to the SACD remaster disc for my first time. Brain Salad Surgery has a special place in my mind; it was the first progressive rock album that I got my hands on as a kid, in fact, probably the first 1970s rock album I got my hands on as a kid, aside from the ubiquitous Pink Floyd discography. I had the first CD issue of the LP, which I believe has a notorious reputation for being a bad CD master. I listened to this album more, I think, than any other album, to this day. And so, it was with much anticipation that my parcel from the UK arrived bearing Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery - Deluxe Edition.

Jerusalem - So here I get my first taste of the remaster. So far, the sort of improvement I would expect from a SA-CD multichannel remaster; a much fuller dynamic range, with sonic clarity across the dynamic range. It's great to now hear details in Lake's vocals that were never apparent, tremolo details during the loudest sections, and so forth.

Toccata - You know, when I first began listening to the album, I really hated this composition. Eventually, I started listening and grew to know every passage of it by heart. In anticipation of each part, I grew to enjoy it a great deal. Listening to this remaster, I was delighted to discover a few quiet parts that were utterly masked in the CD. This is why progressive rock in particularly belongs on SACD; there's so much detail on the master tapes begging to be unleashed.

Still... You Turn Me On - Okay, after I write this review, I'll be going back downstairs to listen to this track again. Something was... amiss. I'm listening to the original CD pressing of this track now. Starting at 01:23, there's a prominent (synth?) backing layer that seems to be have been really really really pushed back in SA-CD the mix. And, I mean, I listen to rock SA-CDs at, uh, live performance volumes on loudspeaker. :) Point is, I should've had more than enough dynamic range to hear it. Revisionist history on the production? Well, judge for yourself.

Benny the Bouncer - Just a fun track. Because of the sparse drumming, this one always came across pretty well on the CD. Lots of lovely detail, again, on the SA-CD; the ragtime piano and drumming is simply standout.

Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression parts 1&2. -- Just terrific. They clearly really made and effort, I honestly couldn't say much beyond 'wow.' The middle section of the second part is absolutely captivating. Drums stand out, and the enunciation in the lead guitar lines just really goes beyond anything I had been able to discern on the CD.

Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression -- This was always a standout track for me; the piano parts were always front and center and the CD had the ability to represent it well. This remaster mostly brings tighter imagery, particularly of the effect strumming of the piano strings, etc. Enough to make your hair stand on end. :) The second part with the sort of latin piano is also interest, just hearing the detail. ARe they running it through a Leslie cabinet? Sounds like something they'd've done...

Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression -- everything about 1st/2nd impression can apply here. Just a fun song, and now the computer's lines are even more clear; so... ring mod for the first part, and then distortion? I'll have to listen again, just a much better sonic picture all 'round.

Things are perfect, there are some things I wish had been done differently, particularly the 'quiet' layer in "Still..." Nevertheless, here's an album that finally has been unleashed to the world, and there's no question if you enjoy ELP's magnum opus you need this edition.

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Review by hsbrown2 February 21, 2009 (0 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Simply stunning. They just don't have many true artisans anymore.

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Review by ssully March 31, 2009 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The surround mix is just the DVD-A surround mix, converted to DSD. Since the DVD-A is out of print, this is good for those who didn't grab it the first time around (though the SACD lacks the *stunning* DVD-A bonus track surround mix of 'Lucky Man'). I like the surround mix well enough, but would have liked the synths to be louder at certain times during KE9. Be aware that at least one of the vocals is an alternate take from the old LP version (Benny the Bouncer).

The stereo remasters (CD and SACD) are the original stereo mix, with EQ tweaks and reduced dynamic range to punch it up -- typical of modern remasters.

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