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Printable Version
Reviewed by -
Matt Rowe
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Brain Salad Surgery
Released: November 7, 2000
Origination Year: 1973
Time: N/A
Tracks: 9
Produced by:Greg Lake / John Kellogg
Style: Studio
Format: DVD-Audio
Enhancement: MLP / 5.1 Surround
Label: Rhino Records

Track Listing
  1. Jerusalem
  2. Toccata
  3. Still...You Turn Me On
  4. Benny the Bouncer
  5. 1st Impression - Part 1 *
  6. 1st Impression - Part 2 *
  7. 2nd Impression *
  8. 3rd Impression *
  9. Lucky Man **

* Karn Evil 9 Suite
** Bonus Selection

Emerson Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake:
Vocals / Bass /Guitars

Keith Emerson:
Organs / Piano / Harpsichord
Accordion / Moog / Computer

Carl Palmer:
Drums and Percussion / Percussion Synthesizers

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, ELP abbreviated, was another step in the art rock / classical adaptation that grew to astronomical heights despite it's 3 man crew. But what music came from those three men. The fact that ELP created a perfect transition between electronic, classical, and rock allow us to see how intricate the 70s were in it's tireless quest to add to the pillars of rock. The 70s gave way to the minimalism of the 80s and 90s, not by design, where popular rock still sits mired in 3 chords and little else of substance.

Of course, it is unfair to say that all of rock today is tethered by the lack of culture and exploration. There are many bands worth the salt of the 70s with the purity of multi-layered classicism running through their veins. Spock's Beard comes to mind. The problem is that Spock's Beard is tucked away in obscurity as are many bands of their nature. And that affects many of us who yearn for the popularity of intricately layered music and the easy discovery of it.

There was a time when we could turn on the radio and hear "From The Beginning" by a popular band that helped to elevate musical style thus exposing millions to classical, jazz, vaudeville, and progression. ELP did as much as Yes did to raise the era's consciousness to the above mentioned styles thereby revealing that classical and jazz can be cool when mixed, in part, with rock.

Brain Salad Surgery was the immensely popular release after the equally popular Trilogy. Where Trilogy was a blend of classical and rock, much like their predecessors, Brain Salad Surgery went further by introducing not only more styles but also a circus element that extended to their live Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, Ladies and Gentlemen - Emerson Lake and Palmer. Whew, now that's a title. With a cover designed by pre-Alien HR Giger, ELP was a class act from albums to live shows.

This early DVD-Audio from Rhino was a bold move introducing older fans to a new brand of music reproduction. Obviously, it was expected that an older crowd with more expendable cash and not saddled by the quest to mindlessly extract low quality tunes from the internet would come to the emerging format and embrace it. Of course it really didn't happen that way. But what did happen was a beginning in the evolution of DVD-Audio with, once again, ELP at the front.

The problem with early DVD-A titles is that the learning curve was at the beginning of the line. No one really had a clue how to effectively take the tracks and move sound around in a pleasing and immersive light. What occurred was gimmicky fiddling of the knobs and sliders forcing a guitar part to race at neck breaking speeds between speakers, front right to back left and back again. Naturalness was tossed in favour of so-called cool effects.

Brain Salad Surgery did not entirely escape that meddling. It wasn't as bad as some that could be mentioned but it did fall prey. Bummer. But is the recording bad? Well, the Stereo mix is nicely enhanced and is therefore a pleasant way to enjoy the album. The 5.1 mix is as I've stated, a bit old school. If you compare the newer releases on DVD-Audio or even SACD, you'll note an intelligent style employed to enhance the original music rather than an ill-advised attempt to enhance by recreation of the original stereo intent. Of course, a band of this type would have done great things if they possessed 5.1 in the 70s and the methods perfected. And I have no problem if the band revisits an older title that demands what is due it (as in Dark Side of the Moon) without re-recording various parts (as has happened before). But it's imperative, if possible, that original members have their sleeves rolled up from the beginning of the project, not to just hand it off.

Much of the incredible tracks here are recreated in Stereo beautifully. While it should be noted that the Stereo tracks are a 'downmix' despite the packaging's declaration to the contrary, it's a fine downmix, at least on my stereo. The hymn-like "Jerusalem" is nicely effected with Lake's spectacular vocals merging with the drumming of Palmer and the keyboards of Emerson. With the selection of "Toccata", Keith Emerson's talent is clearly defined in the clarity afforded this piece due to the concentration. The thickness of the bass lines from Lake can be clearly discerned. An argument can be made for the not clear, ' distant' drumming and percussion work of Carl Palmer who sounds cheated out of his day where the other two get their cake and eat it too. It follows that the rest of the disc contain the general effects as I have laid out.

The disc also throws in 5 videos running a total of 9 minutes combined that are a treat as they show you the band in their element. The film is grainy, the audience smoked out, and the band surrounded with an incredible array of instruments. One of the videos show 30 seconds of the band rehearsing "2nd Impression" from "Karn Evil 9". The enclosed booklet is complete with an essay, song listings, lyrics, and photos making the acquistion of this DVD-Audio album a very good value. Just don't have too much of an expectation for the 5.1. The menu is easily navigable with arrows allowing you to go from song to song and easily accessing the lyric feature along with the photo gallery feature.

Given the 'leaps and bounds' made by engineers and producers in the field of multi-channel and stereo reproduction for the Hi Res formats, I'd love to see modern techniques applied to this album yet once again. I'm hoping that Rhino will revisit this title as well as others from ELP including the magnificent Trilogy. Even better, I'd like to see participation from ELP.

I recommend the purchase of this album largely for its extras and its stereo 'downmix'. The 5.1 is a small bonus.

Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
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Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..."
Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon, 2003