This 3-CD/2-DVD and Vinyl set is a goldmine for any fan of ELP in this amazing Super Deluxe Edition that is almost a trip down memory lane. And for me, as a geek, I could remember getting some Hanukkah money on the fourth night and buying this album that featured the late great H.R. Giger's artwork and just being blown away in the winter of 1998 before Christmas started and buying this album and being hooked into the world of their music.
At the time, it was a crowning achievement in 1973 when their fourth studio album, Brain Salad Surgery was released. And despite some of the rock critics despising them and the famous joke, “How do you spell pretentious? E-L-P.” There was no stop sign for them and were the people’s band during that time. It was also their last real album before moving into the waters with an orchestra, which I won’t cover on.
On here, there is a large booklet featuring photos of the band and the original tapes also. With liner notes done by Chris Welch which included interviews with the band and Jakko Jakszyk who did the 5.1 mix, its almost like a stepping into a time machine and revisiting the memories of the band that would never back down despite the criticism.
The 5.1 and New Stereo Mixes that Jakko has done on here, is magnificent and I can hear material on the original album that were buried and hidden on here, come to life and in front as if my eyebrows went up and can’t believe what I was hearing. The great thing about the Super Deluxe Edition set is that included are both the original album, alternate versions and b-sides along with the NME Flexidisc experts, and the new stereo mix, shows that they don’t want to rewrite history, but staying true to the original and never letting go of the past.
The opening fanfare of their take of William Blake’s hymn and Hubert Harry’s music of Jerusalem which it was banned by the BBC for being blasphemous, makes it a perfect introduction featuring Keith’s organ and synths, Carl’s militant turn dynamic drum work along with tubular bells followed by Greg’s amazing vocals, sets the tone on what’s to come. You could tell the band can push the envelope on handling one of Blake’s hymns and would have given the master himself a big stamp of approval of their take of his hymn.
Toccata is an eruptive yet blistering adventure on another take of Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera’s 1st Piano Concerto in the Fourth movement, is where the band are in ramming speed. Both Keith and Carl are on fire on this using the Moog’s and Electronic drum kit with synthesized effects to use in different bars in the percussion section in where Palmer himself that have a haywire effect that would make listener’s jump on the electronic sounds.
Then the band take a break and go into a soothing and relaxing yet romantic ballad from Greg Lake as his shares his vocal touches on the acoustic wonders with Still You Turn Me On and the wah-wah sounds to give it a psychedelic vibration while they get into the Ragtime movement. The band also has this excellent sense of humor with Benny the Bouncer.
Greg’s cockney accent, Keith’s homage to Scott Joplin, and Carl using the brushing sounds on the drums followed by a bar room brawl with glass breaking and you can imagine the scenery of drag-out knock down fight inside the bar as the band keeps on going. But also, it has a 1920s feel that makes you feel right at home that the band wished they had recorded in that time period and have your feet tapping for more.
Then, we come to the epic of all epics of the 30-minute suite of Karn Evil 9. This is where ELP deliver the real goods to us in their masterpiece of a setting in a parallel dystopian universe where the Machines have taken over the human race and it takes place inside a carnival as we are witnessing a battle between good and evil. And I won’t go into further detail on spoilers, but this is such a brilliant epic to get your seatbelt ready for that almost a movie inside your head on what is happening in the story.
Alongside the 3-CDs, the 2-DVDs and the sixth being the original Vinyl LP, is a treat. The fourth DVD features both the original and 5.1/new stereo mix and the fifth DVD is a documentary along with a gallery which features memorabilia slide show. And the Manticore Special that originally appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in which the band was doing a European tour in 1973 at the time they were promoting the album.
Brain Salad Surgery is the album along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, refusing to die. The stereo remix is spectacular and it deserved to be cleaned up and Jakko has done an amazing accomplishment on what he did. So if you are ready to head back into the Carnival for the show that will never end, this Super Deluxe Edition is a must have and recommended for any Prog and ELP fan to delve into.