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Brain Salad Surgery
Image © 2000 Rhino Records 

(13 January 2001) While Musical Discoveries normally features music with female vocalists, ELP's Brain Salad Surgery is probably one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever made. The new DVD Audio version (Rhino Records (USA) R9 75980, 2000) of the album is nothing short of spectacular and must not be overlooked.

Three versions of the album exist on the DVD. The first is a brand new 5.1 surround remix that will play on any DVD player. The second contains advanced resolution multichannel surround mixes while the third version is the original stereo mix presented in 24 bit 96 MHz advanced audio resolution. Since a DVD Audio player is needed for the latter two versions we have reviewed the 5.1 surround mix since it is compatible with all DVD players. The remix was produced by John Kellogg; it was engineered and mixed by Paul Klingberg using the original master tapes.

The DVD opens with "Jerusalem" a beautiful reworking of the traditional hymn in the grand epic style that ELP is known for. "Toccata," an adaptation of the 4th Movement of Ginastera's Piano Concerto, features an impressive percussion movement from Carl Palmer and a stunning arrangement by Keith Emerson. Alberto Ginastera once said, "Keith Emerson has beautifully caught the mood of my piece". On this DVD Audio the sound is so clear that the piano parts actually sound like you're in the studio with the band. The Next track, "Still ... You Turn Me On," is a gorgeous Greg Lake ballad that sounds much warmer and fuller on this release. Lake's vocals and acoustic guitar are brought up much more in the mix and the results make the standard CD version pale by comparison. "Benny the Bouncer" is a cute vaudevillian number and features some fine honkey tonk piano by Keith.

"Karn Evil 9" is a three-part suite that features lyrical contributions by Peter Sinfield (of King Crimson heritage). "1st Impression—Part 1" features some of the best progressive keyboard work ever recorded. Emerson's use of the Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer along with Carl's syncopated drum work and Greg Lake's superb bass, lead guitar and vocals create such an excitement one can listen to it again and again and never tire of its sheer musical excellence.

"1st Impression—Part 2" is probably the most popular track by ELP with the classic line "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends." This track f eatures the classic fat Moog synth sound that Keith Emerson pioneered along with one of the best Hammond organ solo's ever recorded. This is ELP at their absolute finest. "2nd Impression" showcases Keith and Carl in a jazz setting. Excellent brushwork by Carl along with pristine piano parts by Keith highlight this section. The piece concludes with "3rd Impression," another Sinfield lyrical contribution, which brings the epic full circle. It paints a vivid picture of battle with aggressive solos and great synth effects. "Lucky Man" from the band's self-titled debut album is included as a bonus track.

DVD Audio player owners will also find four short video tracks available.

This album is a true masterpiece of Progressive rock and has something for everyone on it. The lovely 20-page booklet that accompanies the DVD includes photos and insightful notes on the "making of" by Jerry McCulley. You can order Brain Salad Surgery on DVD Audio from amazon.com here. The DVD audio remix brings unrivaled clarity to the sound and you won't believe this album was originally recorded almost 30 years ago. Kudos to the folks at Rhino for going through the painstaking process of remixing this entire DVD from the original multi track master tapes. The astonishing results are certainly worth a transatlantic journey—a must listen! —Scott Bassin and Russ Elliot

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