“Welcome, my friends, to the songs that never end…”
And speaking of 27 minute keyboard solos…
So I’m making my monthly rounds of the thrift stores the other day and I’m comin’ up empty. The shelves this time ‘round are absolutely devoid of taste, unless Clay Aiken and the original soundtrack to The Phantom Menace are your thing. The last store I went to had 2 CD’s that caught my eye, however. They were by…wait for it….Emerson Lake and Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery and Tarkus. From what I’ve read they are simultaneously the most revered and the most reviled albums in the history of rock and roll, and even though I’ve a soft spot for some proggy epics I have never, ever had a hankerin’ to put on my head cans and spin me some ELP for 45 minutes.
For some reason or another I have come to associate ELP with Viv Savage from Spinal Tap and men wearing capes and prophetic robes on stage while their audience bobs their collective heads in the form of the infinity symbol. Never been my cup of tea. I was feeling in a particularly experimental mood, however, and it was only a couple of bucks, so I took the plunge to see, or hear…if nothing else…there was some redeeming quality about these albums that I could latch on to.
Ok, so the positives: all three of these guys are seriously good musicians. The “Tarkus” Medley—all 21 minutes of it—is pretty coherent, and mostly kept my interest. The cover for Brain Salad Surgery is pretty cool, as I’ve always been an HR Giger fan. Karn Evil 9 (get it?)—all 29 minutes of it—has its moments.
But overall the majority of these two albums are wank-fests of the highest order, and I mean that literally. The music of ELP is the aural equivalent of masturbation, except it goes on far longer than the act itself.
I still love that cover, though.