Brain Tulsa Surgery (Virtuoso 004/005)
Disc 1: Hoedown,
Disc 2: Take A Pebble, Still You Turn Me On, Lucky Man, Piano Improvisation, Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 1, 1st Impression Part 2 incl drum solo, 2nd Impression, 3rd Impression
Brain Tulsa Surgery is the first ELP release on the new Virtuoso label and contains a relatively new audience recording. The March 7th Tulsa show was a month before their famous co-headlining appearance at the California Jam on April 6th. it is commonly believe that this show is the source for “Hoedown,” “Still, You Turn Me On,” “Lucky Man,” and “Karn Evil 9” on King Biscuit Flower Hour: Greatest Hits Live, but the 1974 portions of that release are actually from the Anaheim show found on the official triple LP Welcome Back My Friends. The sound quality of this tape is good but distant with minor distortion present. It is an enjoyable tape and once the music heats up the focus is on that instead of any tape imperfections. There are many cuts in the tape starting with the beginning of “Hoedown.” There is a small cut at 10:41 in “Aquatarkus” and thereafter a cut between each of the remaining songs. The cut before “Take A Pebble” cuts out the opening notes, the cut after “Lucky Man” eliminates the very beginning of the piano improvisation and the cut before “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression” loses the opening fugue and begins right when the vocals start. There is a cut at 8:47 by the end of “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2” followed by another cut at the start of “Karn Evil 9 2nd Impression” cutting out the opening notes. At 2:44 in “Karn Evil 9 2nd Impression” there is a small cut. The tape cuts out right when the organ explodes at the end of “Karn Evil 9, 3rd Impression.” It sounds like the person didn’t have enough tape for the “Pictures At An Exhibition” encore. Although this is an impressive list of cuts, most of them lost either no or very little music and the majority of the numbers of the show are present.
“We’re gonna give you a little Brain Salad Surgery now. We start off with ‘Jerusalem’ and moving into an adaptation of Ginastera’s first piano concerto ‘Toccata’ featuring Carl Palmer and his synthesized percussion there.” These are the first two songs off of the new album and are a strange pairing. The stately “Jerusalem” is finely paced and Greg Lake’s vocals, especially when he sings “and nor will my sword sleep in my hand,” sends shivers down the spine. It is a shame he didn’t personally care for the song. “Toccata” features an effective use of the Hammond organ while Palmer creates his synthesized cacophony that bounces off the walls of the Civic Center. “Tarkus” is introduced as a “fantasy.” Virtuoso track the latter half “Aquatarkus” separately, but the song lasts more than a half hour. The opening sections of the piece are played deliberately and are drawn out until “Iconoclast.” Emerson lowers the volume of the keyboards at the beginning of “Battlefield” and that section ends with the quote from “Epitaph.” Normally the audience would applaud this reference to the Crimson classic, but Tulsa either does not recognize it or reserve applause to the end of the section. “Aquatarkus” is the section of the piece that normally received the bulk of the improvisations and was responsible for its increased length in concert performance. Emerson’s moog figures fit smoothly over the thunderous rhythm section as he quotes “Norwegian Wood” and returns to the main theme from “Eruption.”
“Benny The Bouncer” is introduced as “something with the Cockney vernacular” and this, followed by “Jeremy Bender,” are a nice and melodic contrast to the previous epic. The first half of the second disc is Lake’s turn in the set with a fantastic vocal performance in “Take A Pebble.” “Still You Turn Me On” is from the latest album and even though the lyrics are rather silly still sounds beautiful in this recording, as does “Lucky Man.” Emerson sometimes joined in on piano but in Tulsa the hit is performed completely solo. The piano improvisation is thirteen minutes long. This had been a feature of ELP’s set for many years and is a bit strange. The first half is Emerson doodling around on the grand piano before it turns into a free form jazz piece. Since it isn’t attached to anything else it always seemed a bit self-indulgent. The tape closes with a thirty minute version of “Karn Evil 9.” This was the new epic that was only played in its complete form on the Brain Salad Surgery tours. Although it has a passing thematic nod to their older epic “Tarkus,” musically it is much more diverse beginning with the opening baroque fugue. “1st Impression Part 2” is one of the most famous pieces written by ELP and it also contains Palmer’s second drum solo of the night (although it is his first on normal drums.) The “2nd Impression” is a tight jazz piece and the latter sections feature Caribbean drums on the moog and a formal Elgardian theme leading into the dramatic, closing of the piece and the explosion on stage. The playing in so hot in this show that it makes one miss the “Pictures At An Exhibition” encore and we can only wonder what Emerson did there. Brain Tulsa Surgery is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with glossy inserts and is limited to three hundred copies. As imperfect as this good sounding audience recording is, it is a fantastic document worth having. (GS)