Thursday, 22 May 2014

Brain Salad Surgery Box Set


Well, here it is in all its glory, the BSS mega box set. I haven't managed to work my way through all of it, but concentrated on the main selling point of this box the new mixes. New stereo and 5.1 mixes have been produced by Jakko Jakszyk. Over and above that we get another remaster of the original album, this time by Andy Pearce who was involved in the catalogue when Sony first took over the release of all of ELP's albums. There is a disc of alternative cuts, b-sides and what-nots which are similar to the extras on Universals deluxe edition of a few years back. I think there are just a couple of extra tracks here in comparison. Of course the new stereo and surround mixes are presented in hi resolution on the DVD along with the original mix.

So what of the new mix. Well, the opening track Jerusalem took me by surprise a bit. The vocals are quite different to the original, which was steeped in lots of reverb. Here, Lake's vocals are much cleaner and the presence from verse to verse seems to change as if taken from different takes! Also on Benny the Bouncer there is a guitar refrain near the end of the song which I never heard before. So, to me there are some radical differences here, but the overall impression is a much clearer, detailed mix. I always considered BSS to be very pompous sounding, too flashy maybe! But Jakko's mix gives a more thoughtful and complex feel to the music. In particular Carl Palmer's percussion sounds less showy. Just listen to his brush work on Benny the Bouncer which is very considered and playful or the jazzy complexity of 2nd Impression. These facets seem to have got lost in the original mix, but here they are particularly highlighted.

The packaging is ok, but nothing really special. I had never owned BSS on vinyl before so was really looking forward to having this with the original cut-out, fold-out sleeve which made the original vinyl edition so distinctive. But that is not reproduced here. What you get is the vinyl, credit/lyric poster and DVD video slipped inside one side of a standard gatefold sleeve with the CD's and DVD audio fitted into inserts on the opposite side. Luckily I have a papersleeve CD version of the original sleeve design which Castle produced many years ago, but Sony really have missed an oportunity here.

There are some nice pictures in the booklet and I was pleased to see the front of the Music Scene special which I remember buying back in 1973. Wish I still had that! The notes by Chris Welch are fairly perfunctory, but serve their purpose.

So overall this to me includes the best sounding BSS, whether the original mix or new mix, with all the extras you could hope for. Though I do recall that there was a version of Benny the Bouncer with different lyrics so not sure why that was not included. The packaging is ok, but they should have included the vinyl LP in its original design. With the recent passing of H R Giger, that would have done his original design the justice it deserves. BSS has had many, many re-releases over the years and they never get it right. Here, they nearly have, just not quite!


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