Saturday, May 25, 2013

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Karn Evil 9

If you’ve ever seen Emerson, Lake, and Palmer perform live, there is a chance you’ve heard them perform their most popular non-single released song. Opening the second side of their 1973 album, “Brain Salad Surgery,” is “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 2.”

The name “Karn Evil” was a take on the word “Carnival” and the lyrics in the second part of the first movement provided the title for the 1974 album, “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends . . . Ladies and Gentleman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.” This portion of “Karn Evil 9” really capitalizes on a carnival like atmosphere. “Karn Evil 9” in its entirety is about 30 minutes long.

While the live version from 1974 is better known than the 1973 studio release, I was unable to find this particular live recording on YouTube. Be that as it may, ELP wrote and recorded the album “Brain Salad Surgery” for the purpose of being able to play all of the cuts live with minimal difficulty. Following the recording of their previous studio album, “Trilogy,” the band discovered that many of the songs were difficult for a three piece band to play live as overdubbed parts were impossible to recreate.

To prepare for the recording of “Brain Salad Surgery,” the band purchased a theatre so that they could write and practice in a setting that was conducive to a live performance. The effort worked, and while this particular movement of “Karn Evil 9” was never issued as a single, it became the most popular cut from the LP garnering much airplay on album radio.

Atlantic dropped the ball by not issuing “Karn Evil 9” as the single; however, I’m sure the title would have confused the American buying public in knowing what song they wanted to buy. Instead, Atlantic issued the British hymn “Jerusalem” as the single – a song that would have made sense in the UK as the single. Even though the song was ingrained in British society, it was unknown in America – but despite that, it had a moderate showing at #79.

If I were in the A&R Department at Atlantic at the time, I would have picked “Karn Evil 9, Impression 1, Part 2” as and renamed it as “Welcome Back My Friends (Karn Evil 9)” for the single release. That did not happen and we will have to be content that album radio carried the ball on this release giving it the opportunity for those of us in the USA to know this particular ELP classic. “Roll up, Roll up, Roll up; See the show!”

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