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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 896 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Recorded live at Newcastle City Hall on March 26, 1971, this performance of "Pictures At An Exhibition" actually pre-dates "Tarkus". It's typically indulgent fare, replete with synthesizer solos and splattered sounds, a perversion of Modest Mussorgsky's original as seen through ELP's idiomatic eyes and excessive appetite. It does however speak to the heart of progressive rock, which has never been afraid to challenge the accepted masters in its pursuit of meaningful musical art. Of course it's sillier than it has to be, poking fun at their own ambitions with a caricature of classical rock on the closing "Nutrocker", which had some short-lived success as a single backed by the far-superior "The Great Gates of Kiev".

The lyrics are few, but swollen with their own significance save for the pastoral interlude provided by "The Sage". Keith Emerson's keyboards are clearly in control, and the audience wouldn't have it any other way, feeding the keyboardist's egomaniacal fingers even after the ultimately insubstantial solos that constitute "The Old Castle" and "Blues Variations". "Pictures At An Exhibition" is not the first ELP album you need to own, or the second, or the third. Their best work ("Tarkus", "Trilogy", "Brain Salad Surgery") strikes a better balance between the contributions of all three members.

By comparison, "Pictures..." is focused mainly on Emerson, who always seemed a stone's throw from stealing the show anyway. If you enjoy over-the-top classical rock, then maybe you'll agree with some that this is a work of art. Honestly, I've never enjoyed Emerson's classical adaptations on the same level as I have their strictly original work. Using Mussorgsky's masterpiece as a launching point for instrumental jamming is more license than I care to accord ELP, or any rock group for that matter. Had they improved, enhanced or simply shown a soulful understanding of the original work, this might have been an important album. Instead, it's an impish trick played out by some remarkably talented young men whose youthful ambition gets the better of them and their audience.

daveconn | 4/5 |


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