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

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 957 ratings

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The Mentalist
4 stars This album constantly tops the "worst album ever" poles that periodically spring up out of now where. Generations raised on Punk rock and corporate musak, and who have swallowed, hook line and sinker, the post punk dictum that says, unequivocally, "progressive rock is bad" have no idea what they're missing out on. This album has more aggression; raw energy, arrogance and "fuck you" attitude than the whole punk movement put together. What could be more anti-establishment; more subversive than taking the hallowed Musssorsky's 'Pictures at an exhibition' and defacing it in the name of Rock 'n' Roll. ELP were young hoodlums! But the main difference between them and any number of punk rock bands is that ELP were extremely talented hoodlums, but hoodlums, nay, vandals, nonetheless. One other thing the anti-prog generation is missing out on is the simple fact that this music can be, and is, FUN. They're the ones being pompous by taking things way to seriously, not ELP. As for the music: well, I'm not a big fan of Mussorsky, and I'm even less of a fan of Ravel's rather spineless orchestration of 'Pictures at an exhibition'. (strange, seeing as Ravel was undeniably one of the greatest orchestrators of the 20th century) I much prefer Mussorsky's original piano score to Ravel's orchestrated version. I can't help feel that Stravinsky or Bartok would have done a better job than Ravel. Emerson's treatment of the music is born out of an obvious love and thorough understanding of it - -he plays the opening 'Promanade' exactly as written. The only difference is that he plays it on organ rather than piano. So in that respect it's closer to Mussorsky's original intentions than the Ravel orchestration. However, this is obviously a deliberate ploy on Emerson's part: it's as if he's saying "here's the way it's meant to sound. . ." For after such a faithful introduction all hell breaks loose. The energy expenditure on this album is enough to power a large town for a year. The playing is dynamic to say the least. This has to be Carl Palmer's finest hour: his playing is technically stunning yet uninhibitedly animalistic, on this album he's everything a great rock drummer should be. The same description can be applied to Emerson's playing. He plays with a precision and intensity that few musicians have ever equalled. Okay, the lyrics aren't that great, but I wouldn't call them pretentious; bad, yes, pretentious, no. Funnily enough, the highlight for me is the 'Blues Variations' which strictly speaking isn't a Mussorsky composition. The main theme, played on the Hammond, is a variation on a theme from one of the movements omitted by Emerson, hence the title. The track starts with the greatest moog solo in the history of moog soloing. Next comes the forementioned Hammond theme which acts as a springboard to propel the band into an exhilarating Hammond workout. This is a wonderful composition, one of the great ELP moments. Listening to this album again 30 + years after it was recorded, I can't help but feel that it's been done a great disservice , as have ELP. All the negative associations attributed to ELP and their music, most of them formed out of ignorance, stupidity and most importantly, malice, have shaped the way the present generation view ELP and the progressive rock movement in general. This fake history still holds sway, and flies in the face of all the facts. ELP's 'Pictures at an exhibition' is still as exciting, entertaining, and inventive as it's always been. All one has to do to experience it in the spirit in which it was created is to brush aside the years of accumulated garbage that's been piled on top of it, and in one fell swoop reclaim music history as factual documentation, as opposed to music history as viewed through a veil of post punk distortion and agenda- ridden, anti-music propaganda. P.S. This album isn't nearly as futuristic as 'Brain Salad Surgery' but is more futuristic than 'Love Beach'.
The Mentalist | 4/5 |

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