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

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.83 | 685 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars During the time that Palmer was starting to make up his mind to accept his commitment in the ELP project initiated by his fellow partners, the idea of making a prog rock version of some parts of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' was already being developed in Emerson's mind. The gig that was recorded for this edition took place in March 1971, soon after the trio's debut album. They were already very popular in the British scene, and their penchant for explosive magnificence and over-the-top pomposity had found a loyal cult following that seemed to increase every day. So it is no surprise that the audience's enthusiasm is so powerful that it almost equals the intensity of the organ- based heavy metal feast that they were treated with. After listening to this record, always keeping in mind that this stuff was played one year before its official release in vinyl format, you can tell that ELP invented and perfected the sound of keyboard- centered power trio all at once: what Emerson had delivered with The Nice a few years earlier was mostly a prelude to this. Following a series of failed negotiations for its release as a complement for the "Tarkus" album, "Pictures at an Exhibition" was released one year after the actual event, becoming a bigger sales success than its two predecessors - that proved all suspicious music editors wrong, all of them being so positive about "Pictures" being an artistic disaster that would end up burying down ELP's promising career. well, the history of recording industry comprises myriads of examples of lack of vision. Ravel was the one who rearranged this opus, which initially portrayed a most intimate ambience, in order to make it a magnificent as a grand opening: Emerson found this approach closer to home, and so he went away with it counting on his partners' complicity. The result was a catalogue of cohesive performances, fluid interplaying, ballsy challenging between all three musicians, a constant display of individual skill and teamwork. The majestic drive of the first 'Promenade' is an unequivocal prelude to the first exposure of Storm und Drang, 'The Gnome' - the couple of Palmer and Emerson establish a game of counterpoints with Lake's overtly fuzzed bass, until the three together carry the theme onwards to its enigmatic conclusion. The second 'Promenade' brings some air of introspectiveness, soon to be enhanced by the elating acoustic guitar-based ballad 'The Sage', performed by Lake alone: arguably his best composition ever. No sooner does the echo of Lake's last acoustic guitar chord fade away than a new Moog storm appears in the horizon and expands solidly and quickly all over the place: Palmer delivers some drumming tricks, serving as an evil host for the newcomer synthesizer. Once Lake joins them, the fire of 'The Old Castle / Blues Variation' starts to shine in full flame: Emerson uses his Moog and Hammond excursions more as weapons than instruments, weapons of massive destruction against your regular conceptions of rock'n'roll and blues, in order to ultimately state a new order of fiery prog. The bombast not only goes on, but is astoundingly enhanced during all the way toward 'The Great Gates of Kiev'. The third 'Promenade' prepares the path for the explosive sequence of 'The Hut of Baba Yaga' and its climatic reprise, with 'The Curse of Baba Yaga' serving as some sort of pinnacle in the middle. This is real proto-heavy metal: I bet that Judas Priest and Scorpions, together, couldn't match the white-hot fire displayed in 'The Hut' and 'The Curse'. After the concluding climax of the second 'Hut', comes 'The Great Gates of Kiev', which contains the most solemn moments in the opus, and also includes some organ-toying by Emerson (he is a precursor of this, too). The culminating climax generates an enthusiastic response from the audience, but still there's some more fun in store. Their cover of 'Nutrocker' - a jazz variation of a Tchaikovsky theme - is a showcase of ELP's disposition to light things up after an extended, demanding display of serious music. But even their funny moments are not totally trivial: this is Tchaikovsky we are talking about, right? - a master of late 1800's Romanticism, this re- elaborated version of a "Nutcracker" section is yet another example of the trio's interest in exploring the roots of Western chamber music and translate it into a rock context. 5 stars - no less for this masterpiece.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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