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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 912 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 97

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is the debut live album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and was released in 1972. It was a huge contribution to the popularity of the band. The album was recorded at Newcastle City Hall in North East, England. It was the band's third official release, despite it has been made after their eponymous debut album. Due to management conflicts, the album wasn't released until after "Tarkus", their second album. Their record label didn't want to release this album as a rock album, because they thought that it must be released on their classical music label, instead on their rock label. Thinking that it would lead to poor sales, the group decided not to release it in that moment, waiting for a better chance. However, after the success of "Tarkus", the record label agreed to release it, but as a live album.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is one of the seminal documents of the golden progressive rock era of the 70's, an album that made its way into the musical collections of high-school kids, like me, who never heard anything about the classical composer Modest Mussorgsky, and also knew nothing about the Russian nationalist artist Victor Hartman, whose work was the real inspiration for this Mussorgsky classical composition.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" was a suite written for piano by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. When Mussorgsky was going to an exhibition of paintings at a gallery of art in St. Petersburg of Viktor Hartmann an architect and painter and a great friend of him who had recently died in 1873, he had an idea after visiting it, and soon he decided to pay a tribute and homage to his great friend. So, he chosen ten pictures of his friend, among all exposed, and then he decided to compose a song for each one, uniting by a common theme "Promenade", the various parts of the musical piece.

This band's version of Mussorgsky's beautiful work remains as one of the best examples of a rock version of a classical piece. This wasn't their first treatment of a classical piece. Emerson, had made several previous versions of some other classical pieces with The Nice. But it was the first time he reached a mass audience or get heavy radio play, at least some excerpts. It introduced the notion of "classical rock" to millions of listeners, making the classical music seen from another point of view, becoming to be considered less pretentious and more popular into the public.

With this version of "Pictures At An Exhibition", the band stayed true to the original themes, but played them with the energy, rawness and loudness of rock. However, they also added some self written pieces, like "The Sage" and the energetic jam "Blues Variation". The piece was one of the band's favourites on stage. So, the album was naturally also recorded live. This is the live album that best demonstrates what a tight and powerful unit, Emerson, Lake & Plamer, was on stage. It was also their most moog dominated album, to that point, and Emerson experiments with any sound possible on the instrument. But his organ playing was still the main focus in the music, and especially on the side two, delivering the whole band some of their most raw and energetic playing ever. The album also featured a rather cheesy version of "Nutrocker" which was released as a single. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a wonderful and captivating album that proves the progressive rock still has many interesting boundaries of the 70's that can be explored today.

For many, the Emerson, Lake & Palmer's performance of "Pictures At An Exhibition", in this period of time, will no doubt show the band at the peak of their powers. It's not hard to see why. This progressive rock super group at this stage in their career were about to prove to the world that they were the real musical deal. Playing, they certainly could, as their skills were perfectly on display throughout this set, as each part of Mussorgsky's composition contained lengthy solos, especially from Emerson, whose array of Hammond organ, moog synthesizer, piano and clavinet never fails to deeply impress a real listener watchful. We really can say that the man is truly a great gifted artist.

Conclusion: "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a very uncommon and special live album. It's a new album where all the songs are original and which was never initially released as a studio album. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a great album and is also a very special album because it brought many people to the pleasure of the classical music world. So, personally I have no problem with it and I applaud the pioneering and the audacity of this musical adaptation. We may say that "Pictures At An Exhibition" is probably their most accessible musical work and it's probably also the less prestigious album, of which are in general considered their six most important and indispensable musical works. Those works are their first six albums, four studio albums and two live albums. So, "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a difficult album to digest if you aren't used to with the sound of the group or with the classical music. However, believe me. This live album, even after all these years, still remains as a magnum opus of the classic progressive rock era.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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