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

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.84 | 655 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Modest Mussorgsky's most celebrated work is given the ELP treatment on this fine live album. What's perhaps most amazing is that the 1970s (and progressive rock) had barely gotten going, and here three English fellows were already pushing artistic boundaries- and doing it live. Keith Emerson's organ and Moog synthesizers almost possess a stage of their own- for the most part, this is his show. Despite that, Carl Palmer's drumming is top notch and vital, lending the music a menacing vitality, even when adding subtle cymbals to the music. Greg Lake's bass shares that important role, filling out the bottom end with more treble than one is accustomed to hearing from him, but his voice is usually soft and pleasant when he does sing, particularly performing his added lyrics to "Promenade." While not a constituent of Mussorgsky's original, "The Sage" was always a great highlight for me; even though it is essentially a Lake solo spot, it features some exquisite acoustic guitar work and plaintively mystical vocals. Emerson gets really cranked up on "The Old Castle," letting it rip on his Moog and subjecting the listener to that ear-piercing dentist's drill sound. The part of that short piece when the other two members come is highly enjoyable, and leads in nicely to the organ soloing of "Blues Variation," which likely was also not a part of the Mussorgsky original. After the "Promenade" theme is repeated for a third and final time, the most frenetic and powerful half of the performance begins. "The Hut of Baba Yaga" is a very creative rendition of the classical piece, and "The Curse of Baba Yaga" has a great bass groove and some wild keyboard work, similar to what would be done on "Karn Evil 9." Lake's vocals are no longer unassuming; rather, they fit the frenzy of the music. "The Hut of Baba Yaga" returns with even more vigor, and is the absolute perfect way to bring in the climactic "The Great Greats of Kiev." Lake sings his words with a great deal of presence, and could possibly fool someone into believing the lyrics were actually a part of the original. "The Great Gates of Kiev" is the finale, and is the most exciting part of the album, but it loses its force when heard apart from everything that came prior, especially the suspenseful friction of "The Hut of Baba Yaga." Lake's final few lines are an uplifting and exciting way to end this incredible album, but it seems that due to length, the band had to give us "some more music." They do so with "The Nutrocker," a four-and-a-half minute clavinet-based cover of a number one single by B. Bumble and the Stingers, which itself is based on Tchaikovsky's "The March of the Wooden Soldiers" from The Nutcracker Suite.
Epignosis | 4/5 |

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