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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 | 691 ratings

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resurrection
3 stars PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

I feel I should like Emerson Lake & Palmer. The pedigree of all three musicians is unquestionable, they were all members of fine bands. Yet listening to them as a unit, I can't help feeling that The Nice was better. At least that band had some coherence in its strategy of playing classics in a Rock format. There was a kind of irreverence, naivety, and cockiness that retained some charm and charisma. Even then, there was always the suspicion that much of what we were getting was a feast for the eyes, not the ears. Perhaps in ELP, some of this syndrome translated itself to the band members, resulting in a self-consciousness that inhibited any freedom in performance, a facet already something of a problem with anything over-rehearsed and restrictive, the negative side of prog perhaps.

Promenade has nice churchish organ, but is a little pedantic and surprisingly clumsy in delivery.

The Gnome has Crimsonish riffs that make little sense. The synth sounds perfunctory, superficial.

Promenade (vocal) strips back the flesh of the band to show it as a construction hovering between Lake's melodies and meandering jams.

The Sage has slick synth overdubs which sound hopeful but which disappear into yet another of Lake's pretty classical but predictable melodies.

The Old Castle is clever in its use of keyboard sound from the audience point of view, but the piece makes little sense and sounds at times like the Osmonds performing Wild Horses.

Promenade (instrumental 2) reprises the theme for the third time, to no good purpose.

The Hut of Baba Yaga does the band no favours in its title, surely muddled thinking leading to accusations of pretentiousness. The timing is also very suspect. For such a fine technical drummer, Palmer sounds nowhere near powerful enough much of the time on this whole recording.

The Curse of Baba Yaga. Bombast and bluff, lack of real invention or composition.

The Hut of Baba Yaga has better cohesion and playing, showing some possibilities of what the band could be. Emerson suddenly sounds fluent here, though fluffs still occur at the same regular intervals, almost as if there is a fatal flaw in his fingering.

The Great Gates of Kiev. It must be said that Lake's melodies do help in the form of a source of inspiration and genuine structure.

The End, Nut Rocker is quite amateurish, surprisingly so, and the sound the keyboards use doesn't help. In any case, this is a straight filch from 1-2-3(Clouds), who played a rearranged version of this at the Marquee in 1967. But this ELP version is rather corny. Pictures at an exhibition has a wonderful majestic sound to the keyboards, Emerson at his best, more like the days of The Nice. Even the customary fluffs and ponderous nature of the band performance are overcome to a large extent by this imaginative use of layered sound. More of this was required to make this band a serious artistic force, as opposed to a commercial one. But at least they tried. 3 stars.

resurrection | 3/5 |

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