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


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 896 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 3.5 Stars - ELP's 1972 release, PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION is an odd beast, a live recording doubling as a studio album. This album is split up from a recording of their Pictures at an Exhibition Suite, a 35-minute piece of music that they had been playing live since their inception in 1970. This actual recording comes from Newcastle, in March, 1971. "Pictures at an Exhibition" is a mixture of adaptation of the Russian composer Mussorgsky's work, as well as a few originals. This is typical ELP classical-rock fusion.loud, bombastic and synthesized.but incredibly fun. As oppose to other ELP albums which give each band member room to shine, this one serves mainly as a showcase for Emerson's keyboards an Synthesizers, although Lake and Palmer turn in respectable performances on these short but quirky live pieces. You really get a feeling of what a powerful act ELP were in their heyday. Every piece, no matter the quality, bristles with energy and power. The crowd eats it up, and is absolutely delighted by Emerson's antics.

The album opens with the graceful organ work of Emerson on the stately "Promenade", a chilling Mussorgsky adaptation which is repeated three times throughout the show. This immediately segues into "The Gnome", which features annoying synth mayhem from Emerson but brilliant drumming from the sadly overshadowed Carl Palmer. We then get a repetition of "Promenade", this time with rather silly lyrics from Greg Lake. The piece works much better as an instrumental. "The Sage" is Greg Lake's one spot to shine, and he seizes on it. "The Sage" is one of the best ballads of his career, and is usually forgotten against the likes of "Still You Turn Me On, etc". "The Sage" also has some of his best lyrics, a weak point for Lake. This gentle and delightful acoustic piece gives way to more Keith Emerson Moogs in "the Old Castle" which are just annoying and don't really go anywhere. Side 1 closes with "Blues Variation", a wonderful instrumental with great drumming and keyboards, which is expected. Again, we hear barely anything from Lake.

Side 2, (the much better of the two sides) opens with a restatement of "Promenade" in much more violent fashion the restrained beauty of the first two. The next piece, "The Hut of Baba Yaga" is a short (1:12) and energetic instrumental, and is much more melodic than the others, mainly because it sticks solely to the Mussorgsky without co-writing credits from Palmer or Emerson. This leads into "The Curse of Baba Yaga" which is very much a more traditional ELP track with Lake's vocals and more of a rock structure, and is quite enjoyable. We then have an enjoyable, but unnecessary repetition of "The Hut of Baba Yaga", before the album's crowing achievement, "The Great Gates of Kiev". By the title alone, one can tell this will be a wonderful track. And it is. Childish Lake lyrics aside, this anthem like piece is one of the most emotionally touching ELP tracks ever put to record. It is a hard song to describe, but is features very restrained organ work from Emerson, and incredibly impassioned vocals from Lake. The song breaks down in the middle for a synthesized-chaos solo from Emerson before returning to the stately Grandeur of Lake's voice. The album closes with a rearrangement of the Kim Fowley piece, "Nutrocker", which is fun, but is a huge let down after the emotional release of "the Great Gates. (Note: The drum solo in "Nutrocker" is everything a drum solo should be - short!).

While time has not been kind to this album, or ELP for that matter, one must keep one thing in mind while listening to this album. Have fun. It is not as monumental as BRAIN SALAD SURGERY or their debut, but it's a very fun work that most will enjoy, due to the fact that its brilliant musician's kicking loose and having fun themselves. This album is very enjoyable, but is much weaker than their other releases in my opinion. I like it a lot, but can recognize these weaknesses, such as the monotony of the synths and lack of strong lyrics. Recommended to any fan of ELP, classical-rock on the violent side, or the power of progressive rock in the early 1970s - This was an album that would go nowhere now - nothing has been made quite like, before or since - 3.5 Stars.

NetsNJFan | 4/5 |


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