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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 | 699 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Emerson, Lake & Palmer always had some sort of classical piece on all of their albums. There was The Barbarian on the debut, Toccata on Brain Salad Surgery, Hoedown on Trilogy, but this album takes those classical leanings and takes them into entirely different avenues. One of their earliest pieces that they were performing was an adaptation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The earliest noted performance of this epic piece was at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. In 1972, they decided to release a live album dedicated to this composition, and they really let loose on it (although still staying within the rigid classical structure). Greg Lake's lyrics on this album are a bit mystical, a bit farfetched, but they come off well with the music, Emerson performs the music with ease and skill, and Palmer keeps the band together with precise and dynamic drumming.

Now the piece itself can be viewed as one single song spread out over two sides of vinyl, so I'll review it in such a manner. Side one opens with a Promenade from Emerson, which introduces the main theme of the song. Throughout the entire piece there are many Promenades. The Gnome is a Carl Palmer led piece, with his lush and well timed drumming giving the whole piece a start stop feel. Expect from the rest of the first side a nice balance of mainly instrumental and vocal pieces, all utilizing the expert skills of the band members. Soaring synthesizers, punchy organs, they are all there. One of my favorite pieces on the whole album is The Sage. An acoustic tune, thanks to the guitar stylings of Greg Lake. His passionate vocals are complemented by the nice guitar arpeggios. Also hints of In the Court of the Crimson King can be heard in the guitar line towards the end of the song. One of the only ELP written tracks on the album is the Blues Variation, and if you can call that the blues, then ELP's version of the blues is manic and very out of place when compared to actual blues.

The second half of the album features some interesting, but forgettable, pieces. The most notable piece on this second side is the finale to the album, the Nutrocker (which has nothing to do with the song Pictures at an Exhibition), which is a rockier version of the old song from The Nutcracker (if you couldn't already derive that from the song title). But there are some interesting sections in the pieces before it. The Great Gates of Kiev is an interesting piece that has some nice synthesizer lines and organ riffs from Emerson, and The Curse of Baba Yaga features an interesting bass performance from Lake.

In the end, Pictures at an Exhibition is an interesting piece, but it can get slow very fast and sometimes you'll wish you are listening to something else. It's a good listen, but nothing I would call extraordinary. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |

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