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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 | 678 ratings

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Raff
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Though I am a long-standing ELP fan, this is my least favourite album of their 'golden years', one I've never really been able to get into. Don't get me wrong: the band's overall performance is fantastic, and the idea of reworking Mussorgsky's celebrated composition is undoubtedly an excellent one, considering the potential of the original (which, incidentally, is one of my all-time favourite classical pieces). However, great as the musicianship is, I have always felt this record was not on a par with ELP's other efforts, such as "Tarkus" or "Trilogy".

Perhaps, "Pictures at an Exhibition" 's main fault in my eyes is that I find it somewhat boring, especially in comparison with its mighty predecessor, "Tarkus", or with the masterpiece that was their debut. The latter contained two classically-inspired tracks, "The Barbarian" and "Knife Edge", which in my opinion are much more successful as reworkings of classical pieces. Here, the instrumentals undoubtedly stand out, while the vocal additions do not sound equally inspired. Though I'm a big fan of Greg Lake's voice, there is something about his singing on this album that just doesn't convince me in full. "The Sage", a Lake original composition, is usually mentioned as one of his best songs - however, I find it not as beautiful and moving as, for instance, his performance on the first half of "Trilogy". As to his singing on "The Great Gate of Kiev", the idea of adding vocals to the majestic closer of the original piece is not in itself bad, but Lake sounds more than a little strained at times, and the whole effect is a bit too pompous for comfort.

That said, the album's real saving grace is Keith Emerson's unbridled keyboard brilliance, especially evident on the record's central section and on closing instrumental track "Nutrocker" (a reworking of Tchaikovsky's famous "Nutcracker Suite"), and perfectly complemented by Carl Palmer's pyrotechnic drumming. As a matter of fact, this album clearly shows how different Emerson's and Lake's personalities and views of music could be.

"Pictures..." is a very short album for contemporary standards, being a little over half an hour. This is not a bad thing in itself, as I think a longer running time would have created even more problems to the band's ability to exploit the initial idea. Lovers of modern renditions of classical pieces will obviously love this one - I give it three stars of merit, but I have to admit this is a record that rarely finds its way into my CD player.

Raff | 3/5 |

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