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


Emerson Lake & Palmer

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars The album that showed progressive rock was capable of greatness that approached classical music. ELP astonishingly takes a great classical work and reinterprets it through the genre of rock. This music made me understand why classical music was important. Breathtaking in all of its layered glory. A bit obscure, but at the time, it was almost incomprehensible. You must listen to this at least once in your life.
Report this review (#14247)
Posted Friday, January 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The state of art progressive in the best.Recorded live, this album shows the virtuosism and the genious of this spetacular trio. A must for the progressive / classical fan. The remaster cd contains a studio version of the set.
Report this review (#14248)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is one of (if not the best) of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It is a master piece that Mussorgsky would be very proud of contributing to the basis of this album. This is a demonstration of the group in their most high and glorius moment.
Report this review (#14249)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars As I said elsewhere, I dislike albums from Trace and Ekseption and Ars Longa Vita Brevis or Five Bridge Suite from the Nice for what I find to be useless and pointless reworkings of classical stuff. This album is the exception that confirms that rule but mostly because it is quite a daring and surprising rendition of Mussorgsky's major oeuvre and ranks up there along with Japanese-Real-Synthesizer-Wizzard Isao Tomita's version . Weird and daring idea to put lyrics to this stuff, and it does work in a strange ELP way. The end piece is a spoof/poke at Tchaikovsky Nut-Cracker and is also a pleaser. However this album usually takes a lot of heat from ELPheads but also with many people into classical music. I personally applaud the audacity of this adaptation.

Well done , boys.

Report this review (#14253)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I special ordered this album with my paper route money when I was twelve. I don't love it quite as much thirty years later as I did then, but it has its moments (like the delightfully cheesy organ riff on "The Old Castle") that have never managed to work their way out of my head. Not one of ELP's greatest albums, but responsible for introducing legions of adolescent stoners like me to the glorious work of Modest Petrovich Musorgskii.
Report this review (#14254)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Picture perfect

It's funny how things tend to get forgotten, and history re-written with the passing of time. The reason this album enjoyed the success it did, was because it was cheap! Island Records released a number of mainly live albums around the same time on a budget label, priced well below the normal cost of a full priced LP (King Crimson's "Earthbound" was another "HELP" release, together with Colosseum's "Valentine Suite"). That is not to say it's not a great album, but the marketing strategy succeeded in introducing many more people to ELP than might otherwise have been prepared to dip their toes in the water.

The album itself is a loose interpretation of Mussorgsky's classical piece of the same name. Whether the composer would recognise much of his composition beyond the distinctive theme of "Promenade" is doubtful, but I'm sure he would have enjoyed ELP's interpretation nonetheless (more so than the rather dull electronic version by Tomita).

The album stands up as a complete piece, with individual sections such as "The Old Castle" and "Blues Variation" sounding great on their own. "The sage" is a beautiful solo section by Greg Lake consisting only of acoustic guitar and vocal. "Blues variation", a band composition, is a rip roaring instrumental piece which allows Emerson to demonstrate his keyboard skills. There are vocal sections at various points in the performance, Greg Lake's lyrics being suitably mystical and profound. They climax with the quasi-religious "there's no end to my life, no beginning to my death, death is life!".

The encore is "Nutrocker", a reworking of an early 60's piano based interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" by B Bumble and the Stingers.

Given how early on in their career as a collective unit this album was put together, it does reflect well their combined talents both for arrangement and performance. This is ELP enjoying themselves, and indeed at their most accessible! (It is also worth listening to the studio version in Dolby Surround of "Pictures.." on the "In the hot seat" album, it sounds great).

Report this review (#14237)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A masterpiece in some circumstances, a bit ingenuous in other ones (listen to the strange adaptation from "The Nutcracker" by Tschaikowsky" for example, which is completely out of the contest) but the impact and the influence too, once again, are enormous.As for this reason the album could be worth "5 stars", that is the maximum score. Nevertheless actually in a very few parts there is a certain discontinuity and the right rate should be a bit inferior, even though this is the most important reference ever, concerning a keyboard oriented trio, and this consideration let me put this album within the 20-30 best progressive album of all time!!


Report this review (#14257)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the progressive rock of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", a classical music work. Many pauses, fast parts, mellow parts, changing rythms. There are moog and organ solos, fast and complex bass, sophisticated drums parts. There are some modifications and additions made by the band. Some parts are maybe a bit repetitive. TOMITA made such a version, entirely made of keyboards, and it is quite more near the classical music, sounding more orchestral, modern and colorful. I think the sound is outdated.
Report this review (#14236)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Emerson, Lake & Palmer shamelessly hack their way through a classic work by Russian composer and member of the elite "Nationalist Five" group Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky. Mussorgsky originally penned this piece for piano in 1874 and it has since appeared in 6 various forms and interpretations including the ELP intrusion which was the first to include voice. The inspiration for the piece came from a collection of drawings and watercolours made by a friend of Mussorgsky`s and the piece stirred up a bit of controversy at the time with critics because the Impressionistic techniques used in the artwork did not conform to the stylings of the period.

For serious listeners who want to hear how the piece should be played in it`s orchestral form should first of all consult an excellent 1986 recording made by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra on Duetsch Grammaphon with the great Herbert von Karajan conducting. Once familiar with the piece, one will nevertheless be unprepared for the carnage which is to occur on the ELP desecration of this work. Keith Emerson was no stranger to slicing and dicing classic works and otherwise by the time this abomination was recorded in late 1971. In his previous band, the Nice, he assaulted work by the likes of Mozart and more notoriously Leonard Berstein`s "America". During a performance at The Royal Albert Hall the American flag was burned while this piece was being performed which resulted in the band being barred and Bernstein taking unsuccessful legal action in order to prevent the band`s version of his work from being released in the United States.

Apart from the introductory theme, "Promenade" this unusual interpretation of Pictures At An Exhibition has very little to do with Mussogsky`s initial intensions for the piece although Emerson manages to demonstrate, in a very devastating manner, his awareness of earlier renditions of what was a magnificent piece of music before he got his claws on it. If one were to ask the question, does Emerson do the piece any justice?The answer would be no. Was it really neccessary for three young musicians in 1971 to present such a work in a rock context to an audience who would not even appreciate the piece for what it really was? No. ELP did it because they had the audacity to do so and because they could. They had the technology. The early 70`s as far as the rock world was concerned was an age of innovation and ELP were no exception to the rule except in the fact that they took everything a little bit beyond convention. By 1975 they were touring the planet with 30 tons of equipment which required over 25 tractor trailer trucks to haul with their names EMERSON,LAKE & PALMER inscribed on the roofs in massive lettering. These guys even wanted the aliens to know about them!

Greg Lake had also firmly established himself as a romantic balladeer with such compositions as Lucky Man and I Talk To The Wind with King Crimson. Ironically, some of the most dauntingly beautiful voicings are heard from him here in between Emerson`s antics which include doing the Hendrix thing on his Hammond organ conjuring up resplendent feedback and other electronic effects. Drummer Carl Palmer really shines and gives the band a very tight feel to it and even makes writing contributions. If we ignore the fact that a classical work is literally being mutilated by 3 young English musicians in front of a live audience we can marvel in the wonderful contrasts and impressions contained throughout. This album goes through all the motions from outright noise to melodic beauty. It ends majestically with Lake`s take on The Great Gates of Kiev.The bloodthirsty crowd sadistically cheers for an encore of more classical butchery and since Emerson has already unofficially declared open season on Russian composers the cull continues with an upbeat variation on Tchaichovsky`s Nutcracker appropriately entitled The Nutrocker.

In terms of technical sound quality the album is dated and the best effect of this work would be garnered from a vinyl edition. But most of all this album is an essential component of any collection which seeks to encompass all aspects of the progressive rock movement even if it might not be representitive of most of ELP's work.

Report this review (#14238)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Recorded live at Newcastle City Hall on March 26, 1971, this performance of "Pictures At An Exhibition" actually pre-dates "Tarkus". It's typically indulgent fare, replete with synthesizer solos and splattered sounds, a perversion of Modest Mussorgsky's original as seen through ELP's idiomatic eyes and excessive appetite. It does however speak to the heart of progressive rock, which has never been afraid to challenge the accepted masters in its pursuit of meaningful musical art. Of course it's sillier than it has to be, poking fun at their own ambitions with a caricature of classical rock on the closing "Nutrocker", which had some short-lived success as a single backed by the far-superior "The Great Gates of Kiev".

The lyrics are few, but swollen with their own significance save for the pastoral interlude provided by "The Sage". Keith Emerson's keyboards are clearly in control, and the audience wouldn't have it any other way, feeding the keyboardist's egomaniacal fingers even after the ultimately insubstantial solos that constitute "The Old Castle" and "Blues Variations". "Pictures At An Exhibition" is not the first ELP album you need to own, or the second, or the third. Their best work ("Tarkus", "Trilogy", "Brain Salad Surgery") strikes a better balance between the contributions of all three members.

By comparison, "Pictures..." is focused mainly on Emerson, who always seemed a stone's throw from stealing the show anyway. If you enjoy over-the-top classical rock, then maybe you'll agree with some that this is a work of art. Honestly, I've never enjoyed Emerson's classical adaptations on the same level as I have their strictly original work. Using Mussorgsky's masterpiece as a launching point for instrumental jamming is more license than I care to accord ELP, or any rock group for that matter. Had they improved, enhanced or simply shown a soulful understanding of the original work, this might have been an important album. Instead, it's an impish trick played out by some remarkably talented young men whose youthful ambition gets the better of them and their audience.

Report this review (#14251)
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars ELP, playing live this famous Mussorgsky theme, made one of their most important live performances. Although necessarily much polarized on Keith's keyboards, neverthless Lake & Palmer do their nice partnership especially on Greg's acoustic side for the beautiful ballad "The sage", still today the best effort (vocally and instrumentally speaking) from one of the finest English musician ever. The classical Mussorsgky's themes are really arranged "to the bone" for what is concerning the various sections, however the sound results dark & charming, essential and complete at the same time. Reviewer Ian Gledhill, as I read, may not agree, but I think ELP rendered a good cover of the original work, intentionally free from every need to be faithful w.r.t. the original scorch of the Russian composer, inserting new vocal parts which really fit well. "Blues variation" features nice keys work and superb bass lines (Lake is a superb bassist, fast & creative) while the majestic "Great Gates of Kiev" still makes me cry. The only bad note is relevant to the "End nutrocker" , which is really nothing else than a joke. ELP confirmed on 1971 to be a great pop group, with a pleasant attitude to rock, differently from their pop scene colleagues, who were taking themselves too seriously to rock.
Report this review (#14260)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
3 stars Mr Emerson continues to rock up the classics and doing an invaluable service to the serious music repertoise by making some of us go back and listen to the originals. Here the piece to undergo a major strip down and rework is "Pictures" based on Ravel's transcription of Mussorgsky solo piano composition. The pyrotechnics are there to thrill, Mr Lake add some lyrics and it is fun. Recently Wendy Carlos, the other great Moog synth user of the period, revealed in the liner notes of a 4 CD set of her earlier recordings, that she had started work on "Pictures" as a follow up to the "Switched On Bach" recordings. Then heard that Keith Emerson had stolen in first, and so felt forced to abandon that project - a pity because I imagine Carlos would have produced something very different for the synth.

With hindsight, I must admit I'm increasingly finding this to be an album of its time. That personal feeling has further developed, after I discovered the much more obscure Mekon Delta's "Pictures" arranged for drums, bass and guitar. Less flash and personally a more satisfying interpretation.

Report this review (#14261)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars You need courage and an over dimensioned ego to attempt recreating a Mussorgsky masterpiece as "Pictures at an Exhibition", well Emerson, Lake and Palmer have both, and they even go further than most of the musicians who adapt classics to rock because they accepted to do it entirely on stage instead of using a controlled environment as a studio.

Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer move like fishs in the water with Mussorgsky's music, because the late Romantic/early Modern Russian classical period is an evident influence in all their works (just check Palmer's "The Enemy God Dances With The Black Spirits" which is an excerpt from "The Scythian Suite" 2nd Movement by Serge Prokofiev or Piano Concerto N° 1 by Keith Emerson with a clear Rachmaninoff aroma).

By his side Greg Lake softens the aggressive and cold instrumentation with his warm vocals and powerful voice.

There are two critics I always listen about this album:

- The composition itself is totally different to the original piece: True, but IMHO covers must not be played like the author did it because it would be a simple copy or interpretation, the adapter must recreate the whole work adding something of their own inspiration, and that's what ELP does.

- Emerson goes too far with his keyboards: Again true, but isn't progressive Rock exactly about that? An artistic boundary is made to be broken and ELP did it in front of an audience that probably never heard the original piece before.

"Pictures at an Exhibition" is not an album to be listened every day, but each time I pllay it only want to thank the trio for having the audacity to do it in 1971 when Prog' Rock was still young, showing the way to other musicians who were afraid of crossing some limits.

A special mention for Nutrocker, an adaptation of another adaptation by Kim Fowley from B. Bumble & the Stingers, not a masterpiece but is a good closer because rises the audience that had to be shocked back in 1971 after something so unique.

I used to give 5 stars to this album, but Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery are incredibly better than this one, so four stars woould be ok.

Report this review (#14252)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've always had a problem with this album even as an ELP fan.It just fails to 'do it' as far as I'm concerned.Palmer's drumming is great (isn't it always??) but Emerson seems lacking in the creativeness that I expect from him.Too many of his keyboard parts here seem underdeveloped.My feeling is that he was to worried about making a mistake or perhaps he didn't want it to run over a certain predetermined time as it was being recorded.Greg Lake has little to do other than play bass and sing The Sage.At least you do get the bonus track 'Nutrocker' which is great fun and far better than anything else here.
Report this review (#14255)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love this album. From Mussorgsky's point of view it may sound as if made by savages, but who cares. There are a lot of high moments on this record. It is very conceptual in musical way, it really sounds like one piece of music. Musicianship is superb. Lake's Sage is a brilliant stylisation of a Russian romance of 19th century. Emerson plays magnificently on Old Castle/Blues Variations. Baba Yaga's piece is very moody and theatrical in a good way. And final Nutrocker is a good joke. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#14262)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album constantly tops the "worst album ever" poles that periodically spring up out of now where. Generations raised on Punk rock and corporate musak, and who have swallowed, hook line and sinker, the post punk dictum that says, unequivocally, "progressive rock is bad" have no idea what they're missing out on. This album has more aggression; raw energy, arrogance and "[%*!#] you" attitude than the whole punk movement put together. What could be more anti-establishment; more subversive than taking the hallowed Musssorsky's 'Pictures at an exhibition' and defacing it in the name of Rock 'n' Roll. ELP were young hoodlums! But the main difference between them and any number of punk rock bands is that ELP were extremely talented hoodlums, but hoodlums, nay, vandals, nonetheless. One other thing the anti-prog generation is missing out on is the simple fact that this music can be, and is, FUN. They're the ones being pompous by taking things way to seriously, not ELP. As for the music: well, I'm not a big fan of Mussorsky, and I'm even less of a fan of Ravel's rather spineless orchestration of 'Pictures at an exhibition'. (strange, seeing as Ravel was undeniably one of the greatest orchestrators of the 20th century) I much prefer Mussorsky's original piano score to Ravel's orchestrated version. I can't help feel that Stravinsky or Bartok would have done a better job than Ravel. Emerson's treatment of the music is born out of an obvious love and thorough understanding of it - -he plays the opening 'Promanade' exactly as written. The only difference is that he plays it on organ rather than piano. So in that respect it's closer to Mussorsky's original intentions than the Ravel orchestration. However, this is obviously a deliberate ploy on Emerson's part: it's as if he's saying "here's the way it's meant to sound. . ." For after such a faithful introduction all hell breaks loose. The energy expenditure on this album is enough to power a large town for a year. The playing is dynamic to say the least. This has to be Carl Palmer's finest hour: his playing is technically stunning yet uninhibitedly animalistic, on this album he's everything a great rock drummer should be. The same description can be applied to Emerson's playing. He plays with a precision and intensity that few musicians have ever equalled. Okay, the lyrics aren't that great, but I wouldn't call them pretentious; bad, yes, pretentious, no. Funnily enough, the highlight for me is the 'Blues Variations' which strictly speaking isn't a Mussorsky composition. The main theme, played on the Hammond, is a variation on a theme from one of the movements omitted by Emerson, hence the title. The track starts with the greatest moog solo in the history of moog soloing. Next comes the forementioned Hammond theme which acts as a springboard to propel the band into an exhilarating Hammond workout. This is a wonderful composition, one of the great ELP moments. Listening to this album again 30 + years after it was recorded, I can't help but feel that it's been done a great disservice , as have ELP. All the negative associations attributed to ELP and their music, most of them formed out of ignorance, stupidity and most importantly, malice, have shaped the way the present generation view ELP and the progressive rock movement in general. This fake history still holds sway, and flies in the face of all the facts. ELP's 'Pictures at an exhibition' is still as exciting, entertaining, and inventive as it's always been. All one has to do to experience it in the spirit in which it was created is to brush aside the years of accumulated garbage that's been piled on top of it, and in one fell swoop reclaim music history as factual documentation, as opposed to music history as viewed through a veil of post punk distortion and agenda- ridden, anti-music propaganda. P.S. This album isn't nearly as futuristic as 'Brain Salad Surgery' but is more futuristic than 'Love Beach'.
Report this review (#14265)
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the greatest live preformances of all time. ELP knew how to achive this musical greatness mixing the true classics with the hard edge blues and rock. The original work of Mussorgsky was made for piano only (check Sviatoslav Richter's piano preformance), then in the early 1900's Ravel turn this into an orchestral piece (actually Maurice ravel has this strange itch of turning solo pieces into orchestra)... well, this is the "modern" response to the already "slashed" opus, but ELP did it with grandiose behavior and so much respect, that they ask for permission personally. After all, humble attitude is better than a pride one. From PROMENADE to THE HUT OF BABA YAGA, and THE GREAT GATES OF KIEV, this record exposes the true sense of prog: classical music mixed with rock. Fortunatelly the only weak point of the record is at the end with the NUTROCKER, a funny song evoking Tchaikovsky's NUTCRACKER, with a very "christmas" feeling, good, but avoidable. Enjoy, a classic from 71, turned into a must.The best moment must be BLUE'S VARIATION, a 5 minute piece showing how music should be played.
Report this review (#14266)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is a live recording of an ELP concert at Newcastle City Hall, UK on 26 March 1971. The majority of the music is ELP's interpretation of Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition", with a couple of pieces written by the band thrown in ('The Sage' and 'The Curse Of Baba Yaga') plus ELP's version of Kim Fowley's 'Nut Rocker' (itself an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's 'March Of The Wooden Soldiers' from "The Nutcracker Suite" and originally played by B. BUMBLE AND THE STINGERS).

I would be a rich man if I had a cent for every time someone has said about this album "Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's original is better" or "Mussorgsky's original piano version is better." But such statements probably miss the point. Both the original opus and Ravel's later orchestration are of course wonderful, but ELP did not set out to reproduce faithfully Mussorgsky's original or Ravel's version. ELP - particularly Keith Emerson - unashamedly borrowed heavily from classical music in all their albums. Basically, the band liked many classical pieces and enjoyed giving them a modern twist. And what a twist: Emerson's Moog synthesizers and Hammond organ transformed pieces into futuristic mind-blowers. As with the adaptations of classical pieces on other ELP albums, here the band used Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" as a frame on which to build. It was never their intention to say "look how clever, sophisticated and knowledgeable we are: we can even play classical music." As Emerson's previous history with THE NICE shows, he knew a good tune when he heard one. And, in terms of pleasing the listener, this often gave the band a head start.

Mussorgsky wrote "Pictures At An Exhibition" as a tribute to his artist friend Hartmann. The music is Mussorgsky's impressions of Hartmann's paintings, interspaced with the evolving Promenade refrain, which represents Mussorgsky walking from painting to painting. It also helps to know this when listening to the ELP version.

The album cover is quite appealing: an oak panelled wall with ornate gilded picture frames filled with the surreal, sci-fi style, paintings of William Neal (the same artist who painted the cover art for ELP's previous album "Tarkus"). Each frame contains a painting of one of the key tracks: 'The Gnome', 'The Sage', 'The Old Castle', 'The Hut Of Baba Yaga', and so on.

After an introduction and the crowd's roar, Emerson's synthesizer (very ecclesiastical sounding to start with) launches into the first 'Promenade' refrain. 'The Gnome' has some interplay between Emerson and Palmer leading into some fat synthesizer backed with Lake's bass and Palmer's drums, which is reminiscent of someone (the Gnome) plodding along rather malevolently. Sounds like a gnome to be avoided! Emerson's mastery of the keyboards on stage is very impressive - he changes radically from one sound to another - and, to a synthesizer fan such as myself, the sounds are very pleasing. Lake's and Fraser's lyrics, and Lake's singing, are pleasant on the third track (the evolving 'Promenade' refrain).

'The Sage' is a song written by Lake and, after an excellent synthesizer introduction by Emerson, is played solely on the acoustic guitar. It's very mellow, melodic and pleasing: a quiet interlude between the sonic attacks of Emerson's synthesizer. You could probably have heard a pin drop in the hall when Lake performed this song, and his tenor voice and enunciation are clear and very pleasant. The acoustic guitar is lovely, reminiscent of Spanish guitar music. Again the lyrics are good.

Emerson goes into some real synthesizer 'pyrotechnics' at the start of 'The Old Castle', taunting the crowd with the synthesizer before launching into some wonderful, reverberating fat synthesiser. Palmer and Lake pound away at their instruments as Emerson's synthesizer dances over the top melodiously. The track segues into 'Blues Variations', which is a real R&B foot-tapper. There's some funky work on the Hammond and synthesizer. Great stuff.

And then we're back to the 'Promenade' refrain as ELP walk to the next painting: 'The Hut Of Baba Yaga.' This is a fast-paced piece, again with bass and percussion supporting Emerson's accomplished Hammond. It segues into 'The Curse Of Baba Yaga' which was written by ELP and has some *very* electronic-sounding synthesizer bopping around over Lake's bass for a while, before Lake launches into fast singing (sometimes yelling) over frenetic-paced music. With this pace, the lyrics, wailing synthesizer and pounding of the bass and drums it sounds almost manic. It segues back into the instrumental 'The Hut Of Baba Yaga' at a thumping pace, then into 'The Great Gates Of Kiev' which Lake's singing almost turns into an anthem, Emerson's Hammond sounding ecclesiastical and at times bell-like. Emerson interrupts the tune briefly with some deep, distorted synthesizer that sounds like someone blowing through a long, wide pipe, before the finale with Lake belting out "There's no end to my life, no beginning to my death. Death is life..."

The crowd erupts and of course accepts the inevitable offer of an encore."Nut Rocker" (written as "Nutrocker" on the album cover). This is pure fun: honky-tonk Hammond, bass and drums. After it ends we're left to hear the fading out of the crowd's chant: "More, more, more." and to wish that the album went on longer.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" has always been a strange album for me in the sense that, when I'm not listening to it, I think it is average, but while I'm listening to it I enjoy every minute and really like some of the heavy, thumping interpretations of Mussorgsky's music, especially Emerson's synthesizer work. And when I remember that it's a recording of a live concert, it's even more remarkable. I have my doubts that any other band could pull-off such a live project so elegantly and with such self-assurance. In my opinion this album is at least a 4-star album (Excellent addition to any Prog Rock collection) and one that newcomers to the Progressive Rock genre should find interesting and entertaining. And if it piques you to listen to Mussorgsky's original piano opus or Ravel's orchestration then so much the better.

Report this review (#14267)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
5 stars ELP has often been attacked by the music press, in many magazines reviewers used venomous language in order to nail them down as too ambitious, too self-indulgent or too technical. To me this does harm to their great progressive ideas. Indeed ELP sounded bombastic and technical but what's wrong with that if you make sensational pioneering music, sometimes a bit over the top but often very exciting. On the live-album "Pictures At An Exhibition" ('72) ELP stunned the world with a powerful and dynamic sound, loaded with sensational runs on the Hammond organs and modular Moog and great play on the piano in the 'encore' "Nutrocker". Greg Lake his voice gives the music a more warm sound and Carl Palmer is a living powerhouse! ELP will always be regarded as the synonym for the lack of emotion and the technical overkill that prog rock stands for but in my opinion ELP delivers with "Pictures At An Exhibition" a wonderful and captivating album that proved prog rock still had many interesting boundaries to explore in the Seventies.
Report this review (#14269)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yes, it's really masterpiece of progressive rock music. It was really first rock step to symphonic music. Since then ELP became my favourite group, I was a young boy then. Now I'm not young but still love that disc, and think it one of milestones of rock, like PINK FLOYD'S "The Dark Side Of The Moon", KING CRIMSON'S "In The Court Of The Crimson King" , "LED ZEPPELIN II", "The YES Album" and "Selling England..." by GENESIS. It has a still great value inspite of over thirty years gone. It's still worth to listen to.
Report this review (#14275)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars During the time that Palmer was starting to make up his mind to accept his commitment in the ELP project initiated by his fellow partners, the idea of making a prog rock version of some parts of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' was already being developed in Emerson's mind. The gig that was recorded for this edition took place in March 1971, soon after the trio's debut album. They were already very popular in the British scene, and their penchant for explosive magnificence and over-the-top pomposity had found a loyal cult following that seemed to increase every day. So it is no surprise that the audience's enthusiasm is so powerful that it almost equals the intensity of the organ- based heavy metal feast that they were treated with. After listening to this record, always keeping in mind that this stuff was played one year before its official release in vinyl format, you can tell that ELP invented and perfected the sound of keyboard- centered power trio all at once: what Emerson had delivered with The Nice a few years earlier was mostly a prelude to this. Following a series of failed negotiations for its release as a complement for the "Tarkus" album, "Pictures at an Exhibition" was released one year after the actual event, becoming a bigger sales success than its two predecessors - that proved all suspicious music editors wrong, all of them being so positive about "Pictures" being an artistic disaster that would end up burying down ELP's promising career. well, the history of recording industry comprises myriads of examples of lack of vision. Ravel was the one who rearranged this opus, which initially portrayed a most intimate ambience, in order to make it a magnificent as a grand opening: Emerson found this approach closer to home, and so he went away with it counting on his partners' complicity. The result was a catalogue of cohesive performances, fluid interplaying, ballsy challenging between all three musicians, a constant display of individual skill and teamwork. The majestic drive of the first 'Promenade' is an unequivocal prelude to the first exposure of Storm und Drang, 'The Gnome' - the couple of Palmer and Emerson establish a game of counterpoints with Lake's overtly fuzzed bass, until the three together carry the theme onwards to its enigmatic conclusion. The second 'Promenade' brings some air of introspectiveness, soon to be enhanced by the elating acoustic guitar-based ballad 'The Sage', performed by Lake alone: arguably his best composition ever. No sooner does the echo of Lake's last acoustic guitar chord fade away than a new Moog storm appears in the horizon and expands solidly and quickly all over the place: Palmer delivers some drumming tricks, serving as an evil host for the newcomer synthesizer. Once Lake joins them, the fire of 'The Old Castle / Blues Variation' starts to shine in full flame: Emerson uses his Moog and Hammond excursions more as weapons than instruments, weapons of massive destruction against your regular conceptions of rock'n'roll and blues, in order to ultimately state a new order of fiery prog. The bombast not only goes on, but is astoundingly enhanced during all the way toward 'The Great Gates of Kiev'. The third 'Promenade' prepares the path for the explosive sequence of 'The Hut of Baba Yaga' and its climatic reprise, with 'The Curse of Baba Yaga' serving as some sort of pinnacle in the middle. This is real proto-heavy metal: I bet that Judas Priest and Scorpions, together, couldn't match the white-hot fire displayed in 'The Hut' and 'The Curse'. After the concluding climax of the second 'Hut', comes 'The Great Gates of Kiev', which contains the most solemn moments in the opus, and also includes some organ-toying by Emerson (he is a precursor of this, too). The culminating climax generates an enthusiastic response from the audience, but still there's some more fun in store. Their cover of 'Nutrocker' - a jazz variation of a Tchaikovsky theme - is a showcase of ELP's disposition to light things up after an extended, demanding display of serious music. But even their funny moments are not totally trivial: this is Tchaikovsky we are talking about, right? - a master of late 1800's Romanticism, this re- elaborated version of a "Nutcracker" section is yet another example of the trio's interest in exploring the roots of Western chamber music and translate it into a rock context. 5 stars - no less for this masterpiece.
Report this review (#14276)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first bought Pictures at an Exhibition I had no idea of two things:

1. It's a live album. And 2. Most of it was composed by Mussorgsky.

It truly is a prog masterpiece and deserves every star I've given it. From the gentleness of The Sage, with Greg Lakes voice washing over his beautiful acoustic guitar playing, to the aggressive power of The Gnome, to the great "dance along" attitude to the Nutrocker this album really has it all. Truly the best prog live album. It opens with Keith Emerson's arrangement of Promenade on the huge pipe organ and it never loses momentum from there.

Advice for those about to buy this album: DO!

Report this review (#14278)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars That was my first contact with the Modest's music. And I liked it very much. Especially the unrestrained vitallity of this live record and also, I have found the Greg's voice one of the best. So I was driven to look for the original, and I found the orchestral version. Uh, and I liked it more. But then I learnt that still it was not the original but the transcription made by Ravel (there is another one by Rimskij-Korsakov, too). Finally, I come across the real piano original, and simply, it was the best. So I have to rank this abum 4*. Only the original remains the masterpiece.
Report this review (#14280)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very good album. I used to play the classic piano version when this came out. ELP went to do a concert in Antwerp at the time, and when arrived at the venue everyone was provided with a bag of pindaknabbels. It was a quite expensive project, but Emerson himself wanted it to happen. He was learning in some Buddist community that the whole experience of life will increase if you eat pindaknabbels. So, at his concert, people should eat pindaknabbels. One man went mad, and kept on screaming the word pindakanbbels, but the rest of the concert was great!! The album is also more fun if you eat them. But it is good anyway. I especcially like the old castle and the blues variation. Buy it, it's good!!
Report this review (#14281)
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition is a great achievement for the band. They were able to take a Mussorgksy work and transform it into that distinctive ELP style. The effect is great. While the album may not be essential to own, your collection would indeed be made better if you were to own it. At first listen for me, I was kinda thinking "What's going on here?" but after a while, I began to realize that it was incredible. The Promenades themselves I won't review, they are just good interludes between the different phases of the music as a whole.

The Gnome: This is the main song where I was confused on my first listen. It makes no sense the first time you hear it. However, slowly but surely, you begin to realize: wow, this is a really great song! After I began to like it, I wondered how this was taken from a classical piece of music. Since then, I have heard the classical piece itself, and it makes perfect sense now.

The Sage: Other than Nutrocker (which almost doesn't count) this is the only song here not contributed by Mussorgsky. This is a Greg Lake ballad added into Pictures at an Exhibition. Some may find this pretentious. I, however, do not have much of a problem with it. It works fairly well, and I don't see why it shouldn't be there.

The Old Castle/Blues Variations: Although they are separate track numbers, these 2 songs go together. The Old Castle has one of my favorite drum beats of all time. It's just so catchy. Then, the transfer into Blues Variations with that jazz organ is simply incredible. Just a fun, rockin' time.

The "Baba Yaga" series: Starts off normally, then really kicks. Carl Palmer goes absolutely insane on the drums towards the middle to end of the whole thing. He just goes crazy, it's mind-blowing. Keyboards also stand out here (just like in every other ELP song) but it sounds very good here.

The Great Gates of Kiev: It's tough to find a better album ender than this one. The emotion comes back into everything. This is best heard after listening to the rest of the album. Almost uplifting. Actually, not almost. It's uplifting.

Nutrocker: A fun jam session to appease the crowds. Pretty cool, actually. ELP is not a band to leave the audience hanging.

Very, very good live album. Probably the only live album that revolves around a single concept and wasn't already done in the studio. Also, the other thing I like about it is that ELP did not destroy this work. It was added to and changed, but not destroyed. That makes me happy. Overall, 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#14285)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the most essential ELP album for me along with their 1st studio album, and I have still returned to listen these records long after I have got bored with their other works. I wasn't familiar with MODEST MUSORSGY's original work when I first listened to this, so I don't know if those who were familiar with the classical version consider this as some kind of blasphemy. The last few minutes with "Nutrocker" thing isn't very pleasing, but the last short track is easy to skip.
Report this review (#36453)
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#37726)
Posted Sunday, June 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very happy music. I think that "Pictures at an Exhibition" is the most funny work in the masterpiece of EMERSON LAKE&PALMER. An original tune of Mussorgsky is also wonderful I love this version though an extraordinary arrangement of Ravel is unforgettable. "The Great Gates Of Kiev" and "Nutrocker" are my favorites.
Report this review (#38614)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is far away my favourite band, its a matter of taste, this is a very hard listening record, even because i started by BSS the best record of all the times, i used to think that every ELP record would be like BSS. Interpratation of classic music, sometimes acoustic and calm, and other the good old masters of their instruments in high speed, madness and art, complicated music in high speeds and always very well played.
Report this review (#38711)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
Snow Dog
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars ELP's adaption of Mussorgsky's piece was a regular mainstay of their live shows. Here is a performance from Newcastle in 1971 and its a cracker! The playing is top notch and reaches breakneck speed.

This is the most energetic performance by the band on record with Hut of Baba Yaga/ Curse Of Baba yaga/ Great Gates Of Kiev being the best example. There is an excellent acoustic passage by Lake included in The Sage and the whole thing is rounded off by a version of Kim Fowleys Nutrocker.

Another standout for me is The Old Castle/ Blues Variations which is a terrific rocking number!

Report this review (#39751)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars ELP is one of the greatest 70's artrock bands that exist, ever! I have been listening to all kinds of progressive rock, metal and so on, but never heard anyone like them!

I can say that "Pictures at an Exhibition" (composed by Mossorskij) is a complete masterpiece in my opinion (therefore I give it a five-star-grade). This is an album that deserve more attention than it has ben given. It is quite interesting hearing "The Gnome" (original title: Gnomus) being played this fast, and it is tight as hell!

Heartily recommend. (Excuse me if my english isn't good enough)

/Jesper Nielsen, Sweden.

Report this review (#40995)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a very interesting Album. It is just a cover of a very famous classical piece of Mussorgsky ... but it is interesting in the fact that it was converted completely into rock with some vocals.

It always gives me a smile to hear the main melody of the work, and hearing 'the gnome' rocked up. The highlights on this album are 'Sage' with its painfully beautiful singing melody and acoustic work, the 'baba yaga' section with good musicianship and hard rock, 'The Gnome' which is the best part of the album with ELP at their very best, and Nutrocker which is a very fun and underrated piece with good melodies and a guy screaming his lungs out during the show.

It is not essential, and I cannot promise you how you will find this. Some may love it, some may hate it. I love it.

My Grade : B-

Report this review (#41737)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
3 stars I bought this on 180g vinyl recently and, on first playing, enjoyed it a lot. However, subsequent replays have revealed far too many mistakes and technical flaws in Emerson's playing and has led me to downgrade it somewhat. Most of the music is adapted froml Mussorgsky's masterpiece, although Greg Lake contributes some fine original material as well as singing extremely well at times. Kim Fowley's Nutrocker is seemingly attached on the end to make the album a suitable length, though it bears little relation to the overall concept; they recorded the album live (hence Emerson's errors) and I believe that this was the encore. The Sage is the highlight; just Greg Lake and an acoustic guitar. Some of the synth work sounds OK over 30 years on but some is very dated. Palmer's drumming and Lake's bass playing are excellent throughout. The Great Gates of Kiev and Blues Variation are fine pieces, but some of the rest is overindulgent. What it does show beyond doubt is that Emerson is nowhere near as good as many would have you believe. It also shows the real talent of Lake, often ignored in the company of his peers. Overall, worth a listen, not worth buying.
Report this review (#41744)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars You would have thought that Mussorgsky had suffered enough at the hands of Ravel, bloodlessly Frenchifying his very Russian piano suite. Now with ELP scatting (and I don't mean in the jazz sense!) all over his masterwork, I'm certain it sent his very ample figure spinning in its grave. They must have felt THAT in St. Petersburg (or Leningrad, as it was known at the time)!

This ill-conceived live album charted ELP's speedy course from exciting and promising prog-rock act to insufferable "rocked-up classics" kitsch. This album is basically on the same level as all those cheesy SWITCHED-ON BACH knockoffs that came out once Wendy Carlos' star began to rise. The only difference is it's much louder and MUCH more pretentious. Seeing songwriting credits like "(Mussorgsky/Lake)" is enough to make one's eyes roll back in their head.

And if the PICTURES material wasn't enough of an injury, they have to add insult on top of it with their cover of "Nut Rocker", the tacky 60's pop instrumental based on the march from Tschaikowsky's NUTCRACKER SUITE. Do try to keep your gorge from rising.

Report this review (#45412)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This here is the quinessential classical rock album, being an adaptation of Mussorgsky's piece of the same name, which i am very eager to hear after hearing ELP's interpretation. Almost absolutely perfect, and even with its flaws I think its an essential masterpiece and ELP's best album. Its only flaw is that only four songs feature the angelic vocals of Greg Lake. It also features no goofy songs (Benny the Bouncer/Are you Ready Eddie, etc...)! Awesome.

It starts off with Promenade, a beautiful, cheery organ bit. This segues into a rocking instrumental called 'The Gnome' which features great drumming and organ, along with some cool bass. The comes Promenade again, with some Lake-penned lyrics sung to the same tune as before with some great lyrics. After this comes a darker, largely acoustic song called The Sage, which features a great melody and superb vocals from Mr. Lake. Then comes the Old Castle, which is one of the low points of this masterpiece, seeing as how more than half of it is pointless synth-type sound effects. This segues into a great instrumental 'Blues Variation,' which features some driving Uriah Heep/Deep Purple-esque organ from Emerson. Truly awesome.

Side Two opens up with the familiar and still beautiful Promenade theme. Then the album goes into a dark, organ driven set of songs starting with 'the Hut of Baba Yaga' which segues into the ELP original 'The Curse of Baba Yaga' featuring some breakneck and dynamite vocals and organ and drum work. After they play another variation of Hut of Baba Yaga, they segue into what may be my fav ELP song 'The Great Gates of Kiev' whcih features one of Lake's best vocal performance and one of the best melodies ever. After this beautiful piece ends, ELP goes into a rendition of a rendition of Tchaicovsky's (sp?) Nutcracker, which I was never really a fan of, so I'm not too keen on this one. Its not bad though.

So all in all a dynamite album with only one or two weak points (The Old Castle and Nutrocker). However, this should probably not be your introduction to ELP (BSS for that). Highlights are: Promenade 2, The Sage, Blue Variation, Hut of Baba Yaga 2, and the Great Gates of Kiev.

Report this review (#46255)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pictures at an Exhibition, a review

Pictures at an Exhibition is a lot better than most people think. For one is has almost everything characteristic to a prog album, synthesizers, organ and so on. I dose lack electric guitar though as the entire album was recorded live at a concert which featured artists such a Jimi Hendrix. The Promenade theme is extensively throughout the album (there are three songs called Promenade and each uses the theme. It is safe to say that Keith Emerson is the dominative force in the album (as usual.)

There are a few song which showcase synthesizers making very strange ripping and farting sounds, The Gnome is a classic example of this. Also there is one very beautiful song where Greg Lake is on Acoustic guitar, it is one of the best song on Pictures at an Exhibition. The digital remaster features a 15 minute song which includes highlights of the album, what's more it is studio recorded and it has amazing sound quality which made me think how much better the entire album would have sounded if it was studio recorded.

When everything is taken into account there are few that this album lacks in as a progressive work, for one there is very little (if no electric guitar) in the album. Apart from that it is a very progressive album and I can now say that it is ELP's best album. Nutrocker is an excellent and emotion close to the album, one of the best ending song I've ever heard and it puts the album in perspective, five stars better than Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery. If you have dismissed Pictures at an Exhibition as a boring and uninteresting album I beg you give it another try, it took my three months to recognize its brilliance and now I love.

Report this review (#68339)
Posted Saturday, February 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion, this album is an overlooked gem. Now the live title may give you the wrong impression, thinking this is just a live album with some good ELP tunes on it, right? Wrong! This album was recorded with material that ELP had not previously released. The music on here is fantastic, and all of the musicians are at the top of their game.

The album starts off with Promenade, a theme that will set up the entire show. Keith Emerson's keyboards are astounding, most notably in 'The Old Castle' and 'Blues Variation'. His ability to play and sound so well live just makes this album even better.

Greg Lake, being one of my favourite bassist/vocalists, is incredible. The bass sound is mammoth and plays with excellent precision in the 'Baba Yaga' pieces. His vocals come with such clarity and depth; witch makes him easily one of my favourite prog vocalists. Carl Palmer is also doing a fantastic job with his complex rhythms. He does a fantastic job and includes a small solo in 'Nutrocker'.

My favourite tracks include 'The Old Castle', 'The Great Gates of Kiev' and the encore 'Nutrocker', although all songs are put together very well and make this album very easy to get into and enjoy. I recommend this album to any ELP and prog fan in general, since the music is astounding and is one of their best albums, in my opinion.

Report this review (#76286)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars i want to start out by saying that the audio quality is probably i have ever heard in a live album, but that's only where the greatness begins. ELP covers mussorgsky's pictures at an exhibition perfectly while adding in a few songs of their own, such as the amazing blues variation (absolutely amazing) and the curse of baba yaga. I have listened to many versions of pictures at an exhibition, but this is my favorite, hands down. I can't get enough of it!
Report this review (#77872)
Posted Thursday, May 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don`t think that this version of Mussorgsky`s "Pictures at an Exhibition" is "great". It has interesting moments, but there are some parts only played with an acoustic guitar and sung by Lake, which are good, but lack in continuity with the rest of the musical piece. Maybe at the time this album was released it was very praised, but it is not very interesting for me. There are places that the sound created by the three musicians is not enough for this piece of music. I really prefer the live version included in their "In Concert" album (years later re-issued with extra tracks as "Works Live"), because the orchestra used in that version added more energy, an energy that the musical piece needed. That version also has more continuity and works better as a whole. "Nutrocker" is funny in places.

I don`t think that ELP`s vesions of "Pictures at an Exhibition" could be compared to Isao Tomita`s version. They are very different. Tomita has his own style and vision and he doesn`t play Progressive Rock music. His musical arrangements, which are very good, IMO, belong more to the world of the then called Electronic Music in the seventies and they are also closer to Classical Music.

ELP`s versions of "Pictures at an Exhibition" were good demonstrations that musicians who were considered only as "Rockers" could play difficult Classical Music pieces, adding to them some interesting arrangements. In this objective, ELP had success.

Report this review (#80668)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
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.

Report this review (#81820)
Posted Friday, June 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Combining classical and electronic instruments was still something of an innovation in 1971. Pink Floyd's 20-minute symphonic extravaganza 'Atom Heart Mother' had built on the Moody Blues' efforts in the late sixties, then Emerson, Lake and Palmer, at the time a fresh and original presence in the musical world, took this idea a little further.

Their live performance of 'Pictures at an Exhibition' takes Mussorgsky's famous composition - specifically the popular orchestral arrangement by Ravel (Mussorgsky's original was written for piano) - and adds the keyboard talents of Keith Emerson, the vocals and guitars of Greg Lake and percussion by Carl Palmer.

Released in 1972 at a budget price, this was an affordable way for a curious public to introduce themselves to ELP and react with a disgusted frown or a thoughtful 'hmm, I like what you did there. I think.'

'Pictures.' is Mussorgsky's most famous and recognised composition, with the possible exception of the hellish 'Night on a Bare Mountain.' The opening horns of 'Promenade' will unfortunately be remembered by some as the opening theme to Rik Mayall's unimpressive sitcom 'The New Statesman,' while 'The Hut of Baba Yaga' and 'The Great Gates of Kiev' were spectacularly synthesised in the bestselling early 90s computer game 'Frontier.' Mussorgsky's music attempts to express his feelings about a number of paintings in a gallery, the tone and content of which can hopefully be understood through these pieces. The recurring 'Promenade' is the theme of the visitor, moving between the pictures at the exhibition.

Obviously fans of Mussorgsky's seminal work, ELP present the Promenade in its untampered orchestrated version, while the orchestrated 'Hut of Baba Yaga' is played faithfully, but overlaid with increasingly hasty electronic playing from the trio. Vocals are an interesting if distracting addition, most notable in the uplifting 'Great Gates of Kiev' that concludes ELP's 'Pictures' set.

Not all of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures' are represented here, attention being directed towards the aforementioned Baba Yaga and Great Gates as well as 'The Gnome,' 'The Sage' and 'The Old Castle' in the first half. Gnome and Castle are taken over by Emerson's impressive keyboards, while The Sage becomes an unexpected acoustic piece from Lake.

The set closes, after a huge appreciative uproar from the crowd, with the band's rendition of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (renamed 'Nutrocker'), itself apparently based on a piano reworking by B Bumble and the Stingers ten years earlier. Although it lacks the atmosphere maintained through the rest of the set, this is a fun (if irritating at times) display of Keith Emerson at his best.

Released after the well-received 'Tarkus,' ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition is a lot of fun, especially for fans of classical music and progressive rock. Some will see it as superior to Mussorgsky, others will track me down and slaughter me for even suggesting that such blasphemers could exist. Now commonly available only as a full-priced CD, rather than the cheap novelty it once was, Pictures could be seen as more arrogant and pretentious than its original intention - a memorable addition to ELP's first tour.

The sound quality is far from excellent, owing to the fact that this is a live album from the early seventies. Although the instrumentation is near perfect, Greg Lake's voice isn't up to the standards of studio recordings. The band later recorded a portion of this set in Dolby surround sound on their otherwise disappointing 'In the Hot Seat' album, but taking this as a live addition to a prog rock collection, it's not all bad. Who knows: Modest Mussorgsky might even be proud.

Nah. But I like it.

Report this review (#82515)
Posted Monday, July 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Emmerson, Lake and Palmer's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is an adaptation of Mussorgsky's original version which was a piano peice. "Pictures at an Exhibition" is credited as being the first album to merge classical music with rock and roll. It is a truly groundbreaking album and it opened the gate for many other prog bands, who would follow in their footsteps. The idea of taking a well- known classical piece and adapting it to suite rock music would have offended some people and the album was met with some hate. Much of the album was actually original work written by the band. "Pictures at an Exhibition" was first performed live (and eventually recorded like at Newcastle) at the Isle of Weight Music Festival on August 29th. The band played along side with giants such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who. The band rented two old cannons which they fired at the climax of the album, but they were loaded with too much gunpowder and it didn't go as planned.

"Pictures at an Exhibition" is really a Symphonic progressive masterpiece, the idea of it was unique for its time and ELP started a new musical phase. "Pictures at an Exhibition" is very keyboard heavy and the synths sound pretty weird in parts. There are other beautiful acoustic sections on songs like "The Sage", as well as "epic" songs like "The Great Gates of Keiv." To fully appreciate "Pictures at an Exhibition", it must be listened to in full length, it is a wonderful journey. As far as live albums go "Pictures at an Exhibition" is a four star heavy weight. "Pictures at an Exhibition" is my favourite ELP album and it exceeds their other classic ELP albums, 'Tarkus', 'Trilogy' and 'Brain salad Surgery.' I highly recommend "Pictures at an Exhibition", it is one of, if not the most important Symphonic Prog albums, it is an essential in terms of symphonic albums. The 2004 version includes a 12 minute "Pictures at an Exhibition" songs which mashes all the highlights into one song.

Report this review (#83864)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars OVERALL-9.5/10 One of the best albums in ELP's discovery. It has mixed the greatness of rock, with one of my personal favorite classical pieces in my favorite arrangement ever. Promenade (10/10)- An excellent arrangement of the movement by Emerson that is rehashed during the entire album. It serves perfectly as the "glue" in this album. The Gnome (9/10)- An interesting track. it has a lot of rhythmic sections. Lake and Emerson trade off on the Keys and Guitar. the effects generated are awesome, and it sounds very futuristic. I wish it would be a little more "full" in the beginning, with more sound. Again we are taken to Promenade... The Sage (9/10)- A mostly acoustic piece by Lake. Unfortunately the beginning with Emerson's keys is short lived. I would have liked to see mroe experimentation with that theme, but otherwise, this is a beautiful ballad. The Old Castle (10/10)- This is the 2nd Gem on this album. It starts out with some pretty trippy fx. Emerson's pure madness on the keys and Lakes powerful bass offers us a heavy-rocking track. Blues Variation (10/10)- In the tradition of The Old Castle, Emerson continues to rock out on his keys and with the solid backing of Lake and Palmer, the sound that comes out is awesome. Back to Promenade... The Hut of Babba Yaga and The Curse of Babba Yaga (10/10)- THe number one track on this album. It was build up to with THe Blues Variation and Prominade. The audiance was just waiting for ELP to explode with sound. Here it is. The pinacle of the album. These 3 short tracks are by far the best arrangement of the Hut of Babba Yaga I've ever heard. The Curse is slightly different from the origonal theme, but it serves as the perfect "interlude." Once Lake's guitar takes off, it is nothing but madness from Emerson. I also appreciate Lakes crazed lyrics in this invention by the trio. After this awesome track, we are greeted with an even more intense and agressive Hut. The Great Gates of Kiev(8/10)- This is an awesome song. This song as arranged by Emerson is great. But don't sing over a masterpiece like this, Mr. Lake! That isreally the only problem with this album. Don't add lyrics to a Masterpiece such as this, even if you have a really good voice. Nutrocker (10/10)- "You want some more music? MORE MORE MORE!!!" That is all that needs to be said.
Report this review (#84102)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Emerson, Lake And Palmer continued with what Mussorgsky began!

Bright organ-sounds, classic-sounding guitar parts and crazy syntheziser-sounds let Mussorgsky's works appear in a completely new, wonderful light. Each member of Emerson, Lake And Palmer gives a great performance. While Keith Emerson is playing incredibly fast as we all know him and experimenting with spacy sounds, Carl Palmer is giving his best on the drums. And Greg Lake is showing that he is not only an awesome bassist, he also shows that he plays the guitar very well. I needn't mention that he is a good vocalist. Medieval sounding chant and spacy sounds, you'll find it all on this great album.

With "Pictures At An Exhibition" Emerson Lake And Palmer convinces and shows, that they are live as good as in the studio. Though there is too little chant in my opinion, this album shouldn't miss in any prog music collection. This album is high quality-music!

Report this review (#84834)
Posted Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
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.

Report this review (#86327)
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not a fan of classical music or live recordings so this album had two strikes against it before I ever listened to it. There are some great moments like Promenade, The Sage and The Great Gates of Kiev mixed in with some awful moments like the beginnings of The Old Castle or The Curse of Baba Yaga. Nut Rocker should have been left off entirely as it only detracts from the album as a whole.

What it boils down to is that I'm just not a fan of Keith Emerson's choice of synthesizer tones. Whenever he's playing organ or piano, he's usually fantastic but his taste in futuristic sounds has always been like nails on a chalk board to me.

Even though the sound quality suffers a lot from the fact that it's a live album, it isn't unlistenable and the musicianship is top notch throughout. The audience isn't intrusive to the performance and there is still a good sense of dynamics.

Overall, it's not a bad listen and its brevity keeps it focused and interesting. Good, but non-essential.

Report this review (#89434)
Posted Monday, September 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's One of Legendary Prog Albums!

When this album was released at the first time, I did not pay into attention of this. I just played the cassette occasionally and I was more to play YES cassettes. But couple of months later I found the album very interesting so I kept playing it. AT that time I did not know who Mussorgsky is and for me classical music was nonsense as I could not find any "energy" from the music. The more I listened to the ELP album, the more I liked it and it turned out to be one of my favorite cassettes.

As for this album I have two personal experiences that I will not forget the rest of my life.

First, when I was at Bandung, studying at ITB (Bandung Institute of technology) I was at the same time involved actively in student's activity called Marching Band Waditra Ganesha. I played trombone because I wanted to emulate James Pankow (Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago) on playing trombone. I was so interested with this instrument (at that time). Opo tumon? (read: "How can I?") I claimed myself as rocker but I loved jazz instrument? Never mind! That's a fact and that's my past! I learned to play trombone and at the same time learned about composition (a bit) and harmony (a bit). Later I was more in "organization" structure until the time where I headed department that look after "art development". Wow! I thought "Now is my time to rock the marching band man .!!!". I had an idea to play rock music for marching band's composition. So I contacted my colleagues Djoko and Tony who had been familiar with "composing" to make arrangements of rock music. They both also loved progressive rock music. Deal! We worked days and nights to select what songs and how to make it enjoyable. You know, finally we decided to include "Promenade" of ELP as opener and then followed with "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" - The Police and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen. We practiced and rehearsed with marching band team of roughly 80 people - and finally .. it was a perfect composition! I cannot forget how wonderful our performance in "Promenade" and I loved ELP very much.

Second, quite recently - it's probably a year ago, our local FM radio focusing on Classical and Jazz music aired the interpretation of ELP to Mussorgsky's composition in "Pictures at an Exhibition". I was very happy that our classic and legendary album by ELP was finally featured in "serious" discussion at classical FM station. The album was played in its entirety with comments from the broadcaster for each song being aired. The comments were very positive and in fact it was great for rockers being fully appreciated by classical music fan (the broadcaster). Since then, I repeated again my CD of this album.

For those who are not familiar with classical music, this album can be an entry point where Mussorgsky's creations are interpreted by this legendary progressive rock trio. That is true for my case as I never knew classical music before. I would say that rock music intoduced me to classical music, not the other way around. Lately I knew that many rock musicians were basically trained in classical music. This is a highly recommended album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#95292)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Since gramophone and radio castings were created erudite or classical musical works have always served as inspiration for popular composers - in many cases, the latter copied parts or the totality of famed pieces and pasted them into their songs. Less common (in fact, very rare), in the realm of popular music, was the complete transcription of the old masters' output, at least until the 70s. This issue was taboo then, 'cause the common wisdom was that these covers were doomed to failure.

EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, the power-prog-trio, solved band's identity problem performing live, in 1971, a 10-piece piano suite, released in 1874, by Russian innovative composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), named Pictures At An Exhibition. Also the band got the acknowledgement of the immense possibilities of transcribing ipsis litteris (well, more or less) the great works of real valuable classic composers.

EL&P opted to follow the original score, adding lyrics, here and there, and spreading touches of rock/jazz/folk, providing what we all know as "progressive". Final result was fair. Anyway, the suite was later reenacted a bunch of times by EL&P and those reenactments show variations from the original release, due to acoustics matters and instrumental different approaches. The original album was recorded with the support of a vintage pipe organ installed at the city of Newcastle, England where the live performance was registered.

All along the tracks, band members exude fine musicianship and joy of gigging; in fact, they were approaching their peaks as performers. 'Promenade', the opener, provides the tunes for the following pieces. The song is repeated twice along the album, being the first, a ballad-like with additional lyrics and the second, a thunderous extravaganza. Album core shows a series of "pictures" being visited by EL&P, plenty of keyboards raids alternating with bucolic passages, like the melodic 'The Sage', one of the highest points of the album. 'Baba Yaga' epopee brings some pleasant moments and stressing, sometimes boring, punches.

'The great gates of Kiev', the original suite ender, is another album peak. Lake's voice is superb and band instrumentation is awesome. Album final track, the encore 'Nutrocker' (in fact, a Tchaikovsky piece), although not original, is amusing and agreeable.

Pictures At An Exhibition is an important feature to understand why classical music permeates since birth the Progressive scene. Consequently, this album is a fine and compulsory addition to any music collection. Final rating: 4.

Report this review (#96150)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This live classical rework of Musorgsky is chronologicaly their second effort, but it was released as the third album.

Sound is very rough so I understand why this album is critised by classical music lovers. However, as a new progressive approach in early seventies this was nearly perfect.

Promenade is very nice and Promenade (song no.1) I used in my wedding day what caused some strange effect, bacause in spite of fact that I had given precise instructions to sound manager (or how is this job called in english), he played it from the beginning so the whole ceremony hall was filled with that clapping hands from the beginning of the album. It was like to come on the stage and not in the wedding hall somewhere in the office.

The next good thing is the song Blues variations, I like ELP playing a blues the bit. Of course brutal The hut of Baba Yaga and grand finale The great gates of Kiev (filled with so famous Emerson's hammond torturing) together with Notrocker are reasons for buying this album.

A very good album despite of slightly rough sound.

Report this review (#99015)
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pictures! Well, this is Psychadelic classical organ rock! The name alone makes you stand up pretend you are providing vicious organ swipes to your hammond. But aside from that, this is great. Not without it's flaws, being that its a LIVE PERFORMANCE. But this is absolutely great, the Hammond sounds fantastic, especially on the quiet bit of "Great Gates of Kiev" Lakes vocal range is HIGH, his bass playing HIGH - skill wise. Palmer is top notch, although I wish his cymbals werent so quiet, and I wouldnt mind if he had a less meaty snare (I like the snare from BSS) but he is fantastic on the skins! I have two differant versions of the orchestra "Pictures" and love comparing ELP's versions to them. It makes me feel like I'm there arranging with them! Awesome stuff, even in a live album! Baba Yaga absolutely bowls you over with its rockingness!!! 5 stars and no less!
Report this review (#104706)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This legendary trio was never lacking any components in the confidence department, that's for sure. A mere seven months after forming they recorded this live recital of their brave interpretation of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" on March 26, 1971 at Newcastle City Hall. There was no studio version so they only had one shot to get it correct. These guys had big brass ones, if you know what I mean. But sometimes taking risks pays off and this project did. It's not without a few flaws and moments of excess here and there but it's definitely a must have for any fan of ELP or concert recordings in general.

On "Promenade" Keith Emerson introduces you to the stately central musical theme of the piece as he performs it on a cathedral pipe organ and it's quite effective. They quickly move on to "The Gnome" (drummer Carl Palmer gets half credit for writing) which has jerky, arresting starts and stops before Greg Lake steps up to the plate with some interesting wah-wah bass lines. They proceed to build a heavy, menacing atmosphere with Emerson creating havoc on both organ and Moog synthesizer. A return to "Promenade" is next as Lake does a vocal take on the beautiful theme. You are then treated to some further wildness from Keith's Moog before things settle down once more. At this point Greg picks up the acoustic and takes the spotlight on "The Sage." In his prime the man had one of the best and most recognizable voices in the biz and he wasn't too shabby on guitar, either. This segment proves it. "The Old Castle" is full- blown rock and roll with Emerson displaying the vast flexibility and range of his synthesizers before the group transitions into their own "Blues Variation," a joyful and spirited jam that shows without a doubt that this is one very tight and talented combo. Emerson shines on the Hammond here. Yet again they reprieve "Promenade," this time with the whole band playing it together. "The Hut of Baba Yaga" is the most complex part of the rendition but they pull it off without a hitch. Then Lake adds some fuzz tone to his wah-wah bass pedal at the beginning of a group composition, "The Curse of Baba Yaga." (It's not crystal clear when one song starts and another one ends so I'm giving you my best estimation of the tracks here.) You get another dose of fiery organ and Moog from Emerson as Lake shouts his vocalizations over their ferocious music. They then retreat back to "The Hut of Baba Yaga," featuring Keith playing the theme on the Hammond. At last you reach "The Great Gates of Kiev" where Greg sings the regal refrain brilliantly, followed by a nicely subdued organ version of the "Promenade" theme. Then things get freaky as Emerson manufactures torturous sounds as if he's doing everything painful he can think of to his Hammond short of immersing it in a deep fryer. It's blessedly short in duration, though, and Lake reenters to finish it off with strained but emotional singing. The audience, which is politely attentive during most of the show, obviously had a great time and they fittingly reward the triad of virtuosos with enthusiastic applause. But wait. That's not all, folks! You also get the encore, their excellent arrangement of Kim Foley's "Nutrocker" where the band performs a thrilling boogie-woogie treatment of familiar themes from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and it's a keeper. Fun, rockin' stuff.

I've always been respectful of Carl Palmer's drumming but I've never ranked him in the upper echelon because of his tendency to play more than is needed too often. However, I have to say that his performance on this album is delightfully understated and, therefore, one of his best. And the sound quality is exceptional for the era and that's because Eddie Offord's engineering is top-notch as usual. Bookended between their impressive studio albums "Tarkus" and "Trilogy," this LP didn't get as much support as it should have and it truly deserves to be considered as more than just a gutsy move on their part. If anything it's a terrific example of how phenomenally ELP worked together as a unit in the early stages of their stellar career. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#114868)
Posted Sunday, March 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was the first ELP album I purchased, back in 1973. If my memory serves me right, I liked this album a lot. I spun it endless times and was quite impressed by their music. Since I was not really into classic music (and still don't) I was not aware of the original piece, so I can not judge whether or not it is a good adaptation or a brilliant interpretation of it (I would go for the later, though).

The band recorded this version of "Pictures At An Exhibition" on December 9, 1970. It was filmed as well and will be released as a video much, much later. This record was released only in 1972. Surprisingly enough, their US label, Atlantic, refused to release it.

Excerpts from ELP's web-site : "The label told the band it was a piece of s h i t, and would damage their careers" remembers manager, Stewart Young. "We felt otherwise, and had released it in Europe, where it was a huge hit.

The British import started to filter to US shops and eventually sold 50,000 copies.The next thing I know is that the label is on the phone telling me they'd like to put the album out. I told them to go to hell. Three days later the President of the label flew to London to try to get us to change our mind. Eventually, we put the deal together and the album came out. Ultimately, it was a multi-platinum hit."

The album reached the thrird spot in England, and when it was available and in the US, it reached number ten on the Billboard charts. Not too bad for "a piece of s h i t, right ?

The work is divided into several little pieces,not all been equalled in quality.

"The Promenade" ones will be the recurrent theme of this work. These will be peaceful parts, contrasting with some wild and weird ones (like "The Old Castle"). I am not too found either of "Blues variation". It features great bass and drum playing, but its bluesy taste has not my favours.

"Baba Yaga" parts will be the ideal showcase for each musician (especially Keith and Carl, actually). Both "Huts" are brilliant while "The Curse" is a bit noisy and structureless. It gets real wild as soon as Gregg enters the scene with his vocal part. We are far from the subtlety of "Kiev". Brilliant.

The light and subtle ELP side is highlighted during "The Sage" and its spanish classical guitar sound and a so sweet Lake on the vocals as well as in "The Great Gates Of Kiev". This part sounds so brilliant, no beautiful, so emotional, so...

When ELP produces moments like these, I believe they are absolutely marvelous.

Such a piece, confirms that ELP was a band able to switch instantly from style. We'll get this confirmed instantly with the closing section of this track during which Keith is "playing" with his organ and gets very strange sounds out of it (his keyboard I mean) for a while (but not too long, fortunately). "Kiev" is a passionate section. And I am a passionate man. And boy ! What a great and emotional finale during "The End" !

Since the suite "Pictures" was a bit short to be released as such, ELP will add another interpretation of a grand piece of classic music. I just can tell that it is one of my favorite on the album, but I confess my ignorance of the original. I just like this rocking and wild number as such.

If you had asked me to rate this album when I bought it, no doubt that five stars would have been my answer. Today, considering that some parts are a bit weaker I would go for four stars.

Report this review (#120870)
Posted Sunday, May 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars One of ELP's most distinctive features is their classical style of writing music. Sometimes their music is actually a rendition of a classical piece, such as Knife-Edge (which was adopted from Janácek's Sinfonietta), or the later-to-come Toccata (an adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Paino Concerto, 4th Movement). In this case, we have nearly an album full of such goodies, with this progrock version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (with a few originals in there for good measure). And, to top it all off, it was recorded live in concert with no studio gimmicks (or mayhap only a few in the editing process).

The album is very diverse, with intriguing, dark guitar acoustic guitar, very fast-paced and pumping sections, and all the stages between, complemented by contemplative and explorative lyrics. E, L and P are all at their prime musically, and Lake's voice has never sounded so great. The music is really dark and extremely compelling, which is always great. Unfortunately, there are a few faults, (such as minor timing problems) but that's what happens when you record an album of this complexity live. Some of the tracks are a bit daunting and the listener may feel compelled to skip some of the tracks, but for the most part, the album is interesting and varied. Some of the music, however, is absolutely cheesy and just about all of it is pretentious. But that's good ol' prog for ya!

[The bonus track is absolutely rubbish, however. Everything is overblown (too much so for even us prog fans) and the life of the original is lost. Lake's voice is dead, and the effects and keyboard voices are very tedious. Don't worry about getting the special edition with this track, trust me. One or two listens is quite enough for even a devoted ELP fan.]

Report this review (#127288)
Posted Sunday, July 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Poor old Modest Mussorgsky, look what happened to him. He wrote a charming suite for piano which was orchestrated by Ravel and then completely messed up by Messrs Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who played it as rudely as they could, infiltrated it with mindless solos and spoiled it with ghastly, self-important lyrics. I don't know how many times I've read on the Prog Archives forum that "taste is subjective", but this is an album which all sensible people will want to stay away from. Avoid like the plague. (Only "Nutrocker", the album's cute little encore, has some redeeming power, if you ask me...)
Report this review (#127893)
Posted Sunday, July 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I always found interesting that ELP was doing many interpretations of classical music, which is a good thing to make people re- discover these lost classics.

ELP became a big name in their debut by playing "Pictures at an exhibition" and was the main hightlight of their shows during these times. It is sad however that this brilliant piece of music was no longer played as often after their release of Trilogy. From the opening organ-solo from "Promenade" to the great "Gates of Khiev", this album is really a classic. Could have done it without "Nutrocker" though.

Worth taking a look.

Report this review (#128337)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Promenade A majestic intro on Hammond organ. Great 5 stars

The gnome This one sounds more like ELP, actually with twists of avantgarde. The call and response playing between Emerson and Lake is marvelous, Palmer´s drumming is great. The moog solo is again too much for me to swallow, though. Otherwise, a great number. with a dark atmosphere. 4 .5 stars

Promenade This time, Lake sings along Emerson´s playing. Great as the first one. The mmoog outro is good as well. 5 stars

The sage A marvelous quiet acoustic ballad. This one really benefits from Lake´s great vocal performance. And his acoustic guitar playing is fine as well. 5 stars

The old castle A snippet of weird moog noise with drums. 0 stars

Blues variation Marvelous playing from Lake and Palmer. Emerson occupies the moog again. At least his playing seems to have some kind of purpose, even though I can´t stand those high aqueeking notes. Thankfully he switches to the organ again and plays a pretty melodic blues influenced solo. 5 stars

Promenade The lovely motif again. All right. 5 stars

The hut of Baba Yaga A fast instrumental piece with Emerson running through the organ (there´s actually even a melody theme) and great work from Lake and Palmer as usual. 5 stars

The curse of Baba Yaga Oh boy, the moog again. But this time it creates atmosphere, so no complaints as I see the point. Emerson soon switches to rgan and the track becomes a typical rocker a lá ELP. In a good sense. Lake contributes some vocals. 4. 5 stars

The hut of Baba Yaga Fine, as the previous snippet. 5 stars

The great gates of Kiev Wow. Even a hammond driven ballad with pop ambitions. The solo part is noisy and weird, but marvelous in a way, because it gels fine with the melodic part sung by Lake. 5 stars

The end 30 seconds... Not rating this, really, just an extension of the main motif of the previous one.

Nutrocker The encore. It´s fun, and i´s catchy, even though the derivative piano playing (if something is typical of Emerson, it´s the opposite of this) can get boring and the whole track sounds listless. 2 stars

Overal rating: 4 STARS


Report this review (#131843)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I remember paying a premium for Pictures when it was originally released, as it was initially available as an import only in the U.S. I loved Pictures at the time, but I was also a huge ELP fan back in the day. At some point over the years, the LP and I became separated, so I recently bought the remastered CD in order to complete this review. Funny, I remember all 40-odd minutes of Pictures almost note-for-note, 30+ years later, but this one has not aged well.

There are some fine moments here -- Blues Variations is about the best -- but on the whole this is disappointing. Emerson has a tendency to use his synthesizer to generate sounds, rather than music. When the band is sticking to what it does best -- the aforementioned Blues Variations, The Sage (with its restrained vocals and acoustic guitar), The Great Gates of Kiev (an early prog power-ballad if there ever was one) -- this is pretty good. Tthe rest is all too often noise and bombast, and begs to be rated accordingly, which is a nice way of saying that I can't imagine that anyone but ELP fans would have any interest in Pictures.

Report this review (#137667)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars From Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" to Alberto Ginastera's "Toccata", interpreting the classics became the hallmark of progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Perhaps their most ambitious interpretation was one they tackled early on, Modest Mussorgky's "Pictures At an Exhibition", in 1972. While remaining true to the original composition in only a few places, this piece is wrought with so much artistic license as to shine the spotlight on all that is wrong with progressive rock.

The "Promenade" themes are mostly true to the Mussorgsky originals, and "the Gnome" is a fair rock adaptation. However, "The Sage" and "Blues Variations" are simply unwelcome additions, yet with more to come. "The Hut of Baba Yaga" is perhaps the closest to a faithful rock adaptation on this album, but alas another unwelcome addition comes in the form of "The Curse of Baba Yaga". The most shocking of the unwelcome additions comes with the added lyrics to "The Great Gates of Kiev". What was Greg Lake thinking? Finally, the fun yet disappointing "Nutrocker", which is itself an adaptation of "March" from Tchaikovsky's the Nutcracker, proves to be the final curtain to a pretentious and pompous musical endeavor.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's other classical adaptations are in fact excellent, especially "Toccata", which Ginastera himself loved. Perhaps at this stage they hadn't figured out how to perfect the art of the classical to rock interpretation. Whatever the reason, Pictures At an Exhibition is quite simply filler for the ELP collection and is not recommended.

Report this review (#139024)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition is the groups first live album, on which they play their 35 minute epic. It was originally written by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky and adapted to orchestra, and now, for the prog rock band that was Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The guys are in top form on this album throwing all they have into the peice. Carl Palmer pounds out some of the most amazing drum work on the album, as well as Keith Emerson whose furrious keyboard playing matches perfectly with the Greg Lake's bass work, and his vocals. While the recording technology of the early 70's was not suited for live performances, it still captures ELP with all their energy and excitment they gave off during a live performance. While the overall performance is absolutely brilliant, there are one or two movments I dont care for. So, ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition gets at the very least, 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#139279)
Posted Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars An album I loved when I first got it and for a while afterwards. In hindsight, well, okay maybe they did bite off more than they could chew here. Still, it was a pretty ballsy thing to do, using a classical piece as the framework for a 30 minute rock song. Yes, it has some disjointed parts, and yes it has some bits that are barely music at all, but overall it is a pretty decent piece. I've heard the original orchestral piece, and this doesn't really do it justice (except for maybe the Promenade parts and the finale, minus the vocals). But for myself, I love The Sage. Probably my favorite Lake acoustic and vocal piece, even if it is out of place. And the playing in the Baba Yaga sections is phenomenal. How any prog fan couldn't enjoy that is beyond me (well, we all have different tastes). I also generally like Lakes lyrics on here and the vocals are always good (as usual). But, of course, the original piece was not intended to have vocals so those who were already familiar with it are suitably appalled when they here what ELP have done. I hadn't heard the piece previously, and feel lucky in that regard, as I can still enjoy this for what it is..........a young band showing off and trying something different. Maybe it didn't work out all that well, but it's still a decent listen for any fan of their other works.

Oh yeah, I've never like Nutrocker and usually stop the CD at the end of the Pictures piece. Just an annoying piece of music to me in any form.

So, overall then, not a bad album to get. But if you are new to this band, get this after you get all the other albums up to and including Brain Salad Surgery. It's still better than Works and Love Beach. 3 solid stars.

Report this review (#145416)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pictures at an Exhibition was a pretty gutsy album to make, considering the popularity of original suite. It was certainly done justice, though, as they usually do for reinventing works of the classical realm.

As Usual, they throw in their own twist, even drastically changing/completely creating new pieces, as in "The Sage" and "The Old Castle". Lake also wrote lyrics for "Promenade" and "Great Gate", which I think actually work really well. As a whole, they kept their signature sound throughout the album, and managed to give a good interpretation of the suite. Ending the album is "Nutrocker", which is a cover of a 60's adaptation of the march from "The Nutcracker" (and one of their more popular songs). Overall, just a really solid live album. They didn't spend too much money on it but it came out just fine. My only criticism is that they didn't do the whole suite or at least more of it, although some of the songs would clearly be hard to adapt to a rock format.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Highlights: "The Gnome", "The Sage", "Baba Yaga", and "Great Gate of Kiev"

Report this review (#157025)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
5 stars This album has been reviewed many times already, I don't think I can add anything new, but, this was one of the first Prog albums that blew my mind back around 1987, when I was was in grade 10. I was never one for rocked-up Classics, I only looked into Classical music after getting into Prog, and I still don't honestly like it. And I also don't like pompous music much. Funny. ELP are a band I don't even consider 'pompous' though most people do. Full of flair and virtuosity for sure, cleverly arranged and uniquely inspired, yes, but pompous - I save that for the likes of Queen or Styx in their heyday. I probably don't even understand the meaning of the word 'pompous'..... Anyway, Pictures At An Exhibition is an amazing album, Keith Emerson and his prowess on the Moogs and Hammond Organs (C3 and L100 models - the latter taking the brunt of his maniacal batterings and feed-back extravaganzas), Pipe Organ and occasional Clavinet, Carl Palmer is one of the first amazingly technical Drummers I've ever heard (1st impressions last...) and Greg Lake, lets face it, he's a fairly proficient Bassist and great vocalist. This album is superb. Recently I've been lost in a sea of Krautrock - a far cry from Sympho-Prog ; I just selected this LP out at random and it was such a refreshing listen I thought I'd back it up with a 5 star rating. One very, very exciting recording, and it's live !!
Report this review (#168731)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unraveling the Old Castle in Newcastle

Live albums as good as this one have something of a 'fluky' element to them i.e. many of the early 70's concerts given by ELP were at the mercy of the mercurial Moog and it's tuning mood swings. You can hear examples of this on the disappointing video version of this piece (recorded at the Lyceum in London) where there are unscheduled 'atonal' moments which spoil the otherwise magnificent music. Similarly, the Mar Y Sol performance captured finally on the From the Beginning boxed set, is somewhat sullied by Dr Robert's pet beast wilting in the Caribbean humidity.

No such niggles here though, as the band are captured on a great night, mercifully free of the aforementioned technical gremlins (Newcastle can be many things, but certainly not humid in November).

The sound is simply stunning, you are placed right there in the front row (c.f Welcome Back, where we appear to be seated in the car park) Emerson's Hammond has never sounded this feral on a live recording, being neither too distorted (the Nice live) or too squeaky clean (Royal Albert Hall) It's just a perfect balance and lets his playing illuminate a detail and depth all too often obscured by prodigious technique funneled through a fuzz-box.

I read somewhere that the intro to Mussorgsky's work was played on a real pipe organ (did they have one at Newcastle City Hall?)

As we have come to expect, the contributions of both Emerson and Palmer are damn near flawless but perhaps the greatest surprise here is just how much of the creative workload is taken up by Lake, whose contributions over the passing years became less and less significant in the band's output. Perhaps the only real timekeeper in the group, his bass underpins beautifully the technical maelstrom whipped up by E & P, with distortion and wah-wah effects used judiciously to spice up the timbres in this heavily organ dominated piece. Lake's solo spot The Sage is beautiful, and apart from being a lovely Spanish tinged ballad brilliantly sung, displays his highly skilled classical guitar technique. From this point on, there is no similar example of this type of virtuosity from fatboy in ELP's catalogue.

There is a very liberal quote from a Bill Evans tune during the exhilarating Blues Variation but I cannot remember what the song is called (Interplay perhaps?) If there is a greater example of jazz/blues organ over a swinging shuffle beat in the history of rock, then I have yet to hear it.

The Curse of Baba Yaga represents something almost encroaching heavy metal (without the requisite guitars) and has an intensity and edge that slowly left their subsequent work. Some ELP fans relegate this track to filler and, although I recognise their trepidation about the 'head banging' aspect of it, am puzzled at their dismissal of a ferociously driven heavy rocker containing a spine cracking tritone in the main riff and some real visceral gusto from Lake.

(Ya want jam on it lads?)

Lake's vocal on the climactic ending of The Great Gate of Kiev must be a highpoint in the band's career, a sweening and soaring full stop to a magnificent part of ELP's recorded history.

I have heard other rock artists attempt portions of this work and have to conclude that it is ELP's unfailing grasp of the techniques of symphonic arrangement and interactive counterpoint that gives their version such a huge sound. You can layer 30 synth patches together if you like via MIDI and make the bass and drums sound like they are played in the Taj Mahal, but it will still come nowhere near the sort of power and weight realised here with considerably more modest equipment.

(The whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

If there is a negative aspect to this wonderful record it may be interpretive i.e.

Emerson has often bemoaned the disrespectful nature of pop music's bowdlerization of the classical repertoire and saw himself as respectful to the original composer's intentions. Why then encore with B Bumble and the Stinger's Nutrocker? - unless you want to shoot yourself squarely in the foot?

Notwithstanding the foregoing, ELP's version cooks up a storm and is yet another example of this supposedly cold and po-faced band having a huge amount of fun.

Although they did not deliberately set out to sell classical music to a rock audience, ELP are certainly responsible for millions of people, who would otherwise have baulked at the idea, listening to such works and having their musical horizons widened. Perhaps we really should give them credit for that didactic aspect of their very influential presence in music.

Report this review (#169582)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The famous live album - a stroke of genius or a sacrileg? Well, best of both worlds, I'd hope. Let the offended be offended - if ELP hadn't took on the works of Bartok, Mussorgsky, Copland, Ginastera, Janacek etc., I'd never had focused my attention on the originals. Therefore I am really thankful they did what they did. And they surely brought more kids to classical music then all of the snobs and self proclaimed connaisseurs yelling "trivialization".

The album: I think they've overdone Promenade a bit and some other parts of Mussorgsky's original work might have sounded interesting in ELP's interpretation (e.g. Bydlo). Some songs are indespensible 5 star tracks. The rest are 3-4 stars. Sums up to a total of 4 stars.


Report this review (#170333)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What a rush it was to put this on this then 15 year old kid who grew up playing with his toys under his sisters baby grand piano while she practiced this and other classics. Being really ELP's initial work it is truly amazing. Surely the themes of the classical piece were already written but these guys took it one step further and adding the blues and folk and the crunching almost metallic sounds to this acoustic manuscript. Moving from the initial grandiose Promenade played on a church organ to the steely knives of The Gnome to Gregs pastoral and ethereal folk driven Sage and The Old Castle ELP's Pictures moves you through the exhibition on speeding freight train. Of course just to make sure that you are listening to a Rock album they throw in a blues variation right smack dab in the middle. This jam sounds much like the format that would become Fanfare For the Common Man much later.

The concept of this in 1970 was beyond the thoughts of many bands and yet these guys had the power, the toys and moxie to pull it all off. Some of the dynamics of what ELP would be for the next four years are all present on this CD including such things as the ballad, the electronic tornados and the grand ending of the Great Gates of Kiev. In fact I will call Pictures the blueprint of all that was to be ELP. This album deserves great respect because what ELP became was a major force not only in progressive rock but rock itself. Future recordings of this piece by the band epically what was released on the 1991 boxed set with the London Symphony Orchestra have prettied this up and have merit on their own but nothing is quite like the original and this thing is original as they come. You ignore the great history of prog by discounting the work done on this album. 5 stars.

Report this review (#170900)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars To me the only options for rating this piece of music are either 4 stars or 5 stars. Keith Emerson does make a little mistake here and there, but this is a LIVE album after all. There is just so much creative energy here it is almost impossible for me to say anything negative. I could see Messrs Mussgorsky and Tchaikovsky et al are viewing this album from above and groaning, but it would seem as likely to me that they would be marveling at what new things have been done with their music as a base. This is what Progressive Rock is all about to me.
Report this review (#172787)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Whistler
4 stars Pictures of an Exhibitionist is mostly raped by a broomstick handle everywhere it goes. The Allmusic Guide couldn't muster more than an average rating. Mark Prindle counts it among the worst albums ever created. Even ELP fans never seem to cite it as much of an important record (just search for it here; an album by another band I've never heard of comes up first! Of course, it might be alphabetical, but that's beside the point). Hell, I even remember the first time I gave this a spin: "What the crap?!? A LIVE album? I didn't sign up for this!"

However, and for whatever reason, I have ended up liking the damn thing. I don't know why. It's not like anything hear is gonna make it onto a compilation, or be played on the next tour (EXCEPT "NUTROCKER!!!"). But still, it's cool.

"Promenade" introduces the infamous Mussorgsky anthem that you will come to love or loath over the course of the album (I think it's cool), as played by Keith's majestic moog-thingy. The epic, ominous sounding "The Gnome" is either neo-classical experimentation, or goofy experimentation, but it's not gonna hurt ya either way. Then "Promenade" returns, with lyrics this time! Keeno.

"The Sage" opens with an evil synth tune, but turns into some pleasant (if overlong perhaps) acoustic musing by Greg. "The Old Castle" gets us back on track, with crazy keyboard noises and the like. And then..."Blues Variations" comes out of nowhere! It's exactly what it sounds like; a crazed blues jam in the middle of Pictures at an Exhibition. And it rocks. Keith's organ is as mean as ever.

"Promenade" stirs up one last time with the entire band playing, and it really works here. I love it. Then "The Hut of Baba Yaga" starts up with an evil, eager groove. The same can be said for "The Curse of Baba Yaga," which is, in a word, more of the same, but totally different somehow. More spacey I guess. Oh! And vocals. But they don't amount to much.

There's a quick reprise of "The Hut of Baba Yaga," which glides nicely into "The Great Gates of Kiev." This is probably the best song (excuse me, movement) on the album. It's pretty damn impressive, with a fantastic, memorable Lake vocal workout. And hey, there's also some loud majestic parts, some quiet majestic parts, some abrasive organ feedback (complete with something going on onstage that we cannot see), and did they sneak "Promenade" back in? Yep. Very cool ending.

Then, just in case you thought you were listening to the Russian Chamber Orchestra of Berlin or something, the lads do a quick run through of "Nutrocker." Why? Well duh! Because it ROCKS. And it does; although most will probably view this as ELP's novelty side, it's a very tight, clean version of the ole standard that bounds along quite nicely (dig the tiny drum solo, plus Keith's interference) and makes a tidy coda to the album.

So I like Pictures (and the subsequent Death Cab For Cutie song). It's well played (of course), and pretty smooth within and throughout (not smooth like James Brown, but smooth), although Keith DOES tend to overpower everyone else. But, hey, that's the magic of ELP, right?

I think what you have to understand to appreciate this thing (or, gasp, even ENJOY it) is that it's not a classical record. I don't care what ELP tell you. They'd tell you it's about mutant muskrats if it amused them. And really, that's the point.

Because I can't think of another band on earth I'd trust to take a piece of classical music and turn it into something like this (Tull and the Who come close, but not for a marathon run like this). Because the entire point of Pictures is that it's a rock band playing a piece of Romantic music. An intelligent rock band, and one with a wicked sense of humor to boot; never once does ELP come across here as a trio of pompous assholes. They're just having fun and inviting you along for the ride. Why else do you think they'd stick that "Blues" thing in the middle of all the serious music? Just to remind you who you're listening to, and why they're making the album. And that's why Pictures never gets boring. Instead, it's always moving, always entertaining, always clever, and always fun.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I like Pictures. I'm gonna give it the same rating that I would give Tarkus-a pure four stars. Why? I have no idea. It's not a timeless masterpiece or anything, but it's just so Goddamn fun. Maybe I'm just a closet ELP fan or something.

Report this review (#176263)
Posted Monday, July 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pictures at an Exhibition is an interesting live recording released by Emerson Lake & Palmer. After having just two studio albums under their belt, ELP attempted a rock adaptation of Mussorgsky's classical piece. I'm not sure of the hows and whys of this album, like why didn't they do a studio version of this and why was not the entire Mussorgsky suite performed? That's better left for the prog academics here to analyze.

What's most important is that this recording is an example of what was being experimented with in the early years of progressive rock and a true example of what ELP was like on stage. Not many bands during this time period adapted classical works into the rock format (with the exception of later disco versions), but ELP made it a tradition to do at least one per studio album. Pictures at an Exhibition is the only one to completely feature only adapted classical pieces.

What catches my attention the most on this album is not necessarily how closely ELP stays true to the original, or even how well they perform it, but the raw energy of ELP performing together live. That is its most important feature. It's true that there are some technical issues. Emerson's Moog synthesizer apparently produces some wrong notes due to power supply issues and like most live recordings dating back to the early 1970s, it's not as crisp and clear as live recordings would eventually become decades later.

A studio version of this song in a much shortened format was recorded and released many years later as a bonus track on In the Hot Seat in 1994. It pales in comparisons to this.

Not quite a masterpiece, but a worthwhile four-star effort. A must have for any ELP fan.

Report this review (#181757)
Posted Thursday, September 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Symponic prog taken to it's extreme. It is music taken to it's extreme. Even most of classical music is not this extreme.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer was a super-group which evolved from The Nice and ended up as a headcase. And frankly; being a headcase is the pre-requisite to like this album. You need to be a headcase to release a live album as this in the height of your popularity. This live album consist of some great music in the black hole between classical music, jazz and rock. A thirty-seven minutes long orgy of narcissism and megolmania. .........And that's why I love it !!!! I think both this album and ELP is great. Emerson, Lake & Palmer do progressive rock down my alley. Intense difficult music to grasp and almost out of my league, but still very rewarding. Their reworking of the piano piece by Mussorsky and their experimentation (and occasional fights) with moog is down my alley. The result is highly rewarding. It is strangely enough a very funky album too. I have been known to shake my head and my fists to this album (NURSE ! NURSE !!!!!!!!!).

I think it is a great album and one of the essential ELP albums.

4 stars.

Report this review (#187812)
Posted Monday, November 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Pictures at an Exhibition is the first live album from Emerson Lake & Palmer. Released between the two studio albums Tarkus and Trilogy Pictures at an Exhibition includes new and original material. The performance was recorded in March of 1971 and released in November of 1971 in the UK and January 1972 in the US. With the exception of the last song called Nutrocker the album is one long concept piece made over Mussorgsky's classical piece Pictures at an Exhibition.

The music includes reworkings of themes from the original work, but Emerson Lake & Palmer have added many rock parts so don´t expect this to be close to the original. Blues Variations is for instance a long moog and organ solo piece over a blues bar. The theme from Promenade is the original theme though. The album is very dynamic and there are both quiet acoustic parts with Greg Lake singing ( The Sage) and more bombastic parts in true Emerson Lake & Palmer style. As usual Keith Emerson´s keyboard playing is in focus.

The musicianship is excellent. Pictures at an Exhibition was recorded in one night and sometimes you even forget that there is an audience. They do clap on occasion though.

The production which Greg Lake is responsible for is pretty good even though some parts like The Sage is a bit too low in the mix. Most parts sound really good though.

Pictures at an Exhibition is classic Emerson Lake & Palmer and it could just as well have been a studio album released between Tarkus and Trilogy. It´s a good album but generally I´m not a fan of Emerson Lake & Palmer´s very pompeus and mainly keyboard driven symphonic prog rock. The complex playing many times overshadows the fact that too many of their compositions are weakly constructed and without warmth. 3 stars are deserved.

Report this review (#188701)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars A legendary live release

It's quite hard to believe how ELP played this among 600 thousand people on their second gig. I mean prog rock barely existed in 1970 and this kind of stuff must have been really difficult to get into back then. It still is.

Pictures at an exhibition is my favourite live release by ELP over Welcome Back simply because it features all the aspects of ELP music and is much shorter and varied than their 1974 album. Moreover , this tracks were never released on a studio recording at the time so it's all full with original music. Pictures is ELP's reinterpretation of Mussorgsky's work adding vocals and some inprovisations in the middle with the ELP trademark so proceed at your own risk.

The opeining promenade theme will be repeated several times along the record. The gnome features some of Keith's most exprimental and wildest moments with the band.The promenade theme is repeated again but this time Lake put some lyrics which really fit with the mood of the piece. After this short interlude he has the main spotlight with the ballad The Sage , that in my opinion is the best one he did with the band.

In the old castle Keith reminds us that ELP is all about bombast doing use of his famous ribbon controller.In this piece we can also appreciate some jazzy druming by Carl.This piece turns into a very energetic rock n roll jam (aka Blues Variations) which athough it may sound obvious I will say it: It was not in the original Pictures by Mussorgsky. The second side opens with a reprise of Promenade to fade into the Baba Yaga section. This is the most bombastic part of the record: E L and P playing at incredible speed , how could a classical piece have been turned into this? It takes guts and genius to do it.

The grandiose Great gates of Kiev closes the Pictures section. Lake adds lyrics once again and delivers one of his finest vocal performances.There is still time for one tune after pictures , a cover of Kim Fowley's Nutrocker ( which is an addaptation of Tchacovsky's piece Nutckacker) to leave the audience in shock.

You may consider getting the 2004 Sanctuary release since it features a shorter version of Pictures made in the 90's. Personally I like it even more than the original but others may find it too over the top.

Intense , grandiose and innovative. Pictures sumarizes all that ELP were about.

Report this review (#196478)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.
Report this review (#197833)
Posted Thursday, January 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
1 stars Pretentious Exhibition

From ELP's classic albums, I was missing this one. Finally saw it in a CD-shop in Cordoba back in Christmas of 2008, I was supposed to pick 3 albums as Christmas presents, one of them was this. I didn't have the chance to listen to it, there in Cordoba, so in the road back home, I gave it my first spin, with all the family as witnesses.

To tell you the truth, my father, a 70's Prog fan, started skipping the songs, I was not surprised he did that, if he hadn't, sooner or later I would have told him to do so. While the adaption was interesting at the beginning, it started to get annoying and very dense. The screeches of the synths, the dissonant Hammond, it just didn't fit a road trip at all, and it barely does fit any type of situation.

I was disappointed, and really regretted buying it. However, I didn't surrender that easily, still gave it some more spins back here in home, with proper speakers and proper dedication, still, ''annoyance''. The only track I could, and still, tolerate, was the Blues Variation, which is not even a part of the adaption of Mussorgsky. Blues Variation is, well, a blues song, just led by the heavy side of blues with a powerful organ and an awesome rhythm section, but it's quite boring as a composition: ELP didn't took the simple blues structure to the extreme as they did with many other songs, so you can't expect something really interesting, just some great powerful Hammond on a simple and predictable blues structure.

Pictures at an Exhibition does feature some groundbreaking Moog ideas and sounds, but this utterly fails to create some listenable and entertaining music.

If there's one over-blown and pretentious album ELP ever did, it's this one. A pitty, such a great cover-art, thrown away to the garbage. Only serious ELP fans should get this. 1 star.

Report this review (#209829)
Posted Thursday, April 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Between 1970 and 1973 Emerson Lake & Palmer recorded 3 excellent albums + two pretty average. This is one of the average releases. This live album sounds lame to me and that's the first thing to notice. Even remastered version has that thin sound which is fine proof that in early 70's recording of live albums was a risk. Especially for experienced artists like ELP because they couldn't notice a failure with one of their first releases. They didn't notice a failure from commercial point of view. But from artistic... I don't know. These pieces of classical rock tunes are adaptation of Mussorgsky's themes plus some other pieces including that famous Lake's ballad The Sage. Some of them are played with precision some seem to be improvisations. I know that to many people this is great album because improvisations were popular at the time but to me it's not such good. I rate it by 3 stars because in remastered version bonus tracks were added and there are studio versions of Pictures.
Report this review (#219480)
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars This is an enjoyable romp in to the bombastic world of power trio ELP. It begins with off kilter time signatures that stop and start and clearly the band are having the time of their lives as they confound and dazzle the audience. Symphony music never sounded so good. But I wouldn't use this album as a starting point to get in to ELP's wonderful music. It is so different than anything they have done before or since.

After a while all the majestic Hammond and Moog sweeps become quite tiring and I longed for some vocals. They come in The Great Gates Of Kiev which has become the great track to quote from as far as compilations of the band are concerned.

I think the album is best heard as an entire piece but it is definitely not your standard ELP album. It is unique in that it is really a retelling of Mussorgsky's master work Pictures at an Exhibition, but we have a distinct rock feel with this interpretation.

The album has become one of the most discussed and revered of prog history. Having said all that, I prefer the more accessible Trilogy, Tarkus, Brain Salad Surgery or debut album over this. I can see why there is so much adoration and interest in Pictures at an Exhibition, but the best was yet to come, make no mistake.

Report this review (#242059)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars A classic. A classical classic.

While imperfect (the sound was not great, and there are a few bits where the band sounds off to me), this is an amazing interpretation of Mussorgsky's fine work. Most of the added sections, with the exception of Blues Variation fit the feel of the piece well. Emerson's keyboard and synth work is fantastic, especially when you consider that this is a live recording.

This is one of those times that a prog rendering of a classical piece caused me to purchase orchestral recordings of the original piece. And this is one of the few times where I find the prog version much more satisfying.

If you're one of the few that hasn't heard this album, you are missing out.

Report this review (#242841)
Posted Saturday, October 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I hadn't listened to this album for years and I was kind of expecting the worst. But see, a pleasant re-discovery it turned out to be.

Aeons ago, I used to be quite fond of this album and it kicked off a year of intensive listening to Mussorgsky operas and other heavy romanticists, which was kind of a geeky thing when you're 15 and all your classmates are raving about U2, the Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Talk Talk and other stuff that I then considered as stupid pop. Still, they thought my Bonnek-goes-classic was quite an improvement over the overdose of Yes and Rush that preceded it :-)

So ELP goes classic. Nothing new, Emerson had been doing that rock take on classic right from the start of his career. Generally their adaptations are gruesome to listen to. They are examples of pure kitsch: bad taste mixed with a fixation on self-indulgent bragging that has no concern at all for delivering something with any sense or substance.

However, on Pictures at an Exhibition most of what they try turns out for the good. The opening Promenade works quite well for organ, and so does the 2nd Promenade with Lake's vocals. In between sits the first gem. On The Gnome Carl Palmer shows what an excellent drummer he is. He boosts the band through this piece and while maintaining some of the basic melodies, they achieve something that is entirely ELP.

The Sage has nothing to do with Mussorgsky but is one of Lake's best ballads. The Old Castle is a nice moog solo propelled by an excellent Palmer again. Blues Variation is a forgettable piece of honky tonk that has been stripped from any kind of emotion and bluesy feel that you would expect from that music. Wears thin after less then 30 seconds.

The Hut of Baba Yaga is more to my liking. Mussorgsky's melodies lend themselves quite well to rock as it turns out. Unfortunately, that can not be said from the Great Gates of Kiev which is a dreadful experience. The music is powerless and Lake is downright annoying. So fares the next piece Nutrocker. Horror.

A little math proves that this leaves me with hardly 20 minutes of enjoyable music. That is a bit poor overall, but since this album introduced me to the wonderful world of Mussorgsky it has been absolutely essential for me and I will feel kindly towards it.

Report this review (#244728)
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ELP reworked Mussorgsky. Brave idea, but the result is mixed. To be honest, I liked that album more some time ago. But now it sounds a bit boring.

ELP idea attracts me much, but the realisation isn't what I would like to hear. It is not jazzy improvisation on classic theme. It is just ambitious and bombastic in moments playing of classic thing at unnaturally prog-rock way.

I want to say, that if Palmer still sounds competent, Emerson just plays too far from real music. Yes, he demonstrates unusual keyboard technique ( and technical keyboard possibilities), but it doesn't catch you. In moments it's interesting , often boring, but in both cases has no musical magic at all!

The idea to put lyrics on Mussorgsky classic is attractive again. But result doesn't work.

All in all, very ambitious album with only average realisation. Last song - Tchaikovsky "Nutcrucker" is a fun, but absolutely out of place.

I think it's one of the weakest ELP album from their early "golden age".

Report this review (#248237)
Posted Thursday, November 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars greatest trio in prog?? most interesting interpretation of classical works?? phenomenal talent in each player, throughout each song?? well yes and no for each of these, but this band is fantastic. a TRUE must-have for ANY prog lover. actually, any of the first albums of early to late 70's are really must-haves. this album was the first one I ever bought when I was just 10 years old. a true prog lover at that young age, and still have it today as it can never get old. wonderful musicianship, balance, beauty, power, heavyness.... and even extraordinary vocals by the man himself, greg lake. amazing voive that boy had in his early days. a true pleasure to listen to (though, never was a huge fan of 'nutrocker', but who cares it's fun!!)
Report this review (#259703)
Posted Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Honestly, i can't believe that Welcome Back is rated higher than this, one of the brilliant live albums here. When i first heard it, i think that it was "a good concept and slight virtuosity" but after i listened to Mussorgsky's original, i can't stop thinking "wow, they really nailed it" and constantly listening it in my playlist.

Let's start from "Promenade" the organ intro, it provides a good beginning followed by "The Gnome" striking drums from Palmer, later accoompanied by the others and brings a dark sense, then back into "Promenade" again, with brilliant vocals from Lake (and his bravery to put lyrics on Pictures must be mentioned). After that is Lake's solo, "The Sage" which in my opinion overpowers most of his other solos slightly.

I noticed that there is "The Old Castle" on the tracklist, but where is it? Emerson really nailed it in an extraordinarily unlikely way, making it sounds like "the jam of a futuristic castle", followed by "Blues Variation", a group effort which shows Emerson's virtuosic solo, and it blends well to the rest.

Then we go back to "Promenade" again, this time with drums. "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" strikes well and overall a great opening to "The Curse Of Baba Yaga" another group effort, and a more brilliant one with vocals and followed by "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" again. But next is "The Great Gates Of Kiev" the most pleasing track for me, and the one that bears most resemblance with Mussorgsky's original, with the exception of the "wheeee!" and "fuzzz!" sounds, coated by Lake's quasi-religious lyrics. This is the end, though the encore "Nutrocker" also pleased me, and is another good track too.

Another 5 stars.

Report this review (#261923)
Posted Thursday, January 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Pretentious and Over the Top.... Great!

This album was supposed to be the ultimate and last performance of ELP's rendition of Ravel's orchestral adaptation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (originally for piano), piece performed by the band since their first gigs in 1970 but unreleased until 1972. Although this is the first official release this isn't the earliest version available since the band released their second performance ever (at the Isle of Wight festival) in 1998, nor the last one (despite the original plans of the band). Among my favorite recordings of this spectacular piece of music are the ones included on:

*In The Hot Seat (only studio version, which also appears on the Return of the Manticore Boxset) - 1994,

*Live at Nassau Coliseum 1978 - 2011

*Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 - 1998

and this one (of course), being the most complete.

A fun fact about this work is that it was intended to come as a bonus with Tarkus but at the end was released as a budget album. One thing that amuses me about this record is how despite of its un-commercial nature it peaked number 10 in the US Billboard and 3 in the UK album chart.

Now to the music: very cohesive composition/adaptation with some fidelity to the original ambiance intended by Mossorgsky. It's grandeur and pretentiousness are some of the things that make this album interesting, enjoyable and never boring. The true genius of the band resides on the way of how their own compositions are introduced into the adaptations in such a way that nor the modified melodies or ELP's pieces disturb the natural flow of the composition and everything seems on place. This album, such as the original piece and Ravel's orchestration, takes you through a breath-taking journey during which you can appreciate Mossorgsky's perspective of Hartmann's paintings (which inspired the composition) and ELP's music-made drawings through the amazing lens and vehicle that progressive rock is.

The album starts with Emerson playing the original Promenade on a Pipe Organ in a very grand fashion, as a prelude of (according to the order of the original piece) a bombastic version of The Gnome, prolific on drum and keyboard soloing with outstanding bass work in the best ELP tradition. The second part of The Promenade (still in the order of the original) opens a vocal/ballad section led by Greg Lake with surrealistic lyrics, which represent some of the finest in his career, and a great acoustic guitar work (Lake is a very underrated guitar player); The Sage interrupts the original order of the piece and ends the acoustic section in the same subtle and masterful way as the previous track, in contrast to the previous and following "excesses" typical of the band (which I absolutely love!).

The Old Castle (sort of) taken from the original is used as a brief prelude to the Blues Variations which, as the name hints, is a hard blues bombastic improvisation which you might say is over the top and out of place here (but I tend to disagree with the last affirmation since, in my opinion, it's well connected with the rest and feels in place...but at the end is a matter of taste), nonetheless the great instrumental work and talent displayed deserves a honorable mention.

The third Promenade is completely instrumental with a great display of Palmer's orchestral/rock drumming abilities and starts the, as I like to call it, Baba Yaga Suite taken from the 10th and last movement of Mussorgsky's composition (comprised of The Hut of Baba Yaga, The Course of Baba Yaga, The Hut of Baba Yaga 2 and The Great Gates of Kiev) which was highly modified and is filled with electric noise for the sake of noise and Lake yelling some more surrealistic lyrics while being, at the same time, well written and masterfully performed.... you can practically hear one of the first hints of metal in history!!!... This "suite" closes with The Great Gates of Kiev with a bit quieter instrumentation (but still pretty heavy) and Lake singing (beautifully as always). The highlights of this section are the bombastic keyboards, the quasi-orchestral percussions and the bass (one of the finest ELP bass demonstrations).

The End closes Pictures at an Exhibition with Lake's vocals and an instrumental continuation of the previous track. What a great way of ending such a journey (they should add something like this at the end of the original.... just an idea....)

The concert ends with a fun rendition of Nutrocker (Fowley's rock version of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet The Nutcracker) which sort of lightens the overall atmosphere of the album without leaving the classical spirit, featuring an amazing drum solo...

This is an essential album if you want to understand progressive rock and its development... The highlights? Carl Palmer orchestral drumming at its best, Greg Lake's voice, outstanding bass, surreal lyrics and guitar and Keith Emerson's leading synths (although sometimes the Moog played some wrong notes apparently due to power- supply issues).... the overall recording has a good sound quality but could be better...

Yes, It's pretentious, pompous, bombastic and over the top.... but that is one of the reasons of why it keeps you on the edge of your chair throughout 37 minutes and 21 seconds. I love it!!! 5 stars for the album that definitively made me a prog fan and introduced me into classical music (if you are interested, I prefer the original for piano than Ravel's orchestration)...

Report this review (#266224)
Posted Sunday, February 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars I remember asking a fellow Marine who had this live album what he thought of it. His reply was that it sounded pretty good if you're loaded. Greg Lake was quoted as saying he did not consider this album a part of their collection. Evidently he was not too happy with the finished product.

I went ahead and bought it anyway, because it was one long song that was nearly 40 minutes in length. This release was what I would consider to be a landmark for any band. ELP were blazing new musical paths and this is where I believed progressive music should be going. At that time I didn't know this kind of music had a name, but it seemed like the logical thing to do for the serious musician. Unfortunately the material sounds much better played by an orchestra than by ELP.

Don't get me wrong, this has some good moments and Greg Lake does some wonderful acoustic stuff, but it just isn't that interesting overall. This is probably why they never ever did another song that covered two or more sides. They were more than likely dogged for doing it by no less than their own record company. The feedback was not a positive thing.

Nutrocker was mildly sucessful, but it was old school rock and roll. Anyone can do that kind of junk and it didn't impress me at all.

If they would have written something like "Tarkus" here and not have covered someone else's music, I believe this would be a major record worthy of 5 stars. It would have been the album of the century. As it is, this piece of music has never really found a place in my heart and I can't recommend it to anyone. I will only go for 1 star because even the fans didn't care for this at that time.

Report this review (#278196)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is where I proudly make my stand. One of my favorite online reviewers gave this album a 1/10, and even solid ELP fans often wrinkle their noses at this one. But you know what? I LOVE this album. It's tasteless, it's ear-destructive at more than a few points, and it bleeds white-bred anglophile academic pomposity throughout. In short, it's a complete and utter massacre of a great, well-known classical piece. Man I love this album.

If you're not familiar with the circumstances surrounding this album, allow me to fill you in. One of the most infamous features of early ELP live shows was that, at some point in the middle, the band would perform its own, um, "interpretation" of the Modest Mussorgsky (a 19th century Russian composer) classical piece of the same name as this album. Hence, this is a live recording of one of these performances, which may or may not have been one of the better renditions the band ever did, but is interesting as hell nonetheless. It's more or less built around the same structure of the original classical piece, albeit lacking several themes from the original (for time considerations, I suppose), but it's the differences that really raise eyebrows throughout.

So ok, we start out with the standard "Promenade" introduction of the original, played majestically and close to the vest on a churchy sounding organ. But then "The Gnome" comes in, with the same general themes as Mussorgsky's "Gnomus," but with a decidedly different and rawer texture than one would be used to in a 'normal' rendition, with clever placements of each of the three's instruments as the primary theme carrier at any one moment. Not to mention, of course, that Keith provides an interesting mix of dirty hammond sounds and 'futuristic' moog sounds that may make you twitch a bit but that are nevertheless quite interesting to listen to ... if you're in the mood. The end effect is that it is easily recognizable as Mussorgsky's piece, but with enough changes to definitely warrant an extra composition credit to Palmer. But whatever, it's still quite neat, and yet only a prelude to the storm to come.

Faithful to the original, the "Promenade" theme comes up again, but this time, instead of being a rote copy of the introduction, it features Lake singing a bunch of meaningless lyrics in his heavenly voice to the melody. At this point, though, the album diverges into an acoustic ballad (after a short moog interlude, of course) that has no connection whatsoever to the original, but that I'm dreadfully glad is here nonetheless. "The Sage" is yet another example of Lake at his songwriting best, with a lovely set of simple acoustic lines underpinning a BEAUTIFUL vocal melody with some more totally meaningless (yet nice to listen to) lyrics. And besides, it gives the listener a chance to have a slight rest from Keith and Carl, if by chance their sonic choices for this album aren't your cup of tea.

Up next is "The Old Castle," where the album starts to REALLY diverge from the original and causes even some ELP fans to fidget like mad. There's a vague, vague resemblence to Mussorgsky's piece of the same name, in parts, but that's largely obfuscated by the band's, um, *creativity* (not to mention the Moog, nyarrgh) ... and then all resemblance to the original totally evaporates into a blues jam. Man, this is a complete, total massacre of what "good" music is supposed to be; a rock band, adapting a classical piece, by sticking in a blues jam, and then doing the jam all wrong by having the primary instruments be a Moog and a Hammond. IT'S SO GROTESQUE. WOW THIS IS AWESOME.

After another "Promenade" (the last, don't worry), we hit the part where people start running away screaming. The original piece here goes into "The Hut on Chicken's Legs," which in legend was the home of a witch named Baba Yaga. A fine piece of eerie, majestic discord this is, with all sorts of great volume and mood shifts in the course of three-and-a-half minutes. Well, ELP decided to expand on this a bit, all the while preserving the mood and essence of the original. There are two sections called, appropriately enough, "The Hut of Baba Yaga," where the melodies of the original are kept, but between these is the AMAZING original "The Curse of Baba Yaga." There's Lake screaming out all sorts of incomprehensibilities, his guitar distorted as hell when carrying some parts of the original melodies, there's Palmer keeping a solid groove, and above all there's Keith beating the living daylights out of his Hammond when not squeezing every possible sound out of his Moog. Maybe it's unlistenable, but dagnabbit, I just look at it as some prog S&M, because this is a pain that I definitely enjoy listening to. Not every day or every week, of course, but definitely once in a while.

Finally, we hit "The Great Gates of Kiev," the grand finale of both the original and of ELP's rendition. In some ways, this part is actually a bit too pompous for me, as the only major modification to the original (aside from arrangement changes, of coruse) is Lake adding a bunch of grandiose lyrics. Still, I enjoy it, right up until the end where Lake belts out his "DEEEEEEAAAAATH IIIIIIIIIIIS LIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!" line, albeit with less oomph than I'd like, heh. I gotta say, though, that my favorite moment of the track is probably the kitchiest, the one where the feedback coming out of the keyboards sounds like the buzzer one might hear in a high school gymnasium at the end of a basketball game.

So that's your album, (except for the closing 'encore' - a rendition of the Kim Fowley piece "Nutrocker," which is funny but kinda stupid even by the standards of ELP), one which doesn't deserve anywhere near the hatred it so often seems to breed. I can't give it a higher grade than a low ****, if only because while I enjoy it a lot, it's also one of the albums I'd be most embarrassed to play in front of friends, which tells me that my enjoyment is largely a function of my own geekiness. Regardless, though, it's a fine addition to ELP's catalogue, and a nice reminder of the cultural impact, for better or for worse, that ELP had on the music scene in the early 70's.

Report this review (#289491)
Posted Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Review Permalink

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.

Report this review (#294649)
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This album gets undeserving little play in my household but let me change this tradition and turn on the record during this review!

Pictures At An Exhibition is a nice reworking of Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's classical pieces. I think that the main reason for my negligence of this album has to do with the Tarkus suite that was released only a few month earlier. That 20 minute composition is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of ELP's work since it perfectly depicts the trios loosely based collaboration where each member tried to get his individual ego in the spotlight. But what I love the most about that suite is its near perfect flow. This is unfortunately not the case with Pictures At An Exhibition, which merely provides us with glimpses, or pictures, and leaves out any feeling of a complete suite.

If only the band chose to make the Tarkus suite into a two part progressive-epic, by stretching it into a complete LP worth of music, then we probably wouldn't need Pictures At An Exhibition. But since it's not the case let's move away from the imaginary world and talk about the album at hand. The highlight of this live release are the reworked pieces such as the Promenade intro, The Gnome and The Sage where Greg Lake really shines. The rest of the tracks are mostly solid, but are too short for their own good and function merely as short highlights out of a complete experience that the actual concert might have sounded like. I just can't stop thinking of all the "what if?" possibilities and that slightly ruin this album experience for me.

In the end, it's still a great piece of progressive rock history that should not be overlooked by fans of Symphonic Prog music. It might seem weird that I criticize this album only to end up awarding it an excellent rating but I guess that it's easier to nitpick music that one has grown to love over all these years.

***** star songs: Promenade (1:58) The Sage (4:42)

**** star songs: The Gnome (4:18) Promenade (1:23) The Old Castle (2:33) Blues Variation (4:22) Promenade (1:29) The Hut Of Baba Yaga (1:12) The Hut Of Baba Yaga (1:06) The Great Gate Of Kiev/The End (6:37) Nutrocker (4:26)

*** star songs: The Curse Of Baba Yaga (4:10)

Report this review (#303773)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars It was interesting that ELP released a live album so early in their career. They were a huge live act in the early 1970s. This concert was recorded before Tarkus was released, so the people at this concert had only heard ELP's debut. Pictures... is of course a piece by composer Mussorgsky. All the lyrics were written by Lake. A few of the songs here were written by the band. Also included is their take on "Nutrocker" which is based on Tchiakovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Emerson must have been one of the first keyboardist to use a synthesizer on stage. It must have been something to hear his big ass Moog shake the building. As much as I like ELP's studio albums, I liked them better live. The sound here isn't too bad for a live recording from 1971. The performance is excellent. I have never heard any actual classical versions of this material. There are three versions of "Promenade" here. I don't know if that was the case for the original or not.

"The Gnome" is one of the highlights here. Great version. "The Sage" is an acoustic piece written by Lake. One of his better ballads. Starting about 1 1/2 minutes in is some great acoustic guitar work from Lake. "Blues Variations" was written by the band. More boogie- woogie than blues. "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" is played twice with the group composition "The Curse Of Baba Yaga" sandwiched in between. "Curse" is one of the best moments on the album. Emerson is twinkling on the organ while Lake plays some cool fuzz-wahed bass. Awesome Moog in this song. Lake goes back and forth between distorted and clean bass.

"The Great Gate OF Kiev" should have been a hit. Every ELP compilation should have this song next to "Jerusalem" and "Fanfare". Great vocals from Lake on this one. The set ends with "Nutrocker', one of the rare times Emerson uses a clavinet. This is a great live album but this gets a star taken away because they did not write the majority of the music. Still worth hearing. 3 stars.

Report this review (#358200)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars As with the more comprehensive (and original) 'Welcome Back My Friends...' live album, this ELP release sounds very good for its day. The performance is energetic and fun all the way through, if a little samey (it basically uses the "loud-quiet-loud" technique for the duration). Crazy hammond-bashing, furious drumming and angular bass lines are abrupt and random, occasionally stopped for some plaintive lyrics or yet another reprise of the main 'Promenade' theme. In this sense, and whether it is the fault of Mussorgsky or not, the band fails to keep a rock listener interested for the entire piece.

However, the individual moments are mostly good. Moog synth is used sparingly but with great taste, as was the case in 1971 with most bands, who were still not totally trusting of the strange new instrument! And Lake's obligatory acoustic section is rather nice too, although he was too lazy to disguise the blatant King Crimson chords he stole for it; maybe they let him in return for playing on 'Poseidon'.... The best parts of this album actually come at the end of each side; the blues exercise borrowing Palmer's drum rhythm from 'Tank', and the clavinet re-working of B Bumble's 'Nutrocker', which keeps to the theme of 'spiced up' classical music.

It was uncommon for a band so new to release a live album yet, but I guess it kept them going and kept the fans happy, buying them time to actually write some music of their own for 'Tarkus'. I must say though, that if it weren't for my addiction to Keith Emerson's organ-grinding, I would prefer whole-heartedly Ravel's arrangement of the 'Pictures...' suite. Such varying music requires all the tone-colour of an orchestra, and would maybe succeed more for ELP had they got to grips with the synths and added some piano, guitar..... mellotron even, the missing instrument from Emo's cannon!

This album is flawed in a few ways, but the composition remains flawless; a three-star arrangement.

Report this review (#403527)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Pictures at an Exhibition' is one of the more important live prog albums

It is important, of course, because it's not a regular live album. This album doesn't sport live versions of studio tracks - at least the original version didn't - but instead, as it's name suggests, is a recording of ELP's reimagining of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. Having listened to the classical version a couple of times, I must admit that the band do an impressive job of updating it to a more progressive format. You do not have to have heard the original to enjoy this, but for those of you who are familiar with the original, you will be in for a treat.

In fact, I believe this is the most consistent ELP album. Whilst other albums from this legendary trio contain more straightforward songs, this album has an understandably cohesive feel to it, since the entire thing belongs to the same suite.

While most of the album is drowned in the quintessentially ELP sound, the main exception is The Sage which is an acoustic track mainly written by Lake. The rest of the album has the zappy keyboards, the breakneck drumming, and the thunderous bass you've come to love from this band. At various points, there are lyrical sections, which Lake himself wrote. It must be difficult to write lyrics to a tune that's never had lyrics before, but the result is quite pleasing, especially on The Great Gates Of Kiev.

There are a few dull or unmemorable moments on this album, but they are outweighed by the good moments. Promenade by itself is an excellent theme, and is repeated three times in different formats here. The Hut Of Baba Yaga is a brilliant short instrumental with some of the wildest drumming in prog. The best track of course is the closer The Great Gates Of Kiev, which ends the suite in a truly symphonic style. There's even a great little encore track, Nutrocker, which is a fun progressive reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky's classic piece The Nutcracker.

Funnily enough, I believe that this is actually my favourite ELP album. While I think the Tarkus suite trumps the music on this album, the rest of the tracks on there pull it down somewhat, and in fact, I could say this about many of the ELP albums. It's sheer consistency that makes this a really good album. The sound quality isn't always perfect - Palmer's drums sound a little faded at times, and there's just a bit too much audience in the mix - but one should be lenient here. If you're collecting ELP music, then this album is simply essential!

Report this review (#443260)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Eclectic & C/JRF Prog Team
2 stars Picture out of focus

Sub-genre: Symphonic Progressive (complete with a symphony)
For Fans of: Classic progressive (Yes, Genesis, etc.)
Vocal Style: Male, mid-range
Guitar Style: Acoustic steel string, very little electric
Keyboard Style: Piano, Hammond, moog with lots of portamento and the rest of Keith Emerson's toys
Percussion Style: Rock kit with various orchestral additions (timpani, etc)
Bass Style: Picked electric
Other Instruments: None
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: you consider rock versions of orchestral composers' works to be akin to stealing. Also, you have anything less than a strong stomach for poor quality live recordings.

Summary: I have been one to give the early prog masters the benefit of the doubt when it comes to live recording. Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and ELP have all taken considerable heat for the quality of their initial live productions. I regard these recordings highly for the window they provide into the actual energy of these bands that was easily subdued in the studio. Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Pictures at an Exhibition is the exception to this rule. The reasons are many. One consideration is that ELP always appeared to shed the 'boxed in' sound that plagued early Yes and Genesis studio recordings. ELP's energy seemed to always be there. It is strange to say, but this live recording seems to have its energy sapped by shoddy source and post-production, leaving it shy of the energetic sounds that would come out of the studio on the likes of Knife Edge, Karn Evil #9 and Tarkus. But even a pristine recording would not save this piece. Emerson's keyboard acrobatics are usually an enjoyable staple for the trio. But on Pictures at an Exhibition, they stop being music and start being just plain old sound. And not good sound. Having seen video of this performance, the entertainment increases with the visual element. But purely audio, it just falls flat. The addition of vocals by Greg Lake are trite and at times far too familiar. The acoustic guitar part and vocal theme on The Sage are little too close to Lake's performance on King Crimson's Epitaph. The album closes with a departure to a Nutrocker, an up-tempo, fun little movement from its semi-namesake. But alas, the otherwise enjoyable music is lost in the mud.

Final Score: This is a quirky rendition of Mussorgsky's finest. It has its moments, but really suffers for the weak parts and recording quality. I have the album, I am an ELP fan. I would likewise only recommend this album for fans and collectors as well. 2 stars.

Report this review (#451665)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars This much praised live album exemplifies everything which people love and hate about classic prog, and ELP especially: an unapologetic demonstration of talent and experimentation, whether or not the listener want it. However, Pictures at an Exhibition looses some of its edge in the decades that have passes since its release, the result is an enjoyable but not overwhelming listen.

The first half is essentially organ and guitar noodling that takes its sweet time to get moving. The "Promenades" are little but hammond pomp which seems more obligatory than anything, though there are some nice vocals by Lake to enjoy. For the most part though, PIcutres at an Exhibition will probably loose the majority of non-prog listeners before the 10-minute mark, and even those of us who like this stuff may find ourselves waiting for somethng to happen, luckily it does in a pretty big way on the second side.

The "Baba Yaga" suite is the highlight of the album for me. The band plays shockingly aggressive here, giving us lots of sound effects, crushing heaviness, and lightning fast intensity. This is what classic prog is all about: rapid time changes, dramatic melodies, and an enthusiasm for the artistic-- and ELP does it better than just about anyone in some places here. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half, and would probably put the "Baba Yaga" songs on an ELP 'best of". However, I think that "Nutrocker" is best left stricken from the record.

As far as live albums go, there's little here to even suggest that Pictures was recorded in front of an audience except for the introduction and final applause. In a way I suppose that's a compliment, because it means that the band is really nailing their performances, but there isn't any "live-energy" to speak of. The result is a bit of ELP-style mediocrity as well as excellence, making this album a worthy listen for fans but not a masterpiece.

Setlist 3 Instrumental Performances 4 Stage Energy 3 Live Experience 2

Report this review (#462202)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Emerson Lake & Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition (live) (1972)

After finding a vinyl copy of the better-then-expected debut of ELP I regained interest in the band for a while. The style of the band hasn't been very convincing for me, though I must admit I admire their style and momentum on side one of Tarkus. Furthermore, the vocals of Greg Lake are always a warm reminder of the King Crimson debut, which still is one of my favorite records.

Pictures of an Exhibition is a live recording of ELP playing it's own version of some pieces of Mussorgsky. The original version is very well spoken of in the world of classical music, and even some friends of mine knew about it. This rework by ELP is almost a complete miss for me. Brilliant bands often know what not to do, that list of traps that ensure failure. ELP could have been a bit more reflective in this regard. Though some of the reworks of the original pieces are respectful and intelligent, the own parts and jams by ELP totally ruin the otherwise interesting atmospheres. Adding some vocals here there is good, adding the power of rock to the mix is acceptable and sometimes even pleasant, but the mindless jamming and overall weak performance (mainly dealing with a pleasant volume and it's continuity) are really things that can make me shiver at times.

Conclusion. I like the idea, I like some parts of it, but I can't say I feel the need to keep the record. Recommended only to fans and collectors of keyboard-oriented symphonic prog.

Report this review (#510893)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars I can see why this album is so controversial. Respect to things like Karelian Suite and 5 Bridges from the Nice, this is not just a reinterpretation of the Mussorsky's masterpiece. Like the Bridges suite there are original things added to rearranged parts of the suite. The acoustic guitar of "The Sage" that's one of the best guitar performances of Lake, can't be found in the original as well as the lyrics on the second "Promenade". Even though Mussorsky was in advance on his times I don't think he would have ever thought to anything like the noises in the second part of "The Great Gates Of Kiev" when Emerson plays a piece of iron connected to a moog by sliding it on his ass (seen in the DVD).

The band is at its best and it's unusual speaking of great creativity on the adaptation of a classic, but this is not just classical music rearranged or reinterpreted. As well as the Renaissance's Song Of Sheherazade, it's the concept that has been totally revisited and reinvented and the "Promenade" is nothing more than a link to the original but also the point where the two things take the distance.

Few words about the revisitation of Tschaikovskij's Nutcracker. This is not an original idea. This rock and roll contamination was recorded initially by "Jack B. Nimble and the Quicks", which featured some "Earl Palmer" as drummer (funny trivia). Then it was re-recorded by "B. Bumble and the Stingers" produced by that Kim Fowley who could be taken into account for a suggestion in proto or psych. At the end this is the third version of the "Nutrocker".

I won't add more as this album has already about 100 reviews, just let me say that it misses something to be considered a masterpiece but it's surely a must-have for all the prog fans so the correct rating, I think, is 4 stars.

Report this review (#771719)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is not just another live album, this is totally new. Not at all, it was an adaptation from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (you know about it). But Mussorgsky would be proud of this guys. It's full of self-ideas and improvisations, that ELP improvisations! You can feel at the very beginning, The Gnome, these guys are playing with fun, they're music masters and are joking. At The Sage, you will taste the beautiful voice and acoustic song from Greg Lake, and if you like From The Beginning, you will love this song too. It's incredible to see how Keith can (always) improvise and experiment without mistakes, and Carl Palmer's drums easily follow his notes at any speed.

Try the DVD, if you are a prog or a classical musica fan, this is a must-watch. And if you aren't, you will probably be impressed.

Report this review (#946110)
Posted Thursday, April 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars How do you face Emerson, Lake & Palmer's music? I have to admit it's quite extreme. There is something arrogant and very proud here so there is a risk you can be suffocated. Imagine a scene with three superstar's and romantic instrumentalists, and a croud seing their rock stars, performing everything else than rock.

Pictures at an exhibition is a live record, but not a usual one. I don't like live record, commonly, but this isn't a performance of hits, this is art! The music is inspired of Mussorgskij's classical work with the same name which as un entity is one of my favourite classical pieces. Therefore this listening could have been dangerous. What if ELP had destroyed master Modest's work?

Well, they didn't. They did something very new of it and you nearly have to love it if you are a progger. This is so good. The best of Pictures have been exposed to three rock musicians extravagance and here we can gorge in excellent drumming and organ playing. Greg Lake does some vocal achievements too which are awesome. Music is varied, pleasent and both fixed in time and timeless. The whole record works as a unite with the "Promenade" that's returns in preserved glory and in between there is glorious variations. Be also aware this isn't ELP doing Mussorgskij. Many parts of the record hasn't anything to do with Mussorgskij. It isn't as free as Los Canarios "Ciclos" though.

Can I name anything less fantastic? Well, ELP is too much. When I listen to them, I want it too much, but I don't want too much of it. With that paradox I also mean sometimes it's not so much more than Keith Emerson's organ. Only organs! But such organs! And other times it's not so much more than Carl Palmer's drums. I am trying to find arguments for giving this four stars- as I feel I want, but it's hard. Even the bad sides of "Pictures" turns to good in description. I most admit it. This, if anyting is essential!

Report this review (#1035955)
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Blues variation

Pictures At An Exhibition was Emerson Lake & Palmer's first live album, but it is not your usual live record consisting of live versions of songs that originally appeared on other albums. What we have here is an entirely "new" piece of music that appeared here for the first time (and didn't get a studio recording until the early 1990's). The reason for the quotation marks around the word new is that it is based around music by Classical composer Modest Mussorgsky. The album also included an encore in Nutrocker.

While this live performance was recorded between the release of the group's self-titled debut album and their second album Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition was not released until after the latter album. Even though the performance has many excellent moments and is overall very enjoyable, it also has some questionable moments and the sound is not always great. As such, I think that Pictures At An Exhibition is not up to par with the band's studio albums from around the same time. Perhaps, it would have made a better album had it been recorded in the studio? My own personal favourite version of this music is the studio recording of the piece that they recorded in the 90's which was originally featured on the box set Return Of The Manticore (and also as a bonus track on the CD In The Hot Seat as well as on some CD reissues of Pictures At An Exhibition).

Report this review (#1151299)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ''Tarkus'' was undoubtfully a huge selling success for E.L.P. with the album taking his place at the top of the British charts and reaching the top-10 of the American Billboard, eventually leading the trio to a great tour in North America.But its side-effects were beyond this success.The band had recorded a performance based on Russian composer's Modest Mussorgsky most famous composition ''Pictures at an exhibition'' at Newcastle City Hall in March 26th, 1971, which was set for release, but Island's management refused to publish in time, believing it was way too pretentious to have any commercial value.The answer came though with the huge success of ''Tarkus'' and the label decided to release this recording in November 71'.The artwork was again a responsibility of William Neal.

The truth is that ''Pictures at an exhibition'' Classical depth and tension was a great choice for a group like E.L.P., the reworking of the trio is up to the standards of the original composition, flavored with Greg Lake's excellent voice and Keith Emerson's diverse keyboard work.It brings back memories of THE NICE and their tendency towards Classical Rock, although E.L.P. were far more refined and progressive.Opening with the pipe organ, which was installed in the City Hall around 1928, this Classical adaption is full of Emerson's smooth piano preludes, powerful Hammond organ and nervous Moog synth fanfares, that eventually switch from mellow passages to bombastic offerings, always having a grandiose Classical nature.The album contains the flaws, evident in any live recording, however most of its part is nicely executed with long, keyboard-led solos and acrobatics and good work by Lake and Palmer on bass and drums.The bulk of synthesizer lines are way too pompous, angular or even abstract and the best qualities come during the great organ runs with the dynamic rhythm section backing up.The much needed acoustic breaks are rather limited and the absolute peak of the album seems to be ''The hut Of Baba Yaga'', featuring maybe the best vocal performance of Lake with E.L.P., the measured organ work of Emerson and the solid drumming of Palmer, creating music somewhere between Psychedelic and Classical Rock and at least delivering some nice, romantic textures through the storm of keyboard strikes.

Not the best work of E.L.P. for sure, yet this is far from an uninteresting album.It's a fine reworking of a deadly Cllassical composition mostly performed with passion and accuracy, suffering a bit from some stretched and abnormal instrumental solos.Recommended.

Report this review (#1170676)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I grew up with classical music, rock remakes of classical pieces are hardly stand-alones for me. In fact, I know many of those pieces in "normal", i.e. orchestral, or in case of solo concertos, normally instrumented versions. In case of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition this is true in an even wider variety, as it was originally composed as a piano sequence which became famous in the orchestration by Maurice Ravel.

Of course, there is absolutely no similarity in sound between any of the versions, not that I expected anything like that. Emerson, Lake & Palmer didn't even use all of the pictures of the original score, instead adding one or two of their own. But the biggest addition is the voice (and lyrics) in The Great Gates Of Kiev which is one of the reasons I rate this particular album so high. Another one is the encore, but that again may be because I simply love the original Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. But that probably wouldn't do the performance of those three musicians justice. Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer were already renowned musicians when they formed the trio, and they show their skills to full extent during those 37 or so minutes.

By the way, on the CD I have there are not only two parts with Nutrocker included in the second one, but each of the pictures is a separate track on the CD and so is the encore.

To finish it off, I still have to find a recording of Pictures At An Exhibition in any instrumentation that doesn't deserve full 5 stars. This includes the one by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Report this review (#1353591)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars A legendary live-cut Symphonic Prog masterpiece!

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is a collection of some shows Emerson Lake and Palmer have played in 1971. It is strongly based on Modest Mussorgsky's work of the same title, which he wrote for his close friend who had passed away. Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition" is basically a very long ten movemental suite, a collection of tales, traditions and folk motives of eastern Europe. It is worth admiring how a 19th century piano suite has been transcribed for three instruments to create a consistant and more importantly a natural-sounding rock arangement! They featured some other tracks, not from the original work of the composer just to spice things up! On the whole album, we can hear Keith Emerson's wizard-like, well-trained, intelectual-sounding keyboard playing, characterized by a very strong, technical know-how. All of this supported by a groovin' rhythm section from Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. Mussorgsky's piece "The Old Castle" made into an upbeat tempo, Moog rocker quickly turns into band's own "Blues Variations", Emerson's tribute to jazz organ greats such as Jimmy Smith or Brother Jack McDuff. This is probably my favorite part of the album, showing a true essence of progressive rock! Another incredibly enjoyable pieces are "The Hut of Baba Yaga", "The Great Gates of Kiev", "Promenade" and "The Gnome". Most tracks are instrumental, in other cases Greg Lake's beautiful, melodic voice brings out the best of what could be sang. The album closes with "Nutrocker", a bluesy redux of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" (worth mentioning, "Nutrocker" isn't their composition), which showcases Emerson's Chicago blues abilities on an odd-sounding Hofner Clavinet.

Overall, I think this is a must-have for every prog nut, this album is a great listening experience.

Report this review (#1530535)
Posted Friday, February 19, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars I started buying vinyl way back in 1991, during the beginning of the dark days of vinyl. Back in those days it was frequently easy to find almost the entire back catalogs of such groups as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin ELP, and many more and on the cheap (but this was before I was aware of obscure prog bands). Then I bought a copy of Picture at an Exhibition, already owning a copy of Tarkus (on vinyl), Trilogy (also on vinyl) and Brain Salad Surgery (on cassette). This copy of Picture at an Exhibition was the American copy on Cotillion. At that time I pretty much dismissed it as a lame interpretation of Mussorgsky's work with plenty of creative liberties from the band.

I revisited this album years later, this time an upgraded vinyl copy, an original UK Island copy (strange that this one bore a black label with the pink "i", turns out it was Island's brief budget subsidiary, as the album would have been released on the palm tree label if it were a standard release). I find it a rather hilarious take on Mussorgsky. Obviously they took many creative routes that would obviously make classical purists cringe. I understand only four of the ten songs are used here, the rest the band doing their own thing. The "Promenade" theme revisits itself several times, which makes since, there's an acoustic passage with Greg Lake singing, but what really cracks me up is some of the synth passages. What didn't dawn on my 19 year old self back late in 1991 was Emerson's Moog was going haywire (right where "Blues Variations" starts), all this shrieking noise, it's nice to see he finally got the thing to properly behave. I didn't realize how much intense moments on this album, probably because my younger self didn't care for the slow parts of the album. Regardless, it's almost entirely agreed the album's big mistake is the cover of Kim Fowley's "Nut Rocker", which was originally recorded by B. Bumble & the Stingers back in 1962 (probably the first pop/rock adaptation of classical, but that still hardly constituted as prog, unlike what the Nice, Trace, ELP, or dare I say, Ekseption). The ELP version is pretty lame, but even if they did a more straight take on Tchaikovsky, it'll still end up cheesy.

So this album actually grew on me big time after years of not listening to it. It's pretty ridiculous, if you ask me. It's not perfect, "Nut Rocker" could have been easily jettisoned.

Report this review (#1576748)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review Nş 97

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is the debut live album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and was released in 1972. It was a huge contribution to the popularity of the band. The album was recorded at Newcastle City Hall in North East, England. It was the band's third official release, despite it has been made after their eponymous debut album. Due to management conflicts, the album wasn't released until after "Tarkus", their second album. Their record label didn't want to release this album as a rock album, because they thought that it must be released on their classical music label, instead on their rock label. Thinking that it would lead to poor sales, the group decided not to release it in that moment, waiting for a better chance. However, after the success of "Tarkus", the record label agreed to release it, but as a live album.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" is one of the seminal documents of the golden progressive rock era of the 70's, an album that made its way into the musical collections of high-school kids, like me, who never heard anything about the classical composer Modest Mussorgsky, and also knew nothing about the Russian nationalist artist Victor Hartman, whose work was the real inspiration for this Mussorgsky classical composition.

"Pictures At An Exhibition" was a suite written for piano by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. When Mussorgsky was going to an exhibition of paintings at a gallery of art in St. Petersburg of Viktor Hartmann an architect and painter and a great friend of him who had recently died in 1873, he had an idea after visiting it, and soon he decided to pay a tribute and homage to his great friend. So, he chosen ten pictures of his friend, among all exposed, and then he decided to compose a song for each one, uniting by a common theme "Promenade", the various parts of the musical piece.

This band's version of Mussorgsky's beautiful work remains as one of the best examples of a rock version of a classical piece. This wasn't their first treatment of a classical piece. Emerson, had made several previous versions of some other classical pieces with The Nice. But it was the first time he reached a mass audience or get heavy radio play, at least some excerpts. It introduced the notion of "classical rock" to millions of listeners, making the classical music seen from another point of view, becoming to be considered less pretentious and more popular into the public.

With this version of "Pictures At An Exhibition", the band stayed true to the original themes, but played them with the energy, rawness and loudness of rock. However, they also added some self written pieces, like "The Sage" and the energetic jam "Blues Variation". The piece was one of the band's favourites on stage. So, the album was naturally also recorded live. This is the live album that best demonstrates what a tight and powerful unit, Emerson, Lake & Plamer, was on stage. It was also their most moog dominated album, to that point, and Emerson experiments with any sound possible on the instrument. But his organ playing was still the main focus in the music, and especially on the side two, delivering the whole band some of their most raw and energetic playing ever. The album also featured a rather cheesy version of "Nutrocker" which was released as a single. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a wonderful and captivating album that proves the progressive rock still has many interesting boundaries of the 70's that can be explored today.

For many, the Emerson, Lake & Palmer's performance of "Pictures At An Exhibition", in this period of time, will no doubt show the band at the peak of their powers. It's not hard to see why. This progressive rock super group at this stage in their career were about to prove to the world that they were the real musical deal. Playing, they certainly could, as their skills were perfectly on display throughout this set, as each part of Mussorgsky's composition contained lengthy solos, especially from Emerson, whose array of Hammond organ, moog synthesizer, piano and clavinet never fails to deeply impress a real listener watchful. We really can say that the man is truly a great gifted artist.

Conclusion: "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a very uncommon and special live album. It's a new album where all the songs are original and which was never initially released as a studio album. "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a great album and is also a very special album because it brought many people to the pleasure of the classical music world. So, personally I have no problem with it and I applaud the pioneering and the audacity of this musical adaptation. We may say that "Pictures At An Exhibition" is probably their most accessible musical work and it's probably also the less prestigious album, of which are in general considered their six most important and indispensable musical works. Those works are their first six albums, four studio albums and two live albums. So, "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a difficult album to digest if you aren't used to with the sound of the group or with the classical music. However, believe me. This live album, even after all these years, still remains as a magnum opus of the classic progressive rock era.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1647251)
Posted Monday, November 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Interesting - worth having.

I love the original version of Pictures at the Exhibition, as well as the Ravel's orchestrated version. Knowing ELP's tendency to overt-showmanship, I was skeptical of their attempt to record a rock version of this. And indeed, there are sections here where Emerson goes a bit too wild on the synth solo, making noises not for musical reasons but for show. They insert a blues variation on the main theme. Furthermore, ELP commit a classical cardinal sin by writing new movements for the piece, including some with cheesy vocals. Saying this, I don't mind this version either. While it is never going to become the penultimate version of Mussorgsky's classic, it seems to me that ELP (especially Emerson) liked this piece so much that they/he really tried to make it musical. It works sufficiently that one doesn't feel the need to rip it off the turntable, and the way they interpreted is sufficiently interesting that even purists will probably stop and think about how well different sections work or not. Saying this, its not at the level to deserve four stars, and I still would rather listen to a virtuoso pianist play Mussorgsky's original piano version than this one. But it is a valid interpretation, and is good enough to keep in the ELP discography. I give it 6.8 out of 10 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it in the mid 3 PA stars realm.

Report this review (#1743125)
Posted Thursday, July 13, 2017 | Review Permalink

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