Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Emerson Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition CD (album) cover


Emerson Lake & Palmer


Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 947 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
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.

The Whistler | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this EMERSON LAKE & PALMER review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives