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Emerson Lake & Palmer

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Emerson Lake & Palmer Pictures at an Exhibition album cover
3.88 | 1100 ratings | 104 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Promenade (1:57)
2. The Gnome (4:16)
3. Promenade (1:23)
4. The Sage (4:41)
5. The Old Castle (2:31)
6. Blues Variation (4:14)
7. Promenade (1:28)
8. The Hut of Baba Yaga (1:12)
9. The Curse of Baba Yaga (4:09)
10. The Hut of Baba Yaga (1:07)
11. The Great Gates of Kiev (6:27)
12. The End - Nutrocker (4:33)

Total Time 37:58

Note: Tracks 1-11 are a part of one continuous suite

Bonus track on Sanctuary remaster (2004) and Sanctuary Deluxe Edition (2008):
13. Pictures at an Exhibition (1993 re-recording of the "Pictures at an Exhibition" suite) (35:17)
- a. Promenade
- b. The Gnome
- c. Promenade
- d. The Sage
- e. The Hut of Baba Yaga
- f. The Great Gates of Kiev

Bonus disc on Sanctuary Deluxe Edition (2008) - Live at Lyceum, December 9th 1970
1. Promenade (2:02)
2. The Gnome (5:40)
3. Promenade (1:25)
4. The Sage (5:06)
5. The Old Castle (4:25)
6. Blues Variation (6:04)
7. Promenade (1:31)
8. The Hut of Baba Yaga (1:15)
9. The Curse of Baba Yaga (4:55)
10. The Hut of Baba Yaga (1:12)
11. The Great Gates of Kiev (6:54)
12. The Barbarian (5:45)
13. Knife Edge (8:02)
14. Rondo (18:14)
15. Nut Rocker (4:32)

Total Time 77:02

Line-up / Musicians

- Keith Emerson / Hammond C3 & L100 organs, Modular Moog synthesizer, Harrison & Harrison pipe organ (1), clavinet (12)
- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, acoustic guitar (4)
- Carl Palmer / drums, chimes (11), percussion

Releases information

Tracks 1-12 recorded live at Newcastle City Hall on March 26, 1971

LP Island HELP1 (1971)
LP Island Records 6396 011 (1971, UK)
LP Cotillion / Atlantic Records (1972)

CD Atlantic (1984, 19122-2)
CD Rhino 72225 (1996, USA/Canada)
CD Essential, Castle Communications ESM CD 342, GAS 0000342ESM ACO (1996, UK, remastered)
CD Sanctuary Midline SMRCD057 (2004, Europe, remastered, with 1 bonus track)
CD Sanctuary Records 1776980 (2008, Europe, Deluxe Edition, remastered, with 1 bonus track on CD 1 and bonus CD 2)
Numerous reissues

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Prog Network & NotAProghead for the last updates
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Buy EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Pictures at an Exhibition Music

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Pictures at an Exhibition ratings distribution

(1100 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

EMERSON LAKE & PALMER Pictures at an Exhibition reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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).

Review by lor68
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!!


Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by daveconn
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.

Review by Dick Heath
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.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by richardh
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.
Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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.
Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by Yanns
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.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.
Review by NetsNJFan
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.

Review by Snow Dog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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!

Review by Zitro
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-

Review by 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.
Review by Progbear
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.

Review by Guillermo
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.

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

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

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

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

Review by Australian
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.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Chicapah
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by fuxi
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...)
Review by jammun
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.

Review by 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 !!
Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by 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.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
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.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by crimson87
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.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.
Review by 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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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".

Review by ProgressiveAttic
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)...

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by thehallway
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.

Review by baz91
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!

Review by Tapfret
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by 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

Review by friso
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.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by ALotOfBottle
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.

Review by Progfan97402
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.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nº 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*)

Review by jamesbaldwin
2 stars Published before "Trilogy", but recorded before the release of "Tarkus", "Pictures At An Exhibition" is a brave live album that introduced some rock listeners to classical music, however, to the test of history, judgment is merciless. The group performs four paintings of Musorgsky's composition (remember: all performed with piano solo, while Ravel made a beautiful orchestral transcription), along with three Promenades (walks), representing the visitor's journey along exposure.

The firsts three pieces, "Promenade", "The Gnome", "Promenade", are a strange mix between good inventions and pretentiousness but the result is quite bad, expecially the second Promenade, where Lake sings accompanied by the organ: it's almost embarassing. Rating 5,5/6.

The Sage, which Lake performed solo with the accompaniment of folk guitar is largely the best moment on Side A (rating 8).

"The Old Castle" and "Blues Variations" are repetetive, they're exercise of pure virtuosity without inspiration. (rating 5).

Side 2 opens with "Promenade" theme on the piano, played by the whole trio. Not bad.

The sequence, inspired by Musorgskij's opera, "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" - "The Curse Of Baba Yaga (with addictional vocals by Lake)" - "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" is emblematic of Emerson's ability to distort a musical motif of classical music to turn it into a powerful hard-rock piece, as happens in this case, which accelerates and exaspifies the melody of the original opera, with an almost punky sewer. There are some good passages, but overall the sequence suffers from Palmer's excessive sound saturation and intrusive drumming. Rating 6,5.

"The Great Gates Of Kiev", arranged by Lake, is the cover of the ending of Musorgskij' Pictures At An Exibhition. The effort is big, the result it's pretty good, although Lake struggles to sing the melody and is forced to growl certain notes. The structure of the piece however is well studied. Rating 7,5.

"The End - Nutrocker", inspired by Tchaikovskij, is embarassing, trivial, ridicolous. I think I've rarely heard something worse than this contextual to prog music. Rating 4+.

The concert offers few good pieces: those where Lake dominates and adapts the melody to his voice, especially "The Sage". For the rest, the adaptation of Musorgsky's opera to rock music succeeds only in the main theme and in little else. The excessive virtuosity of Emerson and Palmer produces uninspired music that takes refuge in very forced hard rock rhythms and and sometimes embarassing pieces.

Rating: 6,5. Two Stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars If, like me, you're of the opinion that part of the reason for ELP's downfall was that the band couldn't focus on a single musical direction but tried to accommodate too many incompatible musical ideas on the same album - leading to albums which presented a jumble of classical adaptations, original prog works, wistful ballads and dreadful comedy numbers which failed to hang together - then Pictures At An Exhibition might be one for you.

There's no gentle Greg Lake ballads here, and there's certainly no horrible comedy songs - the band are focused on adapting some old-school classical music to an electrified prog context, and they do so with gusto. A pretty excellent little exercise from before Emerson's rocking-the-classics schtick started to wear thin.

Review by Mirakaze
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars This is a live album, and I wasn't planning on reviewing ELP's live albums, but I have to talk about Pictures At An Exhibition, because it's an oddball in the band's catalogue. Not only has its material never been released on any studio album, but the entire album is a cover of a 19th century classical suite with the same name by Modest Mussorgsky, recreated in ELP's own style. In other words, talking about the compositional strengths of these songs doesn't make much sense here because none of the material on this release was actually written by Emerson, Lake or Palmer (well, they did add some lyrics of their own, but the less said about lines such as "There's no end to my life! No beginning to my death! Death is life!", the better?). Instead, this album mostly serves as a testament of ELP's musical skills in a live setting, which are as impressive as in the studio, as well as Keith Emerson's stage antics, which includes him stabbing a knife into his organ (not as awesome without the visuals but still fun) and fiddling around with his massive synthesizer, wowing the audience with what must have been amazing futuristic sounds at the time. Today, these bits sound more like the mating calls of an electronic starling who's had one cup of coffee too many. Still, all of these things are part of the package, so you'll have to accept them, and it does make the album more quirky, if anything.

Now, the performances are about on the same level as on the last two albums, but the songs are generally more complex and demanding. "The Gnome" and "The Hut Of Baba-Yaga" continue the tradition of "Eruption" and "The Barbarian" as intricate instrumental monster tracks that zip by at lightning speed, while the "Promenade" theme serves as a gentle interlude at different points on the album, and "The Great Gates Of Kiev" ends the suite on a joyful, bombastic note. My favourite is the band's interpretation of Mussorgsky's "The Old Castle". It's preceded by a ballad called "The Sage", which is essentially a solo spot for Greg Lake. While the verses may make it appear to be a not particularly memorable acoustic guitar ballad, Lake gets to shine on his instrument during the bridge, which shows that he was capable of more than just strumming around some basic chords. The real treat comes right afterwards though, when Emerson leads the band into a high-energy synthesizer workout that seamlessly transitions into a great organ-based blues jam, proving that Keith could still throw out some tasty chops in a blues context. Another highlight is a cover of an instrumental rock classic called "Nut Rocker" which the boys perform at the end. It has no relation to the rest of the material but it's good fun nonetheless.

According to the liner notes (which tend to exaggerate things a bit, admittedly), classical music snobs fumed when this album hit the market, proclaiming that the band was ruining Mussorgsky's original suite, but I think that's silly. The point of this album is not really to replace the original or even to "update" it for a modern audience. Rather, this is just one extreme example of ELP's efforts to combine the traditions of classical and rock music, and should be seen as a new interpretation of the suite, that ought to peacefully coexist with the original and can even be seen as loose from it. More importantly than that however is the album's function as a historical document, showing that these guys really were capable of playing such challenging material just as fast and with as much of an aural presence as in the studio.

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Report this review (#2600405) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Friday, October 8, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Modest Mussorgsky had revolutionized the classical music with the composition of "Pictures at an Exhibition". The work was made for the posthumous vernissage of Viktor Hartmann, a close friend of the composer. The suite is divided in 10 pieces that describe the paintings, reunited by promenad ... (read more)

Report this review (#2594801) | Posted by Spiridon Orlovschi | Thursday, September 16, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 goe ... (read more)

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Report this review (#1035955) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Monday, September 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION 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 strate ... (read more)

Report this review (#294649) | Posted by resurrection | Sunday, August 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

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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 con ... (read more)

Report this review (#261923) | Posted by dantd95 | Thursday, January 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#259703) | Posted by smuggledmutation | Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 recordin ... (read more)

Report this review (#219480) | Posted by LSDisease | Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 al ... (read more)

Report this review (#187812) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, November 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 Messr ... (read more)

Report this review (#172787) | Posted by digdug | Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 thankf ... (read more)

Report this review (#170333) | Posted by strayfromatlantis | Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ver ... (read more)

Report this review (#169582) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 n ... (read more)

Report this review (#157025) | Posted by White Shadow | Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#145416) | Posted by infandous | Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 th ... (read more)

Report this review (#139279) | Posted by Tarkus31 | Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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. W ... (read more)

Report this review (#139024) | Posted by jimidom | Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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. ... (read more)

Report this review (#131843) | Posted by Peto | Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 time ... (read more)

Report this review (#128337) | Posted by JR222 | Friday, July 13, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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