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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Pictures at an Exhibition

Review by Gary Hill

What a year it’s been, and not in a good way. Since the last issue of Music Street Journal went up at the end of January, we lost three great (and very different musicians). I’m doing retro reviews of each of them in this issue as a way of honoring them. This ELP release was a live album and features a good chunk of compositions from Modest Mussorgsky rearranged by ELP (mostly Keith Emerson). The focus is heavy on instrumentals. Keith Emerson’s keys really make up the biggest chunk of the music here. As a nice contrast to this one, you can check out my review honoring Tomita in this same issue that covers his version of the same source material. In the meantime, here’s a more detailed look at this one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Promenade

This is an introductory piece that’s an organ solo. It’s classy and very classical in nature.

The Gnome
Drums bring this into being from the keyboard introduction. Then the piece threatens to fire out from there. It eventually does move out into more rocking territory. The synthesizers and other keyboards really steal a lot of the thunder here. That said, you can’t dismiss Lake and Palmer, either.
Promenade
This focuses heavily on the keyboards. It has some gentle vocals, too.
The Sage
Coming out of the previous number, keyboards open this and move it forward. Eventually we’re brought into a mellow, balladic, guitar driven melody that’s trademark ELP. As it moves forward there is a bit of King Crimson in the guitar soloing.
The Old Castle
This comes in with a spooky, abandoned kind of sound. It eventually builds out to some killer Keith Emerson jamming while the drums pound and Greg Lake’s bass drives things.
Blues Variation

Coming straight out of the previous instrumental, this jam really rocks. It’s a classic ELP styled piece in so many ways.

Promenade
Back to familiar musical themes, this arrangement is both bombastic and classical in nature. It’s also a classic ELP styled thing.
The Hut of Baba Yaga
This is a real powerhouse jam that rocks like crazy. It’s a killer ELP styled jam. It’s truly a potent number.
The Curse of Baba Yaga
Emerson’s synths open and drive this. As it turns to a rocker, it makes me think of something from the first ELP album. Lake’s vocals are on fire, and the whole piece really screams.
The Hut of Baba Yaga
Here we get another killer ELP jam. It’s a short instrumental.
The Great Gates of Kiev
This is one of the longer pieces here, running more than six and a half minutes. It has some classic ELP styled sounds. It drops to just organ at one point, but then powers back out to a more full arrangement from there.  Around the three and a half minute mark, Emerson takes us into rather crazed jamming. This part actually resembles Tomita’s version of this piece in some ways. Then they take it back to the song proper from there as Lake and Palmer return in style. It feels quite triumphant. That section builds to a satisfying conclusion.
Nutrocker
This is bouncy and playful. It’s a fun instrumental arrangement that’s trademark ELP in so many ways. There are good helpings of classical music here along with a lot of old time rock and roll and more.

 

 
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