Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Pictures at an Exhibition


3.0
good

Review

by Mclovin USER (7 Reviews)
May 21st, 2010 | 99 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: All that is good, bad, and ugly in the world of progressive rock.

Back in the old days of my freshman year of high school, our symphonic band played two movements from a classical suite entitled "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. As a percussionist, my parts weren't particularly interesting. So, each time we played the piece, my mind churned with thoughts of how potentially awesome the drum part COULD be in a hypothetical heavy rock/metal cover. After our concert performance, my father told me that he had heard the piece before, but performed by a progressive rock band called Emerson, Lake & Palmer - at this point, I experienced the most severe musically-metaphorical blue balls of my life, until I got home and found the CD, curiously awaiting whether or not it would meet my high expectations.

It's certainly an audacious release; especially considering it being a live album. However, audacity alone in no way substantiates an album's quality, and perhaps ELP's interpretation was too audacious for its own good. The thought of delivering a classical suite from the 1800's to a yelling, adrenaline-filled, rock crowd is a daunting endeavour, and further, several of the album's major shortcomings can be directly attributed to it being live. Some of these flaws are completely unnecessary and musically irrelevant open-ended blues-rock jams and solos, lack of textural variations within themes, and sub-par production. Yet, could the essence of this album - the definitive raw energy, creativity, and passion - truly be captured in a studio? There are certainly downsides to it being live, but what Emerson, Lake & Palmer does do on stage is perfectly meld consonance with dissonance, melody with noise, subtlety with outspokenness, energy with empathy; classical with rock.

Throughout the arrangement, it's quite obvious which instruments provide which roles in defining ELP's sound: Emerson's keyboards not only provide the classical aspect, but also the use of raw noise, Lake's bass gives a 70's rock edge while his guitar contributes to the progressive/classical aspect, and the drums provide a very jazz-influenced aspect. But even with the eclectic mix of influences, I couldn't imagine the band settling into a more cohesive groove. This proves to be one of the strongest points of the album.

However, one of the album's weakest points is the lack of cohesiveness and purpose. ELP added vocals to several of the original suite's movements, which sound great, as do the entirely original sections, including "The Sage", a beautiful acoustic/vocal duet by Lake, and "The Curse of Baba-Yaga", which is based on, preempted by, and proceeded by the original suite's "The Hut of Baba-Yaga". Therefore, these aspects are not where the lack of cohesiveness is coming from. Rather, the issue seems to be the fact that Emerson, Lake & Palmer tends to approach several sections in a pretentious manner that is more so "playing to be playing" than contributing to the album as a whole (see: Dream Theater), resulting in a fun ride of emotions, but not too much more.

So, in response to my original question, the album did not meet my expectations; however, this doesn't keep it from being a good listen, especially if you are a fan of the original. Each section is captivating in its own way, and - as Mussorgsky's intent was - takes you on a stroll, looking about diverse works of art. Modest Mussorgsky was quoted after viewing Viktor Hartmann's inspirational art exhibit stating, "Sounds and ideas are hanging in the air; I am devouring them and stuffing myself." Unfortunately, to sum up the review in a single metaphor, Emerson, Lake & Palmer seemed to dine-and-ditch half-way through the entrée.



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user ratings (77)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Feste (5)
A superb performance of a brilliant piece from 3 very talented musicians....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Mclovin
May 21st 2010


293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was pretty tough for me to write, so constructive criticism is much appreciated!

Foxhound
May 22nd 2010


4570 Comments


Review was an awkward read the first time but it's good, I'm not going to scan this thing so pos. Also I will look into this since I'm digging me some prog lately.

Mclovin
May 22nd 2010


293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks man; I'm going to see if I can't work out some of the kinks in it. If I were you, I would listen to the original first.

Foxhound
May 22nd 2010


4570 Comments


Mclovin you say.. hmmmm will do.

Dryden
May 22nd 2010


12928 Comments


emerson is a town next to me :3

Mclovin
May 22nd 2010


293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think it flows a litttttle bit better now. Any specifics in regards to criticism?

Foxhound
May 22nd 2010


4570 Comments


No it looks like those dashes are gone :thumb:

or were there? idk, mary jane has me seeing a lot of dashes everywhere srry.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 22nd 2010


6105 Comments


I couldn't imagine the band settling into a more cohesive groove. This proves to be one of the strongest points of the album. However, one of the weakest points is undoubtedly its lack of cohesiveness as an album.

Mclovin there is another adaptation for Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" that blends rock/metal orchestration with classical instruments.

It originates from the German tech-thrash band Mekong Delta.

That band was so obsessed with Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" that they included parts of it in several of their records, until they decided to adapt it in full for rock/metal and for classic orchestra instruments in a full album.

"Pictures at an Exhibition" through Mekong Delta sounds as cohesive as it can get.

I will review the whole Mekong Delta discography in time.


Digging: The Sabbathian - Ritual Rites

Skimaskcheck
May 22nd 2010


2360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Solid review, pos'd. Pretty much agree with all you say, this never really made me want to come back to it often

NeutralThunder12
May 22nd 2010


8742 Comments


not the best band in the world, but fuckingggg talented musicians.

Mclovin
May 22nd 2010


293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Voivod, I just looked that up; I'm definitely gonna check it out. Which original album by Mekong Delta would you recommend to listen to first?

Skimaskcheck, thank you! It definitely doesn't have replay value.

NeutralThunder - amen, brotha.

Klekticist
May 22nd 2010


1259 Comments


i have to say, my favorite rendition of this piece is the original piano composition.
solid review. i see your point. prolly floats around a 3.5 for me personally...

Mclovin
May 22nd 2010


293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thank you! I'm torn between the original and Ravel's arrangement, but I'm currently listening to Mekong Delta's metal rendition as per Voidvod's suggestion, and it's pretty badass so far.

taylormemer
May 22nd 2010


4917 Comments


Ravel's arrangement is too overly saturated. Nice, but not as blissful as the original.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 24th 2010


6105 Comments


Voivod, I just looked that up; I'm definitely gonna check it out. Which original album by Mekong Delta would you recommend to listen to first?

Well all their records are masterpieces, HANDS DOWN.

I really get off with Dances Of Death and The Music of Erich Zahn.

tech-thrash at its best.

Get them all, you won't regret it.

KILL
August 3rd 2011


71795 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is the craziest shit ever

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

KILL
August 3rd 2011


71795 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yea dude even they laugh while playing

Jethro42
August 3rd 2011


12440 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Did you know ELP were nearly called HELP cos of Hendrix's serious jams with the band.

Jethro42
August 3rd 2011


12440 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

R.I.P. Jimy

KILL
August 5th 2011


71795 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

listened to this naked with the lights out caress of steel style

it ruled



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