Tuesday 25 June 2013

Pictures at An Exhibition (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1971)

A real prog monument, this live suite is a loose re-interpretation of Mussorgsky's suite in ten movements (plus a recurring Promenade), originally composed in 1874. The ELP live version is also enriched by some new movements and occasional additions by the band. Recorded live at Newcastle City Hall on March, 26th 1971, the final 12 movements of the suite were never recorded in a studio: an abridged version in 6 movements was finally released in 1993 as a bonus track for the album "In The Hot Seat".  Even if several track could be listened to as individual tracks, we can't possibly break the suite's coherence and unity. I think this is the ELP's most influential and creative piece, capturing their live strength and technical skills at their best.

Fill those blank frames with the music!

Every moment of the suite is a pearl and the band uses Mussorgsky's music as a canvas on which they draw a whole world of variations, impovistations and interpolations. So rich is the final result that the listener soon loses his orientation ad abandons himself to the band's musical waves. As in the original composition, each movement describes a painting and the recurring promenade theme represents the visitor's route through the picture gallery. And what a route this is! Catching melodies, stunning performances, tempo and mood variations, all is there.If Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer tend to fasten the rythm, Greg Lake draws some pastoral and slow sketches I especially like. Everyone's got his favs in this suite; personally I'm fond of the first Promenade, The Sage  and The Grat Gate of Kiev. This is what I call... an exhibition!

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