Emerson, Lake & Palmer: “Pictures at an Exhibition

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Pictures at an Exhibition
(Eagle Rock)

This is not a presentation for everyone. However, this is a concert that will appeal to several audiences: 1. fans, or those curious about Emerson Lake & Palmer; 2. fans of prog rock and 3. fans of classical music. It’s a vivid performance, full of flash and accomplished musicianship. “Pictures at an Exhibition” is a true treat for any historian tuned in to the changing movement of the 1970 music scene.

ELP was the quintessential super group. In late 1969, keyboardist Keith Emerson (then with The Nice) and bassist/guitarist/vocalist Greg Lake (then with King Crimson) shared a bill. They decided to work together in an unconventional manner … keys/bass/drums … something John Mayall had championed with his Bluesbreakers in 1969, a move which freed a teenage Mick Taylor to join the Rolling Stones. Emerson and Lake recruited Carl Palmer to play drums and the band took off.

The band hit their groove almost immediately, gigging to large crowds (their second ever live performance was at the 1970 Isle of Wright Festival in front of a crowd estimated at 600,000) before releasing a self-titled album that same year.  It included the hit “Lucky Man” and, coupled with their brilliant stage shows, ELP ensured their legacy.

Not satisfied to tred on familiar ground, the band set about reinterpreting Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann; a famous suite in ten movements composed for piano in 1874. And, in December 1970, they were filmed performing the album in its entirety at London’s Lyceum. The film of the performance is what constitutes this DVD.

The audio was also intended to be a live album … their second album. But, as the story goes, their record company was not too excited to issue such an experimental album and shelved it, to give the band a chance to build up a little more equity with fans before shocking them with this work. ELP’s album Pictures at an Exhibition was issued as a budget live album in 1971. It has gained its own prominence over the years and is often played alongside the original in composition classes.

This DVD includes some interesting bonus features; including an interview with Emerson Lake & Palmer in 1971 and additional live cuts from Pictures at an Exhibition.