Reviewed! Emerson, Lake and Palmer - "Pictures at an Exhibition" DVD

Emerson, Lake and Palmer
"Pictures at an Exhibition”
Eagle Rock Ent.

Filmed and recorded at London's Lyceum Ballroom on December 9, 1970, "Pictures at an Exhibition” takes Emerson, Lake and Palmer through all 11 movements of Modest Mussorgsky's classic piano piece of the same name. As you’d expect with a progressive rock outfit tackling classical piano works, this is a re-imagination, one full of twists and turns through layered mixtures of extended organ and synthesizer segments from key purveyor Keith Emerson, imaginative, storytelling lyrics from Greg Lake and atypical, thunderous percussion rumblings from drumming mastermind Carl Palmer. Though Palmer and Lake’s contributions are surely warranted and vastly entertaining, it’s Emerson who steals the show time after time with clever keyboard elucidations and interpretations. Fast forward (not literally, you should really watch full on) to the last three tracks of the performance, originals ‘Take a Pebble,’ ‘Knife Edge,’ and a cover of Dave Brubeck's ‘Rondo,’ combine to ride the concert out on a wave of clarity, which features some restrained piano playing as well as acoustic moments.

Music aside, the visual aspects of "Pictures at an Exhibition” are a bit jarring and come across as mostly confusing. The plethora of heavy laser light psychedelics and odd images (Marvel Comics character montages, really?) detract from the overall performance, and honestly, it just isn’t what you’d expect from ELP. Then factor in unnecessary camera zooms, reverse shots and kaleidoscopic effects, and you have the makings for what amounts to an un-enjoyable experience. Luckily for viewers, and the band themselves, the musical offerings are so good that

these pitfalls can be overlooked.

In terms of bonus content, "Pictures at an Exhibition” offers up Pop Shop 1971, a concert filmed in Belgium in 1971 that includes the songs ‘Rondo,’ ‘Nutrocker,’ ‘Take a Pebble,’ ‘Knife Edge’ and ‘Blues Jam/Nutrocker.’ A brief interview segment with the band members is also included. The bonus content shows ELP live with less psychedeila, a slightly scaled back performance if you will, so you are guaranteed more a traditional ELP experience.

While "Pictures at an Exhibition” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it should be on the To-Do list of most every experimental and progressive music fan. While that fact stands, the fact remains that this performance is remarkable to say the least. With that said, "Pictures at an Exhibition” might be the best Emerson, Lake and Palmer DVD release yet.

Grade: A