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Emerson Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition DVD

Emerson Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition DVDELP were, arguably, one of the handful of bands at the forefront of the progressive rock movement at its full blown initiation.  Keith Emerson had to some extent developed and honed his art of aggressive keyboard playing with The Nice in the late 60’s fusing hard rock with classical overtones, but needed a different more serious vehicle to progress his ideas.  Vocalist and guitarist, Greg Lake, had come to the fore in Robert Fripp’s King Crimson appearing on Crimson’s first (and possibly prog’s first) album In The Court Of The Crimson King.  Carl Palmer, having played in a number of bands, not least The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, had gone on to form Atomic Rooster and was for a long time top of peoples lists of great drummers even before he had to have a reinforced stage to cope with the weight of his kit. All three musicians had a shared interest in classical music; all three played in prog bands.  The rest is history.

Although Pictures At An Exhibition was the third ELP album to be released (1972) (the first was the self-titled album, ELP, affectionately known by fans as The Dove due to the album cover design, the second was Tarkus), this DVD live performance is from 1970, not long after ELP came into being.

Pictures is perhaps the hardest of all ELP’s output to get into.  Based on Russian composer Mussorgsky’s (b.1839 – d.1881) 1874 suite, Pictures At An Exhibition, the recurring theme and mood changes are broken up in ELP’s version by Greg Lake’s rendition of The Sage, a wonderful acoustic piece with poignant lyrics.  During this song there is a camera pan of the audience, which at first glance picks out a youthful Steve Hackett look-a-like studying Greg’s nimble acoustic guitar fingering intently (on closer inspection I’m pretty sure it isn’t Hackett, but it’s a nice thought).  It is warming to see both Greg and Carl smiling whilst they await their cues from Keith’s lead.  As expected, Greg and Carl’s performance cannot be faulted and the enthusiasm of all is energising.  Keith, whose school of playing could be said to be ‘never mind accuracy – concentrate on being loud, fast and menacing’ hits a few bum notes (we love you Keith and wouldn’t want it to be any different) and takes it out on the trusty old Hammond later on, rocking and lugging it precariously about as was his trade mark though the use of his trusty dagger was missing on this occasion.  People only used to today’s keyboards from the likes of Korg, Roland, Yamaha etc. should note the old Moog synth with cables spouting out of its front panel like an old telephone switchboard!

Running time for the concert is 45 minutes (but see Package Features below).

Technical Aspects

Picture and sound quality are pretty good.  Obviously, filming of this type of performance was in its infancy in 1970 so by more modern standards some things may appear a little excessive such as the cutting from close up to close up, making it a bit like macro vision at times!  Main criticism would have to be directed at the overuse of projected kaleidoscopic psychedelic effects half-way through which no doubt are there to represent, you guessed it, art.  Hip in the late 60’s and early 70’s maybe, but a little crass in 2002.  Perhaps I’m missing the point; this is a historic recording of one of ELP’s first performances, lock, stock and barrel and as such all the trappings of the stage show are included.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Package features

The DVD has an innovative and amusing fully animated menu from which can be accessed the band and individual members biographies, Mussorgsky biography, discography, photos, art gallery and sound settings.

The inside of the DVD tray provides full track listing.

The DVD is multi-region PAL format, 4:3 screen ratio, with Dolby© Digital 5.1 and selectable PCM stereo.  The total running time including extras is 70 minutes.

Summary

Love them or hate them there’s no denying the impact ELP had on the progressive music scene.  They have received much criticism in the last decade for the quality of their output (though Black Moon was back to form) and internal disagreements over production credits saw them split up again a couple of years ago.  Yes, they are dinosaurs, but that is their charm at least to those whose formative years were the 70’s.  Who wants to grow up?  We can only hope that concerts from their Tarkus, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery and Black Moon tours have been captured on film and make it to DVD in due course.  In the meantime, Pictures At An Exhibition DVD gives us the opportunity to experience what this great band was like at the start.  As a lad just entering his teenage years, ELP helped me (ELPed me?) make my transition overnight from classical to prog.  Without them my life may have gone down an entirely different path.  Not a nice thought.  A must for all ELP fans and for classical lovers who are not afraid to experiment.

Jem Jedrzejewski

ELP website

Classic Pictures Entertainment website

 

 

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