Prog rock has always been ambitious in its focus, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer are no different. Viewed by some as pretentious while others see them as genius, Emerson, Lake & Palmer have straddled that very line for the better part of 40 years. In 1970, they took it upon themselves to adapt Modest Mussorgsky’s classical piece Pictures at an Exhibition into a rock format. The shows were recorded and filmed and are now presented in remastered form in Pictures at an Exhibition: Special Edition.
Well known for their music chops, the band appears to be having fun on stage as evidenced by drummer Carl Palmer’s knowing smiles at keyboardist Keith Emerson as he tries to keep up with the challenging tempos of “The Gnome.” Bassist Greg Lake shows off his classical guitar skills and haunting vocals on “The Sage,” a song that foreshadowed the band’s hit “From the Beginning.” “Blues Variation” features some blistering keyboard work from Emerson that shows through all the over-the-top antics (Emerson appears to hump his keyboard at one point and does stab it with knives at another), these guys could really play.
Early ’70s psychedelic visual effects take over during “The Old Castle” and feature prominently throughout the rest of the DVD. While they are dated, they are historically correct. Fans looking for a version sans these effects won’t find that here. Still, the picture and sound quality are generally excellent for a nearly 40-year-old concert recording.
The DVD includes the original trailer for the movie as well as a Belgian TV appearance on Pop Shop from 1971. This footage is touted as appearing for the first time, but it had previously been available on the DVD Masters From the Vaults.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer have had a long and storied musical career. They are among the founding fathers of prog rock and fans wanting to catch of a glimpse of this legendary band near the beginning of its career won’t be disappointed with Pictures at an Exhibition: Special Edition.
Article first published as Music DVD Review: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition (Special Edition) on Blogcritics.