Top positive review
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Like the curate's egg
on 16 March 2011
It has become fashionable to mock prog rock, with its potential for self-indulgent, pompous, bombastic music. The problem with the genre is that when it was dire, it was very, very dire. However when, as often happened, it was good, it was very, very good indeed. Emerson,Lake & Palmer probably epitomised what was worst and best about prog, but I would submit that this was one of their better moments.
What motivated most prog rock musicians, was a desire to take rock music and elevate it to the level enjoyed by the classical genre. What better than to create a rock version of Mussorgsky's piano suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, which the band took on the road in 1971. This was by no means the first time that a new interpretation of the work had appeared, the original piano pice had been orchestrated by a number of composers, the most famous and lasting version by Ravel.
It is the musicianship that makes this such a strong piece, showcasing the technical skills of three very talent players, not least Emerson's prowess on the Hammond organ. The fact that it was recorded live also adds to the listening experience. This is one of the few albums where a rock band devoted the whole record to a classical work and it actually made the top 10 album charts in both the UK and the US. When it was originally released it was at a low price, £1.49 if I remember rightly, when other albums of the time were a £1 dearer.
I think this stands as a fine example of what rock music can do and it is certainly a good place to start for those who want to know what prog rock was all about.