The film and soundtrack from the original live concert recorded in 1970 has been digitally remastered for DVD in Dolby surround sound. Tracks: Promenade, Gnome, The Sage, The Old Castle, Blues Variation, The Hut Of Baba Ya... more »ga, The Curse Of Baba Yaga.« less
"This album is a masterpiece from start to finish. This was ELP's provocative take on Mussorgsky's famed classical piece, and it was performed live, with some extra makeovers. Of course, many classical purists are still having a fit, even after more than 30 years since this hit the shelves, but if you're a bit more open-minded, this may just be something of a treat. This peformance captures ELP mixing moments of refinement and explosive intensity combined with an ethereal rawness. Rarely have I heard this combination work well...especially in a LIVE performance.
It starts with the anthemic "Promenade" which leads to a bizarre intro of The Gnome, which then takes off as a synth-washed quirky jazz fest. "Promenade" (reprise) follows, this time with lyrics written and sung by Greg Lake. "The Sage" starts off softly then turns into an elegant classical guitar instrumental. "The Old Castle" starts with some synth/distortion feedback then kicks into a rocker. Next comes "Blues Variation" which is a beautifully crafted mix of well...jazz and blues. "Promenade" starts the second half of the disc. Unlike the previous two versions of "Promenade," this version features Greg Lake, Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer performing collectively with their instruments. "The Hut Of Baba Yaga" is frenzied up jazz rock. "The Curse Of Baba Yaga" continues as Keith Emerson is doing genuinely innovative stuff on his keyboard. It is also in this section that you will probably find the most explosive moment on the disc, as Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson are out of control on the drums and synths respectively, while Greg Lake is shouting passionately as he plucks his bass strings frenetically. "The Hut" is briefly reprised before the beautifully dark and haunting finale of "The Gates Of Kiev/The End." Just hearing Greg sing "They were sent from the gates" sends a chill down my whole body. It's very powerful.
For the encore, the bands rips out "The Nutrocker", a fun, rocked up take on Tchaikovsky.
Much has been said about how annoying those synth distortion noises, some off-key vocals and other things are repelling. To me, it is this very aspect, combined with technically brilliant instrumentation, much like some of Jimi Hendrix's live performances where it was a mix of premeditation, spontaneity, abstraction and technical ability that makes this the masterpiece that it is. This performance is on the same lines of Hendrix's performance of "Wild Thing" at the Monterey Pop Festival: Brilliant to shameful/ugly, magical to phenomenal. Think of this recording the same way.
In short, this is one of the singlemost mind-blowing things I have ever heard, and still shocks, scares, offends and delights me as much as it did when I first experienced this thing. Recommended to all that apply.
Great performance - annoying special effects.
M. A Maupin | Sparks, NV United States | 01/30/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The positive:This performance is good but not as good as the Emerson Lake and Palmer: Masters From The Vaults DVD. The video and remix of the sound are very much improved over my Japaneese import laserdisc of the same concert. This a young ELP still in their prime. The not so positive:There are some unfortunate things about this video. The special effects are annoying to the point of being nauseating. The overly "creative" post production crew really got carried away with the psychedelic tint & color saturation effects. This may have been interesting as a DVD special feature, (I might have even thought it was great 30 years ago), but these days I'd just like to see the performers without these effects. I wonder if the unaffected video source even exists anymore.Yes, the performance is over the top. But so is about every live rock performance from that era. Just look at the recently released Zeppelin DVD. But hey, the era was what it was. I'm just glad that some of these bands were captured live while they still had some fire in their bellies.The unfortunate:My laserdisc of this concert includes full performances of Barbarian, Take A Pebble, and Knife Edge along with Pictures At An Exhibition. It's really, unfortunate that they chose not to include the entire concert in this DVD! They should re-release this without the special effects (except for maybe in the special features section) and included the omitted songs."
Amazing performance, nice effects--but I want the whole show
Michael Topper | Pacific Palisades, California United States | 01/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The only thing wrong with this DVD, in my opinion, is that
it is not the full length concert video that also featured
"The Barbarian", "Take A Pebble", "Knife-Edge" and "Rondo" on
it. I knew that before I bought it, but I got it anyway because
I *had* to have this on DVD, hoping that the sound would be
improved like it said on the box. And guess what--it is!
Whoever remixed the sound here did a GREAT job; it is much
louder and clearer than the professional VHS copy I had previously. It is true that some psychedelic visual effects are
superimposed on about half of the performance (from "The Old
Castle" to just before "The Great Gates Of Kiev"), but I always
thought they were great, especially the comic book effects
over the intense "Curse" segment. And, other than in that segment, I can still see the band playing underneath the effects. So, to some people (like some of the reviewers below) the visuals can look a little dated, or annoying because they semi-cover the band. But the band's performance itself is magnificent. This version of "Pictures" is better than the
actual album version (taken from a live show four months later),
because "The Gnome", "The Old Castle" and "Blues Variations"
are extended, there is no hideous "Nutrocker" and there is FAR less audience noise. In fact, the audience is so silent that when listening to the bonus audio CD of the performance, it almost sounds like a studio release. Indeed, I would declare this performance--in spite of one or two slight mistakes--to be the definitive version of "Pictures" from all those that are available. It is great to hear the audio in such good quality (only Palmer's drums sound a bit muffed, but still far clearer than on the original soundtrack), and even in stereo! There is almost no need to defend "Pictures" from clueless, oh-so punk-minded critics these days, although they continue to slam ELP's interpretation; it is in fact a wondrous musical journey, using Mussorskgy's concept piece as the basis for a diverse variety of styles ranging from medeival acoustic guitar balladry to synthesizer wizardy to dizzying hammond organ jam to the vicious power of all instruments--fuzz bass, organ, synths and drums--
coelescing on "Curse" and then finding symphonic release in
"Great Gates Of Kiev". Although there is no piano work here (but there would be if they had only included the rest of the concert, ie. "The Barbarian" and "Take A Pebble", hence the
four-star rating), this is still an absolutely essential purchase
for any ELP fan: it should be on the top of one's priority list.
As the other guy below said, just blast it in defiance of all
the brainless rap/metal, Britney, boy band, techno, Creed crap
out there today and leave the anti-prog critics to their own twisted machinations."
A great band at their peak
Laon | moon-lit Surry Hills | 08/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For a while ELP could do no wrong - up to Brain Salad Surgery and the superb Welcome Back my friends. After that we got diminishing returns, with the uninspired Works Vol I, the better but too-eclectic Works Vol II, and the embarrassing "Love Beach." And anything later than "Love Beach" isn't really ELP at all... But "Pictures" finds them in the middle of their awesome period. As a classical fan, I've always thought this is actually the best arrangement of Mussorgsky's piece. I much prefer the original piano version to any of the three orchestrations: the (sorry, this is heresy) banal Ravel version, the attempt by Stokowski, or even the Ashkanazi version, which is the best orchestrated arrangement.The ELP version doesn't have the depth or the "Russianness" of Ashkanazi, but it wins out on sheer gusto, virtuoso musicianship and energy. Speaking as both a classical and a rock fan, this is one of the few rock/classical hybrids that actually add (rather than cancelling out) the virtues of each style. And the Greg Lake contributions, interpolated songs musing on ideas from the music, are brilliant: the heart of the album in many ways. (Just as Greg Lake was always the heart of the band, despite Emerson's greater showmanship. It needed Lake's voice and the humanistic side of his music. When Lake lost his voice, and seemingly the ability to write good songs, that was when ELP spun into its astonishingly rapid decline.)Some people have criticised the sound quality. I can't say I've ever noticed that as an issue. On the other hand, Greg Lake had one of the greatest voices in rock when this was recorded. His pure tenor could be as angelic and beautiful as a choirboy, or it could do a powerful rock-shout for the thundering "Great Gates of Kiev" finale. In the more recent studio recording, we have instead a hammy performance by a man with an ugly baritone he can barely control. They should indeed have recorded this in a studio, but the time when they had the ability to do so had past by about 1976. But we do have this live document, and it's awesomely fine. Incredible band, brilliant playing and singing.(One minor quibble; I don't know why they tacked on Kim Foley's "Nutrocker" at the end. It must have been fun and funny in the live show, but on CD or vinyl the joke gets old quickly. Anything else, surely, would have been better. Program your CD-player to skip this, once you've heard it once.)Laon"
Great To See
John J. Kirschman | Albuquerque, NM United States | 08/11/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Keeping it brief, here's the following information... Only Pictures is on this CD. Over 95% of the video from Blues Variation through Great Gates Of Kiev consists of cartoon drawings and various colors spattered quickly across the screen, so you don't get to see the group (too bad the editors back then didn't realize the great thing about ELP was sitting back and watching their live performance -- they were unlike any other group ever; if we didn't want to watch them, we could just close our eyes and listen). Too bad they couldn't find the original video before the editing. The camera work is far better than that of Wakeman in the Journey DVD, as we get to see close-ups of the members playing and the interaction between Emerson and Palmer. Emerson was much more of a showman than Wakeman. Great video, anyway, even with the crappy visual effects."