Pictures at an Exhibition is a live album by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in November 1971 on Island Records. It is a recording of the band's arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, performed at Newcastle City Hall on 26 March 1971. Emerson wished to arrange the piece after seeing an orchestral performance of it several years before. He bought a copy of the score, and pitched the idea to Lake and Palmer, who agreed to adapt it. Pictures at an Exhibition went to number 2 on the UK Albums Chart and number 10 on the US Billboard 200.
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
One thing is quite certain: ou can love this album to death or loathe it with every fiber of your being, but you can’t really ignore it. From the gorgeusly disturbing gatefold sleeve, displaying a masterpiece of Gothic artwork by Swiss cult artist R.H. Giger (of “Alien” fame), down to the unabashed self-indulgence of its musical content, “Brain Salad Surgery” is a compendium of everything progressive rock is all about, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is loud, metallic, and harsh, undeniably bombastic, though it can also be melodic and soothing – a true rollercoaster ride of an album, swinging from the beautiful, English choirboy vocals of “Jerusalem” (with wonderful lyrics courtesy of one Mr William Blake) to the all-out progressive orgy that is “Karn Evil 9”.
Bruce Palmer (acoustic/electric guitars/Fender bass) is best known for his association with the earliest incarnation of the Buffalo Springfield. It was he and Neil Young who trekked from their native Canada in the latter's hearse (named Mort) to Los Angeles in search of Stephen Stills with the hopes of forming a rocking teen combo. His tenure was cut short by deportation which stemmed from two separate marijuana-related convictions in 1967 and 1968, respectively. The Cycle Is Complete (1971) – Palmer's only solo effort – is an eclectic masterwork with stream of consciousness jams that combine folk, jazz, and rock onto a quartet of primarily instrumental sides.