Pictures at an Exhibition (Emerson, Lake & Palmer album)

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Pictures at an Exhibition
Live album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Released November 1971
Recorded 26 March 1971
Studio Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle, England
Genre Progressive rock, classical crossover
Length 37:56
Label Island (UK)
Rhino (US)
Producer Greg Lake
Emerson, Lake & Palmer chronology
Pictures at an Exhibition
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[1]
Robert ChristgauD+[2]
Rolling Stone(unfavorable)[3]

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 3 on the UK Albums Chart and number 10 on the US Billboard 200. In 2001, it was reissued as a remastered edition that included a studio version of the piece.


The original live album was recorded at Newcastle City Hall in North East England. The opening track of the album was played on a Harrison & Harrison pipe organ which was installed in the City Hall in 1928. The organ console is some way above stage level, at the top of a stepped terrace used for choral performances. The drum roll connecting the opening track to the next served to cover Emerson's dash back down to the stage.

Due to management conflicts, the recording was not released until after Tarkus, their second studio album. The record company was reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. Fearing that this would lead to poor sales, ELP instead decided to shelve the work. After the success of their second album, however, the label agreed to release Pictures as a budget live album.

There was also a video made of a different live performance (Lyceum Theatre, 9 December 1970). This had a limited theatrical release in 1973, and a remastered DVD release with Dolby Surround Sound in 2000. Being a live album, sometimes Keith Emerson's voltage-controlled Moog oscillators went out of tune, due to humidity and temperature.

Cover design[edit]

Original cover with pictures revealed.

The cover, commissioned to William Neal who designed and painted every canvas, used a gatefold sleeve, depicting on the outside blank picture frames labelled with the titles of the pieces: "The Old Castle", "The Gnome", etc. The paintings were huge oil paintings full of ELP symbolism, like the Tarkus background in the "Hut" and the white dove embossed into the titanium white oil paint in "Promenade" (visible only on the original painting).

On the inner gatefold, all of the paintings were revealed, but one remains blank: "Promenade". The musical piece, of course, is not about a picture, but represents a walk through the gallery. Some CD covers use only the "revealed" version.

All of the paintings were later hung at the Hammersmith Town Hall, London, and photographed by Keith Morris and Nigel Marlow, both former graduates from Guildford School of Art.[4]


The band's arrangement of the suite only uses four of the original ten pieces in Mussorgsky's suite, along with the linking "Promenade". The suite was performed live as one continuous piece, with new, group-written sections linking Mussorgsky's original themes, specific track markings on pressings are only a guide. Mussorgsky's original compositions are listed in bold.

  1. Promenade: Organ solo (instrumental, more information see above)
  2. The Gnome: Group (instrumental)
  3. Promenade: Hammond organ and vocal
  4. (Interlude: short synthesizer solo, not a Mussorgsky piece)
  5. The Sage: A new picture "drawn" by Lake in the mood of a medieval minnesang, works as sort of romantic prelude to "The Old Castle"
  6. (Interlude: Moog-ribbon-controller-solo by Emerson, not a Mussorgsky piece)
  7. The Old Castle: The full group performs a heavily accelerated adaptation of the original theme, leading directly into the next section
  8. Blues Variation, a twelve-bar blues credited to the group
  9. Promenade: Group (instrumental)
  10. The Hut of Baba Yaga: Group (instrumental)
  11. The Curse of Baba Yaga is a new title to the middle section of the original piece. The music is again an adaption of the original piece, only the lyrics and vocal is completely new to the piece
  12. The Hut of Baba Yaga: Group (instrumental)
  13. The Great Gates of Kiev is also the last picture of Mussorgsky's piano-cycle, with vocals and lyrics added by the group. The piece features a refrain in the middle containing Hammond organ feedback.

Track listing[edit]

Original LP and CD Edition
1."Promenade"Modest Mussorgsky, arranged by Keith Emerson1:58
2."The Gnome"Mussorgsky, Carl Palmer4:18
3."Promenade"Mussorgsky, arranged by Greg Lake1:23
4."The Sage"Lake4:42
5."The Old Castle"Mussorgsky, Emerson2:33
6."Blues Variation"Emerson, Lake, Palmer4:22
7."Promenade"Mussorgsky, arranged by Emerson1:29
8."The Hut of Baba Yaga"Mussorgsky, arranged by Emerson1:12
9."The Curse of Baba Yaga"Emerson, Lake, Palmer4:10
10."The Hut of Baba Yaga"Mussorgsky, arranged by Emerson1:06
11."The Great Gates of Kiev"Mussorgsky, Lake6:37
12."Nutrocker"Tchaikovsky, Kim Fowley, arranged by Emerson, Lake, Palmer4:26
2001 Remaster Bonus Track
13."Pictures at an Exhibition" (Studio version)*
  • "Promenade" 1:44
  • "The Gnome" 2:07
  • "Promenade" 1:46
  • "The Sage" 3:08
  • "The Hut of Baba Yaga" 1:17
  • "The Great Gates of Kiev" 5:26"
Mussorgsky, Emerson, Lake, Palmer15:28

* The studio version, recorded in 1993, was released on The Return of the Manticore box set and some pressings of the 1994 album In the Hot Seat.

2005 Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
13."Pictures at an Exhibition" (Medley from the Isle of Wight Festival 1970)
  • "Promenade" (Instrumental)
  • "The Gnome"
  • "Promenade" (Vocal)
  • "The Sage"
  • "The Old Castle" (Not listed in booklet)
  • "Blues Variation" (Not listed in booklet)
  • "Promenade" (Not listed in booklet)
  • "The Hut of Baba Yaga"
  • "The Great Gates of Kiev"
Mussorgsky, Emerson, Lake, Palmer35:17
2016 Deluxe Edition Bonus Disc
2."The Gnome"Mussorgsky, Palmer5:41
3."Promenade"Mussorgsky, Lake1:24
4."The Sage"Lake5:07
5."The Old Castle"Mussorgsky, Emerson4:24
6."Blues Variation"Emerson, Lake, Palmer6:05
8."The Hut of Baba Yaga"Mussorgsky1:15
9."The Curse of Baba Yaga"Emerson, Lake, Palmer4:56
10."The Hut of Baba Yaga"Mussorgsky1:11
11."The Great Gates of Kiev/The End"Mussorgsky, Lake6:52
12."The Barbarian"Béla Bartók, arranged by Emerson, Lake, Palmer5:23
13."Knife-Edge"Emerson, Lake, Leoš Janáček, Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Fraser8:03
14."Rondo"Dave Brubeck, Emerson, Lee Jackson, David O'List, Brian Davison17:50
15."Nutrocker"Tchaikovsky, Fowley4:26
  • The material on the second disc was recorded at the Lyceum Theatre on 8 December 1970.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer[edit]


  • Producer: Greg Lake
  • Engineer: Eddy Offord
  • Remastering: Joseph M. Palmaccio
  • Arrangers: Keith Emerson, Greg Lake
  • Recorded using the Pye Mobile Recording Unit
  • Cover design: William Neal
  • Cover painting: William Neal
  • Artwork: William Neal
  • Photography: Nigel Marlow, Keith Morris
  • Lyrics: Greg Lake, Richard Fraser


The album reached #3 in the UK album chart in December 1971, only by virtue of the fact that budget-priced albums (of which Pictures at an Exhibition was one), were eligible for inclusion at that time. At the beginning of 1972 another change in the chart rules excluded them again, which meant that Pictures disappeared from the chart from #9 after a run of just 5 weeks.

In the US Billboard album chart it peaked at #10 in early 1972.


  • Nutrocker / The Great Gates of Kiev (USA release)

Other rock adaptations of Mussorgsky[edit]

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was also performed in different electronic arrangements by both Isao Tomita and Tangerine Dream, and in a heavy metal adaptation by the German band Mekong Delta. The first and third mentioned are more complete versions of the original suite.


  1. ^ Eder, Bruce (2011). "Pictures at an Exhibition – Emerson, Lake & Palmer | AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: Emerson, Lake & Palmer". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Bangs, Lester (2 March 1972). "Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Pictures At An Exhibition : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  4. ^ William Neal Studio Archived 5 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.