I love the idea of this record, perhaps more than the album itself. A live album, it originally came out in 1971 but I didn't get a copy until some years later, first on vinyl then CD. What I like is the fact that this is classical music played live in the rock idiom to a raucous northern crowd.
Recorded at Newcastle City Hall the opening track of the album is played on a pipe organ installed in the City Hall in 1928. The drum roll connecting the opening track to the next was apparently there to give Keith Emerson time to get back to the main stage to perform.
The record company was understandably reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and at first insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. For this reason it was shelved a little while but after the success of their second album, the label agreed to release it as a budget live album. There was also a video, which I've not seen but must check out. This is of another live performance in 1970 in the Lyceum (see here).
Being a live album, sometimes Emerson's voltage-controlled Moog oscillators went out of tune, due to humidity and temperature. The vocals are sometimes a bit shaky too.
The original album cover, commissioned William Neal who designed and painted every canvas, used a gatefold sleeve (much beloved of big seventies albums), 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 sleeve, all of the paintings were revealed, but one remains blank: "Promenade". The musical piece by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky is not about a picture but represents a walk through a gallery. ELP do only four of the original 10 pieces.
All of the paintings were later hung at the Hammersmith Town Hall, London, and photographed by Keith Morris and Nigel Marlow.
I knew a boy in school, a Londoner who pronounced his surname Proe-bert. He was such an ELP fan he called his cat Emerson!