Friendly Rich Presents Pictures At An Exhibition

Right away, one thinks back not to Mussorgsky but Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Rich's take features a broader instrumental range with less pomposity than ELP; he isn't likely to be strutting his stuff in shiny, sequined suits. But today's madcap gimmickry is all around: cute kazoos, loopy keyboard sounds and crazy post-Zorn shifts in tone and arrangement. One's enjoyment of this disc entirely depends on your tolerance for jump cuts. If you've ever seen Friendly Rich live or experienced his music via The Tom Green Show, you know how confrontational and inspired his truly zany, circus-themed little big band can be. However, with this project, everyone sounds hemmed in, and the arrangements fail to find a balance between sobriety and flights of fancy. Only some instances of the band's entertainment value shine through, such as with the nonsensical vocalizations of Christine Duncan and Paul Dutton, which cut into the frenzied ensemble work In "Cum Mortuis." However, in the end, it's hard to see what the point is: this doesn't redefine Mussorgsky or play to the strengths of the band's personality. (Pumpkin Pie)