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The Nice - The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack CD (album) cover


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.47 | 121 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's true, the Nice's debut was a psych record, an unmistakable classic of paisley-soaked Britpop kitsch and a perfect specimen of lava lamp excess. As well, the painful 'singing' of guitarist/arranger Dave O'List & bassist Lee Jackson is legend, as is Keith Emerson's spastic keyboard teeth-pulling. It's all there to laugh at, but something more is happening here and for my money, this is indeed the first rock album that convincingly infused true classical and jazz motifs with psychedelia-- not as a gimmick or with studio tricks and clever production, but with quality playing by musicians who had the background to support such ambitions. Remember, it was 1967, an amazing year for music; 'Sgt. Pepper's', 'Smiley Smile', 'Axis', 'Piper', 'Absolutely Free', all creating history as the world watched and this debut from a "pop band" was making its mark not on pop or psych, but on a new form of music that took from the best of what had come before while maintaining a rock spirit. And though King Crimson's landmark 'In the Court of the Crimson King' (1969) is seen as the first Prog album with all elements present, the Nice did it first and, in certain ways, did it better. Especially in those early days when Crimson wasn't much more than a new version of the neat but nerdy Giles,Giles&Fripp, just with better production and a good-looking singer. No, the Nice were the genuine article when the others were still staring at colors in the sky, and the proof is all there.

Fresh out of Gary Farr and the T-Bones, Keith Emerson and Lee Jackson had joined forces with a good drummer (Brian Davison) and an over-hyped guitarist (Davey O'List) to back singer P.P. Arnold. After a stint with Arnold, they intended to make a record that might appeal to the growing underground market. But because of the quality of musicianship, the session became much more. On the surface, opener 'Flower King of Flies' is an ordinary 60s romp, clangy and dusty. But Emerson's sophisticated changes and high-tech trills raise the bar, turning this into an early prog giant that still excites with high energy and a neat arrangement, echo chamber fun and Davison's marching drums. Horrid Beach Boys vocals and Beatles cliches ruin the title cut but 'Bonnie K' saves the day with her fun, heavy bounce. In the classic 'Rondo' we hear some of the very earliest prog rock as we know it-- symphonic prowess, jazz spaces, gothic colors and rock'n roll bravado, seamlessly brought together for over eight straight minutes. No bluffs, no bullsh*t, just quality stuff with a little wit attached. 'War and Peace' doesn't do much more than dance around, though, and 'Tantalising Maggie' is more a joke than a song, saved by a great classical piano break from Keith, and 'Dawn' creeps open with dungeon noises and a smooth organ vamp enhanced by the skill and unexpected good taste of this group. This is progressive rock in its infancy, just starting to break away from its beginnings, walking upright and not looking back. The album concludes on the remarkable and sublime 'The Cry of Eugene' with church bells, beautiful organ and some squeaky horns. A five star album any day of the week for importance but for some failed moments, only four here. Innocently wonderful and full of the best intentions, the Nice were destined to fade away but the impact they made and contributions to the future of rock music was immeasurable, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Atavachron | 4/5 |


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