Header
The Nice - The Nice CD (album) cover

THE NICE

The Nice

 

Symphonic Prog

3.37 | 60 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
5 stars As Nice As Mother Makes It

After two very robust but patchy albums the Nice adopted a slightly different approach to their third by exploiting a half live/half studio hybrid. They felt that this (on the advice of their new manager Tony Stratton-Smith) would showcase the 'best of both worlds' as the studio precedents were not felt to do justice to their live performances.

'Azrael Revisited' - This was one of the first songs that Emerson and Jackson collaborated on and interestingly, their exists an early version with Davy O'List playing the infectious riff on guitar which is well worth tracking down. This memorable two bar phrase is in 5/4 time but such is it's ingenuity you really don't notice the odd meter at all. Although the riff is shorn of some of its visceral power without the guitar, Keith's detuned honky tonk piano sound gives it a suitably haunted and 'aged' feel which fits the atmosphere on this much longer version perfectly. Lee Jackson is in fine irreverent form on an unusual verse melody which he delivers with a cackling and leering gusto. Emerson quotes quite liberally from Rachmaninov's prelude in C# minor on this track and it is worth pointing out that the composer wrote this piano piece after reading one of Edgar Allan Poe's stories about an unfortunate soul who is buried alive. (Truly a bedtime story suitable for insomniacs) The backing vocals become increasingly anguished and ragged as the song nears its conclusion after an extended and quite brilliant piano solo from Keith driven along by some Latin percussion from Brian Davison, before ending with a reverberant funeral motif on piano cut unnervingly short by a loud snare crack from the drummer (the banging down of the coffin lid?).

'Hang On To a Dream' - Tim Hardin's brief and beautiful song about a love lost is expanded considerably by the Nice with the addition of a choir and a jazzy piano interlude in the middle. This is a very stately and touching waltz that features one of Jackson's most heartfelt and sincere vocals. Lee's singing abilities certainly polarize opinion about the group but on particular material like this, his shortcomings lend a vulnerability and emotion to the music that the finest technical singers often cannot even approach.

'Diary of an Empty Day' - Based almost entirely on Lalo's Symphony Espagnole, this is one of the bands finest moments. Keith switches to his signature organ for the first time on this track and conjures a performance on a par with any of his greatest. The whole thing gallops along with an irresistible verve and Lee even adds some tongue in cheek Spanish guitar strummed chords towards the end. If there is a definitive lyric about being unable to write a lyric then this must be it. Jackson rather cleverly solves his writer's block by singing solely about how he cannot 'find words for this music' Taken to its logical extremes he posits what this approach might ultimately enable him to accomplish:

I could write a book this way

'For Example' - I am always struck by this track as being a defiant statement by the Nice about their insistence that all styles and forms of music should belong together and that separation is an evil engineered by marketing gurus/snobs/critics. Here we run through a slideshow of blues, rock, jazz, baroque, Gregorian chant and Hendrix all seamlessly integrated to the point where you cannot even begin to see the join. The title further gives me the impression that such were Emerson's abilities at the time he could have chosen another 6 differing musical flavors and blended same to equal effect. Rather cheekily they get the horn players employed to inject quotations from 'Norwegian Wood' and 'America.' The Nice cover in 9 minutes what other bands take 9 years to even dream about.

'Rondo 69' - The second half of the album is taken up by performances recorded at the famous Fillmore East venue in the USA and as the band have testified on numerous occasions over the years, it is perhaps only in the live environment that we get even a hint of the breadth and scope that this remarkable trio could exhibit. Both Lee Jackson and the late Brian Davison have stated that they felt the studio recordings by the Nice only 'scratched the surface' of the possibilities afforded by the group. The playing and energy are electrifying and the faithful recording captures all the subtle detail and power on display. Tempos were considerably quicker live than that of the studio versions (which caused Davison to protest to the keyboard player at around this time) and Emerson prefaces the Brubeck tune with a lengthy quote from one of Bach's Italian concertos.

'She Belongs to Me' - Where a very flaccid tune from Dylan is supercharged with an injection of Nice Viagra to bring it up to the level of a 'one take' porn star. (Check out the original, yes the lyrics are great but the melody is secondary) The entire arrangement illustrates exemplary exploitation of pace, dynamics and timbre throughout and there are examples of one of Keith's favorite improvisation techniques, that of quotation, in this case 'The Big Country' and some Bach? Anyone who underestimates the versatility and potency of Jackson and Davison as a rhythm unit really need to listen to this number and think again. The ending section is exhilarating and captures a band at the very peak of their creative powers.

You're just a walking antique etc

Which serves as an accurate and damning evaluation of most of the musical artists that were revered as innovative and progressive by the masses at the time (including the lyrics author Dylan)

This is certainly my favorite Nice album by some considerable distance and we can only guess at what further heights they may have reached had they stayed together longer. It seems clear that Emerson became irreconcilably estranged from Lee and Brian not long after this but as to the overriding reasons being purely musical/technical or personal, we may never really know the answer.

As much as I loved the the subsequent ELP adventure, there is a softer and humbler part of Emerson's musical personality that never made the transition from one group to the other and it is perhaps for this that the Nice will be missed most.

ExittheLemming | 5/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Share this THE NICE review

>

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | GeoIP Services by MaxMind | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — the ultimate jazz music virtual community | MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music virtual community


Server processing time: 0.03 seconds