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The Nice - Ars Longa Vita Brevis CD (album) cover


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.29 | 114 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Life is short, art long - Hippocrates

Although The Nice tinkered with the classics on their first album, The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack, this second work, released in late 1968 after guitarist Davy O` List was dismissed from the band without being replaced, acquired a more distinct underlying attitude towards the classics and jazz in the context of rock as exemplified by the ambitious juxtaposition of a rock trio and orchestra on the side long title pece.

Even though the first side contains much more of the same Floydian psychedelia found on the previous record the presence of the ghosts of JS Bach and Jean Sibelius are even more pronounced on the zany Daddy Where Did I Come From and the jazzy Little Arabella which features some of Emerson`s early keyboard layering with the piano and Hammond organ. A sequel to Rondo, Intermezzo from Sibelius`s Karelia Suite once again uses original classical motifs as the Nice continued to blow the simplicities of pop off the graph helping forge the way towards much more panoramic artsy music of the early 70s.

While the showy 20 minute title track Ars Longa Vita Brevis ( Symphony For Group & Orchestra ) with it`s 4 movements has it`s moments it doesn`t jive all the time and the orchestrations don`t always work well with an energized rock ensemble ( as Deep Purple would also find out a year later). If one also can overlook the rather uneccessary drum solo early on (drum solos were never that effective on record) and the weak vocal section, the third and fourth movements which contain the nucleus of the work, a take on Allegro Bach`s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, make the piece a worthwhile listen. Emerson sounds like some sort of possessed madman and conjures up some cool jazz textures on the grand piano switching to the Hammond where he offers some snippets that foreshadow ELP pieces such as Hoedown and Tarkus and is supported forcefully by the powerhouse rhythm section of Lee Jackson and the late Brian Davidson. However, the impact of their neo-classical designs were not to be fully realized until the release of The Five Bridges Suite in 1970 shortly before the dissolution of the band. It is ironic that a band that was so ahead of their time turned the clock back over 200 years for inspiration. Despite the flaws in the extended title "symphony" it certainly did influence other bands into composing longer more complex compositions based on classical motifs that continued to give popular music more depth and sophistication.

It will be remembered that Yes in their infancy actually opened for the Nice in the late sixties and that Steve Howe was even briefly considered as a replacement for O`List. Yes finally consolidated the extended suite-like rock epic with their 1972 Close To The Edge masterwork and without doubt are indebted along with other early seventies prog bands from King Crimson to Triumvirat to the visions of the Nice and their innovative 1968 album Ars Longa Vita Brevis.

Vibrationbaby | 4/5 |


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