Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
The Nice - Ars Longa Vita Brevis CD (album) cover


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.28 | 114 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I've heard three albums by The Nice (Ars Longa Vita Brevis, Five Bridges and Elegy) and all three leave me with the same impression ... that The Nice was innovative for its time, but fatally flawed.

Flawed for two main reasons, the first being that budding genius keyboardist Keith Emerson was too talented and ambitious for his fellow band members, particular lead vocalist Lee Jackson. I've not usually fussy about vocals, but Jackson's singing is awful. While Jackson (as bassist) and drummer Brian Davison are a competent and occassionally creative rhythm section, there is a feeling of unfulfilled potential about The Nice's music.

Secondly The Nice was a band pulling in too many different directions and were not particularly outstanding in one style. A diverse combination of shorter psychedelic tunes, lengthy pomp-rock and whole classical suites (sometimes with an orchestra) coupled with a lack of true compositional skill (well, that was something that would eventually change) meant that The Nice are always going to be come a cropper when compared to the giants of prog that succeeded them.

Having said all that, The Nice are still worth listening to, even if most people coming to the band right now will probably be ELP fans who will need to readjust their expectations. Ars Longa Vita Brevis is probably my favourite of the three albums I've heard and if you bear in mind that this was released in 1968, it really is pretty damn progressive stuff.

The album commences with a trio of shorter, occasionally baudy tunes. Daddy Where Did I Come From? is a juvenile, slightly rude psychedelic tune, with some funky keyboard work that barely holds this piece together and a fair amount of narrative that really buries the piece. Little Arabella has some nice jazzy overtones with a great solo from Emerson, who does great organ work as well as some nice underlying piano stuff and Happy Freuds is probably my favourite tune of the first three opening ones. The verse sees Jackson singing at his best, and there's a nice psych interlude that complements the stately melody of the main tune.

Then we have Emerson's first stab at re-writing the classics. Sibelius' Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite is a song that The Nice would redo on Five Bridges Suite but I like it more in this version. You're not going to get prizes for guessing who the star of the show is ... despite the bombast I think this is one of Emerson's finest performances ever. A great mixture of clasical infections and rock vibes, it foreshadows in many ways the direction that Emerson would follow (to greater effect) in ELP.

The title track is a symphonic suite in six parts and while it's rather uneven, I think it deserves attention if only for the ambition Emerson shows. It doesn't get the best of starts as Prelude is just a rather pedestrian classical segment featuring an orchestra while the 1st Movement: Awakening is basically a failed Brian Davison drum solo (I am a fan of drum solos by the way, but this one doesn't make the grade). From then on in, it's generally marvelous stuff though. The 2nd Movement: Realisation is classic 60s rock with a cool riff apparently co-written with guitarist Davy O'List who left before this album. While Lee Jackson's atrocious singing makes an unfortunate appearance I really enjoy the progressive psychedelic jam that sees Emerson on piano. The 3rd movement: Acceptance starts off with some prominent brass work and there's an orchestral segment before Keith comes in ... if it seems all too familiar it's because the band and orchestra are doing a version of Allegro from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3! I know classical purists will be in tears, but I think most proggers should enjoy it, I certainly did. Keith kicks butt on this one. The 4th Movement: Denial is for the most part typical 60s organ-led blues rock although Lee Jackson comes in with vocals towards the end. Like that other classical/rock fusion experiment of the time ... Deep Purple's Concerto For Group And Orchestra ... it can be pretty messy yet is intriguing.

I've heard complaints about the sound quality of the recordings and recommend the remastered versions from Castle which are awesome (I've got the Castle remastered version of Ars Long, but older versions of two other Nice albums, and the difference is amazing ... this disc also has two bonus tracks albeit in the form of single edits of tunes already on the album). ... 64% on the MPV scale.

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this THE NICE review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

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

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives