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The Nice - Five Bridges Suite CD (album) cover


The Nice

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars This album was quite innovative in it's day. Keith Emerson (who soon after would found ELP) wrote the 4-part suite as a live performance vehicle for combining a rock trio with a symphonic orchestra, a device which was used later by Procol Harem and ELP). This is a jazzier piece for the Nice, and the welcome addition of a Horn section in the final movement is a real departure from any other recording the Nice did. The transitions aren't always smooth, but the recording is good (for that time). The "B" side contained 2 other symphonic pieces, both more "straight" readings of the original classics. 2 original short pieces were included. Country Pie / Brandenburg Concerto No.6 is a brilliant fusing of the Bob Dylan song with bits of the Bach concerto intricately interwoven. In my opinion, this song was the most successful of all K.E.'s attempts at combining Classical with Rock. One of Those People is a tongue-in-cheek, perverted song in the vein of "Daddy, Where Did I Come From" or "Living Sin", and is a theme that crops up in Nice's and ELP's music often. Not a bad song, though. As with "Elegy", the bonus tracks are from much earlier recordings from the Davy O'List days, and detract from the original album by introducing anachronistic pieces that are completely different in tone and seem very dated. Of these, "Diary of an Empty Day" is the best, musically, and the studio version of "America" is here, although the live version on Elegy is much better. As always, the vocals are the band's weakest link.
Report this review (#5142)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars I fall asleep every time I try to listen to this . But it doesn't stop me from sleeping either so it must not be as bad as that . I realize that once more , I am going against the majority , but when such an album (of classical reworks) takes an effort to LISTEN to it , then you will agree that there is a problem

Not only is the new material relastively boring and uninteresting , but there are tracks that are rewoks of reworks such as the Karelia Suite and Brandenburger concerts as both had appeared on their second album Ars Longa Vita Brevis. So I find very little point to this album and I was severely disappointed as I had spent an almost full two years tracking down the vinyl in the early 80's.

Please note that the bonus tracks are all from the debut album , and do not fit well with the original tracks of this album. If you have any interest into those bonus , better get their outstanding debut!

Report this review (#5144)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really like "Five Bridges" despite its rough edges and Lee Jackson's unique vocal approach. To be fair, Jackson and Davison aren't bad at all; they just pale by comparison with the rhythm section of Emerson's later and more famous band. I agree with Mr. Levy that the O'List-era cuts are somewhat of a mismatch with the orchestral suite, but they're still a good value for the price.
Report this review (#5145)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars By far the most ambitious recording from this band as they tackle classical styled music live with an orchestra.If you like symphonic prog then you must have this if only to understand the roots of the genre.The quality of production is of the highest for a live album and a real achievment for the time (1969).The band are on top form and blend well with the orchestra.I have to deduct a mark though for 2 fillers 'Country Pie' and 'One Of Those People' which stop this being the joint best prog album of the sixties with King Crimson's 'In The Court..'.
Report this review (#5146)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Nicely out of tune?*

It is a matter for debate as to how time would have remembered the Nice, had it not been for Keith Emerson's subsequent membership of ELP. There is no doubt that his iconic status has helped to maintain interest in the Nice over the last 30+ years. That said, they did make some innovative and adventurous albums, and would have been worthy of their status in rock music, even if ELP had never existed. Tellingly, my repackaged LP version of this album is credited to "Keith Emerson and the Nice", the former being in much larger font than the latter.

"Five Bridges" is a fine example of what the band could produce. It is one of the earliest examples of a collaboration between band and orchestra. Partly recorded live in Newcastle (UK), the album title, and indeed the suite which occupies side one of the album, relate to that city. The suite is largely successful, if at times a bit rough and ready, Lee Jackson's vocals in particular being rather poor. The band and orchestra tend to keep themselves to themselves, with little in the way of interplay between them.

Side two has four separate tracks. Of these, the mostly faithful reworking of "Intermezzo from Karlia suite" is the most successful, and indeed the best track on the album. Band and orchestra work closer together here than on any other track, resulting in a well constructed, and highly melodic piece. It also includes now famous "knives" routine.

The classics are in evidence again on the next two tracks, with a fairly nondescript reading of "Pathetique symphony". Bob Dylan's "Country Pie" however combines well with "Brandenburger concerto" to form a single piece. The final track, "One of those people", is a "Benny the bouncer"/ "Are you ready Eddy" type throw away track.

There have been many examples of band and orchestra combining in a live environment over the years, and in truth, a number have been more successful than this. "Five bridges" is very much of its time, but when viewed on that basis, it works well.

* "Nicely out of tune" was the name of an album by Newcastle band Lindisfarne.

Report this review (#5148)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars How can I define this disc? Interesting... but really boring! I've buy the CD version with bonus tracks for its great artwork and I was thinking to something like symphonic rock with amazing ideas. But I've found a long execution of a symphonic orchestra with nothing that can be defined rock... The work is more a symphonic music disk than a progressive rock release, there aren't too many good ideas and it's probably a too much ambitious step for Keith Emerson.
Report this review (#5149)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I find this to be generally less engrossing than the Ars Longa Vita Brevis album and if you compare the two multi-part classical/rock fusion epics you'll see why. Too much of the Five Bridges Suite is classical fluff that obscures some great rock playing from the band. (Before I start reviewing the piece I should let you know that the divisions on my CD are as follows: Fantasia 1st Bridge (6:08), 2nd Bridge (3:59) Chorale 3rd Bridge (3:30), High Level Fugue 4th Bridge (1:02) and Finale 5th Bridge (3:34).)

Five Bridges Suite commences with a lengthy opening orchestral overture before some solo piano that's technically sound but largely boring takes over, the track concludes with another dull classical segment featuring brass and strings prominently. The 2nd bridge is quintessetially 60s rock with a bass led groove being overwhelmed by a powerful Keith Emerson organ solo before Lee Jackson's vicious vocals come in. There's some great playing here, with Brian Davison also standing out, and there are sounds that every ELP will recognise. Unfortunately the orchestra returns for the 3rd bridge bringing with it some very churchy vocals that are just crying out for someone like ... oh I don't know ... Greg Lake to sing them them (although to be fair, it's one of Jackson's best-ever vocal turns). This segment alternates with a nice acoustic jazz trio bit, in which Davison's drumming catches my ear again. The 4th bridge abruptly brings in some high octane lead piano work from Emerson. The 5th bridge sees the best inter- action between band and orchestra, although it's ruined a bit by Jackson's returning vocals. There's even some lead brass instrument that does some fiery playing and actually out-soloes Keith, which is something I've hardly ever heard from a fellow musician playing alongside the man.

As for the rest of the pieces ... Intermezzo Karelia Suite recovers from the same overblown orchestral start and also contains some great playing from Keith, but gets lost in a couple of minutes of sonic experimentation and I actually prefer the version on Ars Longa Vita Brevis. The adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Symphony Pathetique just gets on my wrong side ... by the time Keith comes in I've lost all interest ... and a "nice" drum solo from Brian Davison is wasted at the end of the piece. While the fusion of Dylan's Country Pie with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 6 is another interesting experiment, One Of Those People is just another one of those bawdy silly tunes that both The Nice and ELP enjoyed doing. I still struggle to believe that nobody stopped The Nice in their tracks and asked them to get a half-decent singer. ... 51% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#5151)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a good album, including some orchestral work recorded live "Five Bridges Suite", "Intermezzo - Karelia Suite", "Pathetique", "Country Pie/Brandenburg Concert No. 6", showing Emerson's ambitions of fusing classical and rock music. Is he successful? Yes and no. For the "yes" part of things, "Country Pie..." is an amazing cover of a Bob Dylan track, with Bach's "Brandenburg Concert" sliding into it as an organ solo, showing Emerson's amazing talent, and "Karelia Suite" is far superior to the version featured at "Ars Longa Vita Brevis". For the "no", "Five Bridges", although is a great composition, does not blend classical and rock as well, showing orchestra and rock trio as opposites (a problem that also plagues Deep Purple's "Concerto for Group and Orchestra"), with only a few moments that they play together. The real treat in this CD is the bonus tracks, all featuring the original 4-piece The Nice, with David O'List on guitar. Emerson's fans will probably like this album, as proggers interested on symphonic rock will; all others will not find much for their money.
Report this review (#45018)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first album performed with an orchestra and composed/arranged by Emerson and the orchestral Director together.well the output sometimes is uneven and a bit tiring, cause of the complex job in the arrangements, with a few forced passages and a certain unbalance as well, which characterize almost the whole opera!! Instead I think of a few compositions by Renaissance only (above all "Scheherazade" from Rimsky/Korsakov), plus "Pictures at an exhibition", the excellent transposition from Mussorgsky by ELP, being perhaps the unique contaminated works of progressive rock, in which the fusion was perfectly obtained. After hearing such great compositions, I should like to give the present work a "2 stars" score, but probably the right evaluation is "2 stars and an half".obviously your opinion could be affected by your music background, so make your own choice!!
Report this review (#46410)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Five Bridges contains a live performance from Newcastle Arts Festival featuring Joseph Eger and the Sinfonia of London orchestra. "Five Bridges Suite," commissioned for the occasion, consumes the first side of the elpee, and stands as an early, successful attempt to merge classical music and rock (the "bridge" that Emerson was trying to build). Moreso than ELP's Pictures At An Exhibition, which was a little excessive for my tastes, this album incorporates rock into classical music without overpowering it. After all, Emerson wasn't going to outwrite Tchaikovsky or Sibelius, so he uses what's best about those works as a conveyance for his own modest contributions. As Emerson himself writes on the liner notes, sometimes The Nice and the orchestra achieve a fusion of sound, and sometimes there's conflict. There was more conflict in ELP, as Lee Jackson's voice (arguably the most non-traditional element in the mix) hints at the profane direction Greg Lake would take but rarely rises high enough in the live mix. Oddly, listeners may be more aggrieved at what The Nice do to Bob Dylan than J.S. Bach in the live combination of "Country Pie" and "Brandenburg Concerto No. 6." (I don't hear much of the Concerto in this, so I assume it's been interwoven into the musical treatment of the Dylan song.) The elpee closes with a lone studio track, "One of Those People," which remains one of my favorite tracks from The Nice. It's here that Jackson prefigures the profanity of Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery, while Emerson and Davison lay down an intoxicating backdrop to the perverse proceedings. Though primarily a catch-all of live performances, Five Bridges became the first Nice album to crack the US Top 200. Listeners were finally coming around to the idea of a classical/rock hybrid, but they'd need to read ELP to find out how it ended. The material on Five Bridges remains fresh today, though the compromised recording quality of the performances has taken its toll on the music.
Report this review (#47575)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Regardless of its short-comings, and we could all list a few - the recording, Lee Jackson, Emerson's misplaced primal organ-howling - 'Five Bridges' is a remarkable project which showed a band doing what many were likely fantasizing about but couldn't pull off; the merging of a small rock ensemble with an orchestra. There are more successful attempts at this, like Mahavishnu's 'Apocalypse', but none with more edge and new excitment shown on this album. Even the Dylan cover is great, though the CD version I have ['Keith Emerson with The Nice'] omits 'Country Pie/Brandenburg' and 'One of Those People' and adds some good things from the 'Elegy' album. Problems aside, this is a session each prog lover has to come to terms with as it is so vital to the movement.
Report this review (#95715)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Nice is definitely one of pioneering bands that later emerged as progressive rock. Even though I knew the band quite late later but I have to admit that the contents of its music influenced a lot on the further development of progressive rock music. Emerson, Jackson, and Davidson were musicians who formed the colors of rock music with their own style with many music experimentations. They dared to take different direction and followed their path to take up new challenge in redefining the pop music industry. They expanded their music horizon, sometime in late sixties, combining multitude of styles from classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues and created their own way and approach in music making.

This fourth album represents all the components of classical, jazz and rock blended nicely into one cohesive album which has become legendary now. This album is one of legendary prog albums with grandiose approach. The first part of the album comprises classical music influences while as the music moves forward to another segment there are heavy jazz and rock influences. One who really curious about early development of prog music must explore this album in deep and will understand how the major part of the style has influenced the music of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Yes, you might find this album lacks melody but your main focus should be on the composition and performance. The style also influenced what later came out with the only album by Refugee where Patrick Moraz joined the band replacing Keith Emerson and changed their name to Refugee.

If you really want to know how progressive rock was initially established, you should not miss this album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Report this review (#121050)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Burning Bridges

For me this album represents a pivotal moment in the rise of Keith Emerson as a serious composer and the inevitable demise of the Nice as a band.

This is perfectly exemplified by the (mostly) successful and highly ambitious suite that comprises the whole of side one. The 'rockier' and shorter band-only material that make up the remainder illustrate some of the technical limitations of his buddies that Emerson was labouring under at that time.

Given the keyboard player's vaunted ambition, it was very unlikely that either Jackson or Davison would have the requisite 'chops' to cope with the subsequent ELP adventure.

The Five Bridges Suite probably succeeds because Emerson correctly identified the group and orchestra as mutually antagonistic, and consequently used this to his advantage i.e orchestra and group play the sections sequentially and seldom in unison. Conductor Josef Eger manages to coax a spirited performance from the London Sinfonia and Emerson's music runs adroitly the whole gamut of rock, blues, jazz and classical. There is also, rest assured, his usual helping of Hammond inflicted torture with which to infuriate the 'penguins' from behind their music stands and at one deafening point in the proceedings we can only surmise that Keith had declared a 'fatwa' on stubborn earwax.

The piano fugue is particularly good and the same harmonic material is used to exquisite effect on a 'chorale' section featuring a heart-felt vocal from Lee Jackson about his formative years in Newcastle. The lyrics are often bitter-sweet and we cannot help but conclude that Jackson's relationship with his home-town is a complex affair:

It's no good shouting about dirty air when there's nothing much else to breathe, it's no good shouting from 9 to 5 if don't have the guts to leave

Two classical adaptations open up side two (remember vinyl?) being Sibelius' Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite, which is so much better than the insipid studio version, and a rather perfunctory sprint through Tchaikovsky's Pathetique. There is a tendency for the band and Orchestra to cancel each other out during the unison sections here but otherwise they are enjoyable and ground breaking attempts to merge what was hitherto considered an area where 'never the twain shall meet' .

Country Pie/Brandenburger is one of my all time favourite Nice tracks which illustrates that uncanny knack Emerson has for marrying disparate elements that in isolation, are less than mouth-watering. Here he welds an inconsequential little Dylan tune to Bach's stately 6th Brandenburger and the whole is way, way more than the sum of its parts. Jackson's rather limited range is not compromised by this tune and the bass and drum interplay, together with Emerson's incendiary organ performance is unrivaled in the band's output.

The last track One of Those People is often dismissed as throwaway filler, but I think it vastly underrated and brings the (original) album to a very satisfying and upbeat conclusion. We also meet here, and not for the last time, Emerson's enduring wish to have his voice electronically manipulated to resemble a Klingon livestock auctioneer. (see the 'computer/robot' voice from Brain Salad Surgery)

The resistance Emerson (and his buddy Jon Lord) met when trying to merge rock and classical was reactionary in the extreme, and we cannot help but conclude with some irony, that those denizens of the 'rawk' world who pay lip service to permissiveness, experimentation and anti-establishment values can be, without fear of contradiction, some of the most conservative people on the planet.

Report this review (#169587)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars What did Newcastle do to deserve this ?

The opening minutes of classical music is a very nice and pretty much sets the standard here. A mix of classical music and the magic music of Keith Emerson. Yes, that guy who later joined Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The seeds of most of their output can be found on this album, in my view. The Five Bridges album is a tribute to Newcastle, England. Only God knows why. The music is truly symphonic with a mix of classical instruments and moog. It has a lot of good pieces which fascinate me and keep my interest high. Songs like the whole 5 Bridges Suite (spread out on 4 tracks), Intermezzo Karelia Suite and Country Pie.

All of the original album is really classical music merged with Keith Emerson's rock. Unlike the dismal attempts from the Dutch band Ekseption, The Nice manage to merge these two styles. Mainly because Keith Emerson knows what he is doing. What he is doing is putting his personal touches to every tone on the album. For example Intermezzo Karelia Suite could be a mess of classical music and some rock. Not a chance with Keith Emerson around....... The result is nine minutes of Keith Emerson improvisations over classical music. Which makes a superb track !

Regarding The Nice versus ELP........... I regard Five Bridges as the forewarning of things to come (ELP). I believe (source is the Keith Emerson biography) that this album was recorded through the first week of ELP's being. But ELP was never this classical music focused as Five Bridges is. There are eleven minutes here of pure classic music. Which is a pretty decent percentage of the total album.

Most of all; Five Bridges is weird and wonderful. It has some superb tunes. It is really an album to enjoy. Give it your full attention and you will enjoy it. Listen without prejudice.

The CD version comes with five bonus tracks. All of them well known The Nice standards. They enhance the album greatly...... but my review is only based on the original album consisting of Fantasia 1st Bridge / 2nd Bridge, Chorale 3rd Bridge, High Level Fugue 4th Bridge, Finale 5th Bridge, Intermezzo, 'Karelia Suite', Pathetique Symphony No.6. 3rd Movement, Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No.6 and One Of Those People (3:09) .

4 stars.

Report this review (#188815)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Nice was the first band I ever saw live. Made quite an impression on my 11-year old mind seeing that crazy organist stabbing knives in between the keys and then actually tap dancing on the abused instrument ... with some actual musical results! Made my next couple of concerts a bit humdrum by comparison (the Ides of March and a bogus Archies, if you must know). However, a seed had been planted that the Nice required my further attention. That resulted in my grandmother buying me their then-new album Five Bridges.

Another seed was also planted in kindling my interest in classically-minded rock bands playing with concert orchestras. So few of those cross-cultural attempts ever met with much success in my eyes, but the Nice's Five Bridges actually manages to pull it off. Composer and said crazy organist Keith Emerson seemed to compose the piece with both entities well in mind so as not to emphasize the difference between orchestra and electric rock band, but indeed their cooperative powers.

Melodically, Five Bridges may be a highwater mark for Mr. Emerson that he didn't reach again until the Fugue that separates the two Endless Enigmas on ELP's Trilogy. Lee Jackson's considerable vocal limitations are well noted, yet even he rises to the occasion here. Jackson's tender vocal on the Chorale (3rd Bridge) is a genuine highlight of the piece, really driving the beautiful melody along with the orchestra before Emerson's insane piano duet with himself in the High Level Fugue. Jackson's bass playing, almost always neglected in the Nice reviews I've read, really needs to be singled out for its inventiveness, particularly in its chordal execution vary unique among bass players, especially in the '60s.

The Sibelius and Tchaikovsky interpretations (both with orchestra) are just wonderful. And the Dylan-meets-Bach of Country Pie successfully keeps the rock/classical flag flying, with a sly sense of humor as well. The inclusion of the studio outtake One Of Those People is the only bum note here, as it sounds like a leftover from, say Ars Longa Vita Brevis rather than of more timely vintage. There were some other live recordings made at the same Five Bridges concert that really should be here instead of this track. (Indeed, several of them showed up on the Here Come The Nice Immediate box set a few decades later.)

The last track nonewithstanding, Five Bridges is one powerful note for the Nice to go out on. The sidelong Five Bridges piece itself is truly one of Keith Emerson's great accomplishments and deserving of much more exposure to those many ELP, Nice and Emerson fans who've doubtlessly never heard it.

Report this review (#196547)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars After many years of ignoring this album due to the lack of interest in Rock/Pop albums with artificial orchestral patches in the vein of Days of Future Passed and due to the very descriptive reviews I found in Prog Archives, decided to buy a copy of Five Bridges and was gladly surprised, because unlike most previous Orchestra and Band releases, THE NICE and THE SIMFONIA OF LONDON ORCHESTRA melt perfectly in a musical piece on which the Rock and Classical component are one new musical product.

The central piece of the album is "The Five Bridges Suite", which was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival in honor to the architectural structure of the city, in reference to the 5 bridges over the River Tyne, was premiered in Newcastle on October 10, 1969, but was recorded on October 17..

Side A consists of the The suite which divided in five "Bridges" or Movements

"Fantasia - 1st Bridge)" starts as a relatively anodyne piece for orchestra and Emerson's piano, despite the efforts of the orchestra to create a pompous and brilliant sound, the piece sounds dated and boring. Luckily as soon as Emerson's piano starts, gets more interesting, as a fact sounds a lot as "Piano Improvisation" blended with "Piano Concerto N° 1" by ELP.

"Fantasia - 2nd Bridge" is a jazzy piece for band without orchestra in which the perfect timing of Davidson and the bass by Jackson are enhanced by the frenetic synths of Keith, a good finale for a movement that started weak despite the rough vocals.

"Choral - 3rd Bridge" is a piece for Vocals and orchestra with interruptions of the band, incredibly the voice of Lee Jackson sounds softer and much better than ever, which is followed by "High Level Fugue 4th Bridge" is a piece for piano and cymbals, more in the vein of what Emerson and Palmer did on Works

The suite ends with "Finale - 5th Bridge", my favorite movement, in which the band with additional horns really give a pure Prog Rock performance, brilliant and frenetic, announcing what Keith will do when joined by Lake and Palmer, an excellent closing for a good but uneven suite.

Side B consists of four individual tracks that start with "Intermezzo Karelia Suite", a new version of their Ars Longa Vita Brevis classic, that sounds excellent with the orchestra melting with the band, sadly one of those loud sonic excesses of Keith Emerson with cacophonic sounds partially ruins what could be the best rendition of Sibelius masterpiece.

Despite what most people say, I believe that "Pathetique (Symphony No. 6 3rd Movement)" is a magnificent adaptation of Tchaikovsky's work with an amazing keyboard work by Emerson, specially because he avoids the usual loud experimental synth sounds that ruin other pieces.

"Country pie / Brandenburg Concerto No. 6" is an unusual mix of Bob Dylan and Johan Sebastian Bach that incredibly blend perfectly, as if they were created to be rearranged and performed by THE NICE with a Keith Emerson in flames.

The album ends with a filler called "One of Those People" recorded from a BBC session if I'm not wrong, a totally anti-climatic ending for a good but uneven album. My version has 5 bonus tracks that are out of place in this album so will not review them.

Now is time for the difficult moment of rating the album, and I say difficult because this is one of the first occasions in which a band perfectly blends with an orchestra, the problem is that there are excellent, average and terrible tracks , so despite the marvelous moments and obvious achievements, will have to rate Five Bridges with only 3 stars that could have been 4 if it wasn't for the last track.

Report this review (#507493)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars The symphony orchestra dominates but The Nice knew how to make incredible music to massage the ears.

The name of this release is a reference to the five bridges of the city, encompassing the River Tyne. This curio begins with a bombastic massive orchestra sounding more like the soundtrack to the latest fantasy flick then anything else. The brass, strings and woodwind are perfectly balanced with dramatic temperance and beauty. The lovely flute passages are dreamy and whimsical; the violins are sweeping and emotional; the brass is vibrant and heavy; together a foundation is created to usher in The Nice's blazing 70s sounds. Welcome to "Five Bridges Suite", an amalgamation of 70s psych merged with symphony orchestra, led by Joseph Edger in October 10, 1969 written for the Newcastle Arts Festival.

Eventually, the Hammond infiltrates and the first song begins; sounding like ELP at its most manic. The vocals of Lee Jackson are raw but somehow work better than a smoother vocal because the musaic is smooth enough. Emerson is incredible on Hammond as usual and his earlier performances are always exciting. He is a dominant force and extrememly creative. The band are so tight and technical and with that majestic symphonic score it is little wonder this album peaks at the top of the all time greatest albums for The Nice. Later in the epic opening tracks, Emerson tinkles away on his grand piano and the music gets dreamier, with strings caressing the sound. The time sig is ever changing and intricate.

It is really the "Pictures of an Exhibition" album for The Nice, Emerson taking full control of the direction of the band. The tracks blend together but the shining lights are the awesome bass and Hammond trade offs and the sections where the sax comes in with the orchestra in full support. The 5 Bridges suite is a fantastic track especially the section 'Finale 5th Bridge' with some frenetic trumpet and glorious happy organ.

The late great Brian Davison is sensational on this live performance and an important asset to the sound. He really shines on 'Intermezzo, 'Karelia Suite'' it sounds a little like the driving beat of 'America' or 'Rondo' in places but has its own distinct feel; one of The Nice's better compositions. Jackson's pulsing bass is a real treat and the brass section is grandiose.

Emerson's solo near the end is very ELP sounding with robotic fluctuations and experimental squelches, low crunches and perhaps devoid of a knife in the keys but very similar distortion feeling quite disconcerting after the lush orchestrations. The closing section is bombastic and a pomp rock finale.

The rest of the album is a hodge podge of ideas where some work and some don't but it is never less than engaging, if at times a little pretentious. The honky tonk cover of Bob Dylan's 'Country Pie', merging with the hilarious happy Hammond of 'Brandenburger concerto', and 'One Of Those People', the idiot brother of 'Are you Ready, Eddy', are maddening fillers. However, the rest of the album, especially the opening suite, is more than enough reason to get hold of this and treat your ears to a feast of The Nice at their absolute best and most daring.

Report this review (#613123)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The work was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival and premiered with a full orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger on October 10, 1969 (the recorded version is from October 17 in Croydon's Fairfield Halls). The title refers to the city's five bridges spanning the River Tyne (two more have since been built over the river), and the album cover features an image of the Tyne Bridge.

Now I have to say that "Five Bridges" was one of the first prog albums I've heard and that, soon after, entered in my discography. Important is the fact that "Five Bridges" for me is all that I seek in Prog: technique, feeling, magic, intricate musica and great musicians. So I consider "Five Bridges" a small masterpiece. That certainly is not perfect. By the way, the strings sound a little outdated, because they are too disconnected from parts of the Rock band. This is really impossible to notice because it is so obvious even a defect in the group and orchestra compositions that to Jon Lord wrote in the same period for Deep Purple. What is surprising is that the parts of the rock band are so ripe (and near ELP) that still sound full of power, magic and feeling. However, although there is a part of Jazz in this suite, Rock parts are more linear than those of ELP. The 2nd side start with "Intermezzo 'Karelia Suite'" by Sibelius (studio version is on "Ars Longa Vita Brevis"). This live version is great: than the studio version sounds more raw, and for this reason, more engaging. Besides, this version of "Intermezzo" is distorted, becoming a Jam Session. Now... "Pathetique (Symphony no. 6 3rd movement)" by Tchaikowsky ((Emerson obviously has a penchant for Russian musicians) is the masterpiece of the mix between Rock group and orchestra because in this case the integration between Rock group and orchestra is perfect. Although "Pathetique" is already a little gem "Country Pie/ Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (a medley Between Dylan and Bach) is the perfection of Emerson's style. This medley is the most outgoing Rock from the mind of Keith Emerson (even if only as an arrangement) and is no longer surprising that Emerson arrived at these levels, even rearranging pieces of classical music, in future. "One Of Those People" close "Five Bridges" and it is the only studio track of the album but sure not a memorable song.

CD version of "Five Bridges" present 5 bonus tracks, "The Thoughts Of Emmerlist Davjack" (probably the best song penned by Keith Emerson... Also if not Prog) and "America" are the most famous songs between the bonus tracks. But great is also "Flower King Of Flies".

In conclusion, recalling the "Five Bridges" is an album important to me, I can only recommend buying this album also if it is not a masterpiece. But that in music history is very important.

Report this review (#616157)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The war to determine the best rock band ever (certainly of the progressive rock era) was settled many years ago. As the smoke cleared, looming ever so large over the fields of glorious battle were . . . "The Nice".

The "Five Bridges Suite" album may very well be the equivalent of the super weapon that ended W.W.II. In July/August 1945 very few people seem to have been cognisant of the big one being dropped. A large communications effort was launched to inform of what had occurred. With respect to "The Nice", several factors came together to keep music fans from the path of illumination set down by "The Nice".

Firstly, A poor fit with a production team more suitable to the Bee Gees than Classical Rock. Then followed in rapid succession by other causes such as: an uncommunicative label, the brief period of existence of the band, an incomprehensible critique against the lead singer, low output of albums, an immediate rise of ELP to super stardom after the breakup of The Nice.

To convert the barbarian hordes of singleminded drones that blindly adore the tired gods of progressive rock is my life's work. I feel the daunting task of what lies before. Even now I can sense the massing of gigantic armies to divert (nay prevent) me from my righteous quest to communicate to the world the good words: "The Nice are the one true rulers of the Progressive Rock universe".

One listen to the FIVE BRIDGES SUITE album could possibly be all that is needed with some. But it is a sneaky opus. My task, however, is made a little easier with this expanded edition (with bonus tracks). But I would still wholeheartedly have accepted the quest if I only had the original vinyl pressing. My favourite song of the last 12 months is contained herein, "Country Pie/ Brandenburg Concierto No. 5". I can't imagine my recent life without it. But contained within these words I have also invited an increasing array of enemies to form an axis against my undertaking. For the main dogma most anti-Nice zombies have is the very voice of bassist/vocalist Lee Jackson. So often maligned by those who have no inkling of being the first at the beginning of a movement, a genre. Certainly there is a more pleasant voice. But there are non more perfectly balanced with the subject and the content. The rough edges are an actual advantage, not a hinderance to the music. This music at it's time was new category. It was primitive, rustic and pastoral, and yet herein lie the roots and trunk of ELP. (You might be forgiven to think that you stumbled upon a long lost early ELP album).

If you have never heard a single note by THE NICE, you are in for a treat of a lifetime. I know that each new listener will join my small, ragtag fellowship and will happily accompany us to the fires of Mt. Doom, to throw in the old script: "that of the tired dinosaur bands ruling the progressive universe". I have gone as far as to leave my comfortable home at Bag End and set out on my ultimate objective of having THE NICE discovered by all. Great aural enjoyment is waiting.

Pastoral. Primitive. Rustic

Fresh New Clean

Report this review (#1196009)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars At the very least, this is better than Concerto for Group and Orchestra. The follow-up to Nice is a live album (as opposed to the half-live Nice) of the band playing with the London Symphony Orchestra, and the first half of the album is a full-fledged rock/jazz/classical-fusion suite (naturally called "The Five Bridges Suite" since it's about five bridges over the River Tyne). It's nothing special, but I don't feel myself getting stupider when listening to it the way I do when listening to the Deep Purple album released earlier in the year. The "1st Bridge" section (it should be noted that the track divisions are completely unrelated to the breakdown of the actual sections of music, which helps explain why I was a little confused as to the organization of the pieces the first couple of times I listened to them) is the longest, and it initially consists solely of the orchestra (playing a piece that sounds an awful lot like a knockoff of Copland's populist period, but there are worse things) before Emerson begins mixing in some piano interludes. The "2nd Bridge" (which is actually on the track labeled "High Level Fugue 4th Bridge") is basically standard solo Nice, with Jackson singing terribly over a decent organ-driven groove. The "3rd Bridge" (actually the first 3 minutes of "Finale 5th Bridge") isn't especially great because Jackson singing gently over an orchestra (with a little bit of background Emerson organ playing) seems kinda gross, but I like the jazzy trio bits in it. The "4th Bridge" section is Emerson playing a brief fugue on piano (with lightly tapping drums in the background), and finally the "5th Bridge" section reprises the "2nd Bridge" section but brings in some saxophones. All in all, the suite isn't amazing, but there are a lot of decent individual moments and little that outright sucks, and considering that this was Emerson's first attempt at large-scale orchestra writing, it's better than it could have been.

The second side is similarly ok, except for the out-of-place closing track "One of Those People," which largely features Jackson singing through a vocoder (it doesn't make him sound any better!) in a way that just makes him sound like a robot in need of a battery change. The live version of the intermezzo from Sibelius' "Karelia Suite" is probably a little better than the original studio version (which was fine itself), partially because of the inclusion of the LSO (which plays the opening portion as normal) but also because it seems like there's a little more energy this time around. Somewhat less successful is the album's interpretation of the scherzo from the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony; the original movement is one of the all-time great scherzi, a complete misdirection before the emotional steamroller of the 4th movement, but hearing it in this context makes it seem cheap and gimmicky. The orchestra plays the opening themes solo (aside from some drum taps from Davison) for a very long time, and while the band does work its way in eventually, the two entities never combine in a way that's very satisfying. And finally, the band finds a way to combine the Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan number "Country Pie" with portions of Bach's 6th Brandenburg Concerto, and while it's actually somewhat slick (and it's way more entertaining than the "She Belongs to Me" bore on Nice) it never really leaves me wanting to listen to it again. I really wish Jackson sang better.

This album is ok, but while it was probably intended to appeal to both rock fans and classical fans, I'd have a hard time recommending it to either. There's a such a long distance in quality between the classical music the band (well, Emerson) was writing and the classical music the band was covering that it should have left everybody involved feeling a little embarrassed, and while the band's efforts are noble in spicing up the pieces with organ solos and a rhythm section, they just don't work that well. Still, it's worth hearing a couple of times, and it's actually one of the easier Nice albums to get a hold of, so that's a plus.

Report this review (#1285937)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I see a lot of four and three-star ratings for this album. I can see why, because while this album might not be a hard one to get to, some don't see the enjoyable factor in this one. Just a few days ago, I bought the original record of this album and was very pleasantly suprised. The orchestra linked with the rock trio with Keith Emerson's piano (and organ for that matter) sounds quite natural and smooth. It is hard to place it on a map between jazz and classical music territory. This album has a very jazzy aproach to classical not only in the sense of phrasing and timing overall, but in a flavor of improvisation. This is something I really like, so I really enjoyed the album and the time of listening to it in my armchair went by very quickly. The music was not too heavy on my thoughts and it did not spark a whole lot of thoughts, too. This album and band's work laid foundation for what would be known as and develop to symphonic prog. Concerto For Group and Orchestra by Deep Purple was recorded at more or less the same time as this and this is a much better album, in my opninion, being a lot smoother and naturally flowing.

This is surely not an album for everybody, in the sense that not everybody will get a great pleasure out of it, but by reading reviews which other members have posted, I do not see a lot of strongly negative voice against this album. For some people, this album is lacking, while I really like it and feel like it very well deserves four solid stars.

Report this review (#1532206)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2016 | Review Permalink

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