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The Nice

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The Nice The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack album cover
3.43 | 164 ratings | 26 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Flower King of Flies (3:56)
2. Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (2:47)
3. Bonnie K (3:22)
4. Rondo (8:25)
5. War and Peace (5:13)
6. Tantalizing Maggie (4:30)
7. Dawn (5:07)
8. The Cry of Eugene (4:30)

Total Time: 37:50

Bonus tracks on 2007 remaster:
9. Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (Single Version) (2:48)
10. Azrial (Angel of Death) (3:44)
11. America (6:18)
12. Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon (2:47)
13. America (US-Single Edit) (3:55)

Line-up / Musicians

- Lee Jackson / lead vocals, bass, guitar, timpani
- David O'List / guitar, flute, trumpet, backing vocals
- Keith Emerson / organ, harpsichord, piano, backing vocals
- Brian Davidson / drums, timpani, tubular bells

- Billy Nicholls / harmony vocals (2)

Releases information

Artwork: Derek Burton with Gered Mankowitz (photo)

LP Immediate - IMSP 016 (1967, UK)
LP Immediate - Z12 52004 (1967, US)

CD Immediate - IDCD 9.00288 O (1987, Germany)
CD Immediate - AK 52425 (1992, US) Remastered by Ken Robertson
CD Immediate VICP-61202 (2000 Japan) (remaster)
CD Repertoire Records REP 4786 (2007, Europe) Remastered, with 5 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE NICE The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack ratings distribution

(164 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (35%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE NICE The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars Although a psychadelic record , this album turns out to be the first progressive rock album ever made along with the Moody Blues's Days Of Future Past and Procol Harum's debut(even if the original vinyl did not have Whiter Shade Of Pale), two years before the Crimson King's ITCOTCK. Yes , without this record most of the progressive masterpieces probably would've never come out in the form we know them. One of the main flaws is the muddy sound recording qualty but we are in 1967!

Although I am not a real fan of Emerson this the only album where he has someone giving him a reply and did Mr. David O'List ever managed that well but he must've been disgusted after that one and never really recovered (brief spell in Roxy). Flower King of Flies , the title track ,Maggie , Eugene and Bonnie K are psych pop tunes a bit in the realm of Pink Floyd's Emily and Arnold and do sound dated nowadays. But the real gems are the two longer tracks Blue Rondo and War & Peace, both reworks of classical themes but unlike any other Emerson work with a superb guitar. The apex of the album though is Dawn with its deep gothic feel , great monumental ambiances and it is written by them. BTW: this Emerlist Davjack person getting the writing credits is a contraction of Emerson . O'List , Davidson and Jackson.

Get the remaster with the bonus track "America"with O'List on it to find out the real quality and potential of this band as a foursome. Simply put": the best of many version of this track. His searing guitars add so much on, that the other version pales in comparison.

Not perfect, but such an important album in the historical context of Prog Rock history , that I rounded up to the fifth star.

Review by richardh
2 stars Interesting but flawed debut album that saw Keith and chums still finding their feet as a band.It's a long way from the ground breaking prog of Emerson's later band ELP but it does at least contain some pretty tunes and one real powerhouse instrumental 'Rondo'.
Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I am no ELP fan but this is an interesting debut of a group featuring Keith Emerson and shows his early aspirations at mixing rock with classical influences. This is actually quite a psychedelic record, which is normal being in the year 1967, and it carries influences from Hendrix to Pink Floyd. Nothing special as a whole but shows some good distorted guitar work from Dave O'List. Standing out are the symphonic hit-like title track, a proto-type Hammond/guitar interplay for many later prog sound "Rondo", and a nice psych ballad "The Cry of Eugene". Usually I would give this 2 stars, but since this should be seen in the prog-rock context, for early influences to the genre, there goes 3.
Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I remember when I bought this album more or less 20 years ago, I thought it was only worth for the fact that Keith Emerson played with them and considered this record nothing special, reason enough to stay far away from my stereo for almost a decade until the early 90's. Then one day tired of the second class music of those dark years started to give a new chance to those old forgotten albums, and I'm pleased did so, because it's a very good album that learned to love with the pass of the years.

If I had to describe The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack in a phrase I would say it's a group of three very talented musicians and one genius playing classical Psychedelic album but ready to evolve into a prog' band.

But also to be honest, since the first time I listened this good album I was sure that even in the late 60's it was evident that Keith Emerson wouldn't stay for long with The Nice, he was too innovative and adventurous for them, and of course it's also easy to notice that Keith is at least 60% of The Nice.

I want to focus in three tracks, being the first one of course the title song which really captures the essence of British Psychedelia, but Keith's Baroque keyboards give a special and absolutely unique sound, it's incredible to listen all that noisy percussions mixed with complex vocal works that make me remember the early Moody Blues but in the middle of everything that incredible touch of Bach. Emerson was the guy that made the band different, without him The Nice would have only been a good Psyche band that almost nobody will remember today, despite the quality of Davidson, Jackson and O'List.

The second track is the loud Rondo, a bizarre song inspired in the jazz classic Blue Rondo a la Turk by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. In this case all the noise made the whole band (including Emerson) would mean nothing without Keith's Classical (in a generic sense) chords that appear all over the song, a beloved track that became the ideal closer for any ELP concert.

The cry of Eugene is one of my favorite tracks in the album, an experimental and powerful psychedelic ballad in which the vocals and the dazzling piano combined with the winds and the frantic guitar are simply spectacular, easily one of my top songs by The Nice.

Hughes Chantries who reviewed this album a few months ago mentions a new version with America as a bonus track, I haven't heard that version, but I'm looking for it because America is simply the best adaptation I ever heard by The Nice and if it's played with David O'List, it's something that must be listened carefully.

Not a masterpiece but a very solid album that deserves to be included in every decent prog collection, I would rate it with 3 1/2 stars but because this is not possible I will give four stars because its closer to this rating than to three stars.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Nice start lads

While The Nice' first album has some of the pomp and indulgences of their later Emerson driven works, it is generally more 60's pop based. The title is of course a concoction of the names of the four band members, and while they are apparently given equal billing, it is perhaps significant that the part of Emerson's name appears first.

The two tracks which give the best indication of what was to come are the instrumentals "Rondo" and "War and peace". "Rondo" is a long, frantic, "Sabre dance" like piece, of classical origin. It offers an early indication of Emerson's prowess on organ, and also contains some fine guitar work. "War and peace" which follows is in a similar vein but rather muddled. While "Rondo" went on to be included in the ELP set, "War and peace" quietly(!) disappeared.

Most of the remaining tracks are "of their time", with a late 60's pop sound predominant. Tracks such as "Flower king of flies" and "The cry of Eugene" have similarities to early (Barrett era) Pink Floyd. The title track has some striking choral harmonies, which sit rather uneasily with the heavy organ and drums.

"Tantalising Maggie" is notable, not so much because it is good (it's not bad!), but because of the progressive nature of its structure. It's a mixture of rough 60's style vocals, heavy organ which degenerates into spacey sounds in the middle, becomes somewhat chaotic, then ends with a piano solo.

At the time of its release, this album was inventive and original. While the music is a bit rough and ready at times, there is plenty here to confirm that The Nice were among the pioneers who developed the style of music which became progressive rock. Those unfamiliar with their music may now find the archaic sound distracting, but looking beyond this, there is a quality to the compositions and the musicianship which is undeniable.

The Nice' three albums on the Immediate label (Thoughts of "Emerlist Davejack", "The Nice", and "Ars longa, vita brevis", are now available as a budget priced 2 CD set, which includes some non-album tracks too.

Review by lor68
3 stars It's a "proto-prog" album, and as a raw composition of that time you cannot expect to hear something particular: the songs are worth checking out, but don't represent the best prog tunes ever, to be collected in a desert island I mean... it's an attempt to give such a classic rock music (with a few hints of J. Hendrix) the first progressive form, within an exploration of styles, in which the contamination is good, even though is not extraordinary.for instance you find some references to the 60's psychedelic music in the track "Flower King of Flies", as well as a melodic title track, which is easy to take, being connected to the old beat music.ok it's strange such a compromise between the commercial exigencies of the late sixties and the free act of "emancipation" from all the previous schemes, which could affect the true beloved project by Emerson. Anyway here They settled the foundations of the following progressive rock of the seventies, as They looked after the future, moreover being able to compose whatever They liked in that moment!! That's the approach I like, even though at the end it's important to order our own ideas within an organic music contest, which is so difficult.probably Emerson alone finally reached this goal with ELP in their most successful albums: nevertheless I want to remark also the importance of the collaboration between Jackson and P. Moraz, for example, performed some years after, in which They carried out till the end the previous good music ideas composed by Nice, sometimes emulating altogether the grandeur of the golden era of prog.

Definitive score (being much better than "Ars Longa Vita Brevis"): "3 stars", as for the importance of this work!!

Review by ozzy_tom
4 stars Before I have listened to this album I had "got acquainted" with "Ats long vita brevis" & "Nice" and I'm sure that it isn't so mature like them but "The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" is equally enjoyable (even better than "Ars longa." 'cause titled suite isn't very interesting for me there.). It's much more psychedelic than progressive rock (at first sight we can notice that there aren't any very long length tracks like later suits "Ars longa." or "Five Bridges.") but it isn't important for me (in fact psychedelic rock was a kind of progressive rock in 60'.Don't you think ?.) 'cause first of all I am fan of organ-driven rock in general and Keith Emerson in particular. OK, let's check all these songs one by one:

1. Flower King Of Flies This track begins with some strange-psych irregular sound of bells and. then starts quite simple psychedelic-pop song dominated by Hammond organ. Nothing special but really listenable.

2. Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack Another psych-pop song again dominated by Emerson but we can hear .a lot of fine "choruses" too. Of course it's "a little" out of date nowadays but it suits this very "happy-light" song. Pleasant. P.S. Very good organ (a la church organ) solo which is out of place here.but never mind.

3. Bonnie K More straight rock'n'roll song. The most important instrument here is O'List's guitar and we can listen to something non typical for "Emerson's" band: guitar-organ interlacing solo ! Unfortunately vocal in this song is really awful and weak !

4. Rondo My favorite track in this album and I think my favorite from all Nice's songs ever. It starts from some bass playing and suddenly Emerson begins play in his Hammond really ground-breaking riff.It's a real heaven for all fans of this instrument ! besides we can listen to very loud, repetitive bass lines which intensify the atmosphere and electric guitar solo as well. One of the best instrumental tracks I've ever heard ! Believe me ! Really furious and melodic playing simultaneously, where classic music meets rock..

5. War And Peace The second instrumental composition in this album. But it isn't as good as the previous one 'cause I can't find any main riff or melody here. This is more like some kind of jazzy-blues free jamming. A little irritating .but not so bad at all. I can only add that the guitar and organ plays equal roles here.

6. Tantalizing Maggie It's the weakest song for me. Vocal is awful again and it's very indistinct (singing like from under ground or something like that). And this terrible poppy refrain..

7. Dawn the most psychedelic "song". We can hear a lot of whispers, breathing and some kind of very silent monologue. There are many irregular drums' beats, experimental sounds and even really pleasant harpsichord solo. I like "Dawn" 'cause it creates really strange atmosphere. Try to listen to this track when you are alone in dark room.It impresses.

8. The Cry Of Eugene the most peaceful piece of music in this album. Instead of dominated organ we have a lot of piano, guitar and even trumpet's music here. Quite listenable.

In remastered editions we can listened to some bonus tracks:

Azrial (Angel Of Death)

This is first version of "Azrael Revisited" from "Nice" album which includes organ & guitar instead of piano. In fact I prefer the latest version but it isn't one of the best Nice's song for me in general.

Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon Really fine song. I think that it should take place in main album instead of for example terrible "Tantalizing Maggie". Catchy melody and not bad vocals.

America My number two in "The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack" ! I love this instrumental track. It has everything what progressive rock needs: thrilling start ("cathedral" organ, some kinds of shoots' sounds, screams), maniac organ riffs and solos, interesting guitar playing.Stunning !

To sum up it's enjoyable album for psychedelic and symphonic prog rock fans (especially "Rondo" & "America" for this second group) as well. I can especially dedicate it to people who like such albums like Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" or Arthur Brown's "The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown". Psychedelic which announces progressive rock.

Greetings from Poland !

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars As most reviewers (if not all) I was waaaaaaay too young to have discovered this band with their debut (I was only eight years old at the time). Now, as an introduction, I have to say that I like ELP quite a lot (it was my first true prog concert in May 1974).

As most of the albums released in those early days of prog, it is not easy either to review them or to imagine their impact when they came out on the market. Needless to say that this work sounds rather psychedelic and that you don't need to expect lots ELP-ish sounds here even if Keith is already Keith if you see what I mean.

Several tracks are short psychedelic pieces with not so much flavour (Flower King of Flies or Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack. They are pleasant for sure, but not really great.

The first outstanding number is the long instrumental Rondo. The exchange between guitar and organ is quite unique and the second half of this instrumental number features a HUGE organ play form dear old friend Keith. But he is not alone during his part: Davidson and Jackson are just phenomenal.

This track is the absolute masterpiece of this album and it is raising its level quite dramatically. It is totally disjointed, hence great. To have recorded such a track in those early days of prog (or underground) was quite daring. This song is a monument to be honest.

If there would be any comparison with ELP, I would say that this album is mostly instrumental. The classical performances form Keith are not yet to be discovered but his work is already the highlight of this debut. Just listen to the heavy War & Peace to be convinced.

It is quite astonishing that the band sounded so brilliant during some of the songs featured, and so childish and old fashioned during such a track as Tantalising Maggie. But let's not forget that this album was released in '67.

In this context, a track as Dawn should have been a killer by then. Heavy loaded IMO. It is not easy to digest such a song in the quite environment of my room, standing alone and listening to this old piece of prog music but one has to admit its later influence.

In all, this is a good album. I guess it was considered as great while being released and that some might think it is a poor album in today's appreciation.

Three stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack is the debut full-length album by UK psychadelic/ progressive rock act The Nice. The band started out as a backing group for soul singer P.P. Arnold who they performed live with during the summer of 1967. The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack was recorded during the autumn of 1967 and released in December 1967 through Immediate Records. The Nice is mostly known for featuring one of the most prolific and influential musicians in progressive rock in keyboardist Keith Emerson ( Emerson, Lake & Palmer)

Even though the album is often considered one of the earliest examples of progressive rock, I think that the album belongs more to the psychadelic rock genre. The songs are generally pretty simple psychadelic rock songs but with added classical inspired piano, organ and harpsichord by Keith Emerson. Very original at the time. Even though most songs are simple a song like the instrumental Rondo does stand out as being different ( War & Peace and Dawn also features progressive elements). Some great soloing by guitarist David O'List in that song but Keith Emerson of course steals the show completely with his inventive playing. The musicianship is excellent througout the album but the production is not the best IMO.

The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack is a groundbreaking album from the sixties and itīs hard not to acknowledge that. Personally I find it enjoyable but not really excellent and a 3 star rating is deserved.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of those late 60's psychedelic albums that would lead to the progressive rock movement. Like most music of its time, the song writing is basic psychedelic blues rock that everybody was doing. But Emerson's keyboards are really excellent throughout and they make this music bigger, more ambitious and commanding then much of its contemporaries.

Flower King Of Flies is a great opener. A heavy blues rock number with excellent keyboard embellishments from Keith. Imagine this with a slight different arrangement and ELP is not too far away. But the credit does not just go to Emerson, the other bright light in this unit is of course O'List. His sharp Hendrix inspired playing offers the right balance against Emerson's urge to take the spotlight. It is mainly because of him that this is the only record where Emerson works as a band member instead of the ego tripper he usually is. So of course he would kick out O'List after this album and much of the appeal of The Nice would go with him. Just compare this opening track to anything from the ensuing Nice albums. It goes from focussed energy to mindless doodling in just one year. The contrast couldn't be bigger.

On Rondo, Emerson takes a classic twist on things and it forebodes things to come. He rarely matched the raw energy of this track here. Rondo comes in fact very close to what Jon Lord of Deep Purple would be doing in the years following this release. It's an excellent track, both proto-prog and proto hard rock. War and Piece is another instrumental with a great guitar versus organ battle without ever overdoing it.

Like many other tracks on this album, Tantalising Maggie could have come from Pink Floyd's 1967 debut so it's no surprise O'List joined Pink Floyd for a brief stint after being fired by Emerson. Dawn is another highlight: dark and brooding, heavy and gothic, symphonic and theatrical. The Cry of Eugene is another winner

There are many other early examples of prog. The fact that they are mostly from the same year indicates that not just one band can claim to have originated prog. It was something that was brooding in many artists' music from that time. The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack stands as a fine example of that creative ambition of 1967.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The first album by The Nice is their only studio album with founding guitarist David O'List. In a way, it actually helped their sound to have another instrument to temper Keith Emerson's keyboards. And the album is quite progressive for it's time (1967). While there is only a hint of what Emerson will eventually do with ELP, I'd still call it progressive.

As on any album by The Nice, Lee Jackson's vocals can be annoying. At least he only uses that drunken barroom voice sparingly.

The title track is interesting, if only for the 60's flower child vocals on the intro. It's fun to picture Emerson (who is credited for background vocals) singing along. Then there's Rondo. While I like the song somewhat, I wish they had had the courtesy to credit Dave Brubeck with the composition (and turned it into a 4/4 song).

War And Peace is a cool, bues rock jam, but Emerson seems to have gotten short changed in the mix. His keyboards are waaaay in the background at times.

The rest of the songs are primarily sixties psychedelic, with Emerson's flourishes adding a slight symphonic prog flavor.

For proto-prog, it's actuall somwhat compelling.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 1967 was quite a year for 'popular' music. This album was released the same year as other great prog and proto-prog albums like Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Days Of Future Passed and Absolutely Free. The Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham put this group together as a backing band for R&B singer P.P. Arnold. This is the only album to feature guitarist/vocalist David O'List. Of course this album introduced the world to Keith Emerson. The name Emerlist Davjack comes from combining the band member's last names.

A mix of psych-pop and proto-prog would be the best way to describe the music here. Although O'List is not the greatest guitarist or singer in the world, I miss his contributions on later albums. I'm reviewing the album without the bonus tracks. Two of those bonus songs, "America" and "Azrael", are amongst the best things The Nice ever did. "Azrael" in particular is a great psych rock song and O'List's guitar playing is greatly missed on the "Revisited" song from the 1969 album.

"Flower King Of Flies" is a psych pop song with harpsichord. Some interesting organ sounds and good bass during the guitar solo. That guitar gets sped up. Marching drums at the end. The title track is another psych pop tune with some harpsichord. This one has more classical overtones however. Good organ and distorted guitar. "Bonnie K" is a blues- rock song typical of it's time. Almost Cream lite if you will.

"Rondo" is the longest song. An instrumental based on "Blue Rondo a la Turk" by jazzman Dave Brubek. Throughout the song is a fast bass part which is steady, repetative and almost hypnotic. Good organ solo here. The guitar for the most part stays in the background. "War And Peace" is a R&B styled instrumental. Good drumming. Nice organ solo. "Tantalising Maggie" has awful vocals but good drumming. Some classical piano at the end.

"Dawn" is the best song and most forward thinking. Starts with eerie organ and some noises from the drums. All the vocals are whispered. Great organ playing and good guitar. Around 2 minutes is just drum sounds. I love the organ sound and dissonant guitar that starts around the 3 minute mark. Then some harpsichord. Ends with echoed whispering. The lyrics are poetic and creepy. "The Cry Of Eugene" is almost Floyd like, especially the vocals. Good sustained guitar. Lovely trumpet in the middle. Hypnotic organ near the end which gets faster and the song just cuts off.

A good debut album for 1967. This band, and Emerson in particular, will go on to do better things. "Rondo" and "Dawn" are the proggiest parts of the album and must have seemed ahead of their the time. A nice psych/proto-prog album but not necessarily better than other psych/proto-prog albums from the same year. A good listen if you want to hear some of the origins of progressive rock. 3 stars.

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars I have more than a few thoughts...

The title of this album is one of the lousiest I've ever come across; I get the ''cuteness'' of merging all four band members' names into one ''person'', but I can't help but bust out laughing every time every time I try to pronounce it. It almost overshadows the pompousness ELP took.

I'm getting too off topic here though. Musically, I find The Nice's debut to be lacklustre even though I recognise its place in the world of prog rock. The first three tracks are little more than whimsical psychedelia that are either awful or bland. The same goes for ''Tantalising Maggie'' and ''Cry of Eugene'' with both needing a good kick up the production.

The longer instrumental workouts are more likely to attract the interested progster, although ''Dawn'' isn't exactly instrumental thanks to the stupid whispering. Emerson and O'List whip out stellar instrumental performances, but it turns to mush at the end. ''War and Peace'' is another muscle-flexer with a more blues-like scale and not as interesting.

All you ever need to know about this album is in the eight-minute-plus romp-and- roller ''Rondo''. It's the only time where I really notice the potential of Jackson and Davidson giving that galloping rhythm that makes the guitar-keyboard interplay that much better. The highlight of the album.

The album is little more than a curiosity for the ELP fans that wish to know where Keith started out. ''Rondo'' only faintly justifies the album's strength as everything else around it just pads or weakens the appeal. It's part of prog's early history if you're into that stuff.

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars In 1967, when there was a seemingly constant trickle of new albums that were proposing new possible directions for rock music to take, it wouldn't have been especially apparent that this was going to have any sort of significant lasting impact; by contrast, when In the Court of the Crimson King came out in 1969, pretty much everybody knew that a Big Thing had happened, even if there was disagreement as to how good a thing this was. Much of this album bears the unmistakable imprint of having been recorded in 1967; the mixture of Moody Blues-ian harmonies (at least as much as could be attempted with such weak individual vocalists) and Hendrix-style guitars (in heavier parts and lighter parts alike), the whispered recitations in "Dawn," and the general approach of mixing all of the genres they could get their hands on into a single album all help date the album's release into a very specific six month window. That said, it would be a mistake to accuse this album of being nothing more than a derivative aping of the band's betters, because the album does bring something new to the table, and that is Keith Emerson's keyboard playing. He's not in full flight on this album, obviously, and it's not as if The Nice were the first band of significance to prominently feature a keyboardist, but it seems obvious to me from listening to this album that Emerson was going to end up as something special. The hyperactive aggression of his style creates an odd menace in the tone of the album even in moments when he's playing few if any notes; there's a constant threat hanging over the album that he's about to lead the band into a long noisy instrumental passage, and even if this threat materializes only a couple of times in the album, the vibe this threat creates gives a fascinating dark edge to it on the whole.

This dark edge is especially prevalent in the first half of the album, which is great enough to prompt me to give this album a high rating despite that the second half only strikes me as pretty good. "Flower King of Flies," which opens the album, starts off as a shuffling psychedelic ballad that can't help but remind me a bit of "(Listen to the) Flower People," but it quickly adopts a darker guise once Emerson's keys start flickering in the background, and the track becomes rather intense in the instrumental passage between instances of the chorus. The Hendrix-y jams are a lot of fun as well. Jackson's vocals, as would become the standard, aren't great here, but the parts where he sings solo are kept slightly quiet, and the louder moments hide him behind a thick wall of harmonies. O'List takes over on vocals in the following title track, and he isn't really an improvement, but the main features of that song, namely the playful melody repeatedly sung by the backing vocals and the bouncy harpsichord parts, more than compensate, and I enjoy the track a lot. Then there's "Bonnie K," which reminds me in all sorts of ways of the kinds of Hendrix-y rockers that Procol Harum would do back before Robin Trower left the band (granted, a lot of them would happen after this album, but my point is that The Nice and Procol Harum were of a similar mind in regard to rockers of this kind); Jackson works as kind of a poor-man's Gary Brooker in his vocals, Emerson's keyboards are full of life and energy, and O'List's guitars rawk out in the best way that pre-Zeppelin 60s hard rock could offer.

But really, all of this is just a warmup for "Rondo." Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo ā la Turk" was an established jazz standard even at this point, and one may scoff a bit at the idea of the band making a cover of this into one of the centerpieces of its repertoire, but the band claims the piece as its own as much as one could reasonably expect. The band simplifies the 9/8 time signature of the original into 4/4, and through this and other arrangement tweaks the band de-emphasizes the tricky intricacy of the original and amplifies its power and majesty, and in the process they basically turn this track into one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Emerson's downward Hammond swishes in the climactic portions are the moments that jump out the most, but there are great noisy guitar passages here and other enjoyable keyboard passages as well, and the powerful steadiness of the rhythm section throughout holds everything together perfectly. Given that I'm somebody who greatly enjoys the extended versions of "Space Truckin'" that Deep Purple would be doing in concert in a few years, it's hard for me to see why I wouldn't adore this track, and I consider it an essential part of my collection.

The second half of the album, then, isn't especially great, but all of the tracks are at least decent. "War and Peace" is another instrumental built around active Hammond organ and guitar work, and while it doesn't live up to "Rondo" in terms of memorable themes or an especially tight rhythm section, it's a rousing blast while on, and I'd definitely take this over a lot of the instrumental passages in some of their later work. "Tantalising Maggie" is an odd take on the style of the rest of the album, with the guitars showing a lot jangly twang amongst the hyperactive keyboards (which suddenly go into a classical piano mode near the end), and with Jackson's vocals confined to one channel in a mildly psychedelic way (until the vocals get all chaotic and weird in the last minute or so, making the psychedelic elements more pronounced). "Dawn" is an odd combination of Hammond noodling (eventually harpsichord noodling), noisy distorted guitar chords and noodling, and lots of whispered vocals that make the track sound very pompous. The track is probably a good example of the bad sides of 1967 in a lot of ways, but I don't especially mind it, and it's yet another interesting change of pace (if there were another track like this on the album then I might view it less favorably). And finally, "The Cry of Eugene" has a muffled vocal part that doesn't allow for the vocal melody to resonate as deeply as it could with better singing, but there's an odd gentleness in the combination of the Hammond and the psychedelic guitars (with a brief frenetic section as the song transitions into a more bombastic conclusion) that I find rather enjoyable (the sudden cutoff at the end is amusing as well). Yes, the album takes a clear step down in the second half, but it's not a crippling one; the first half would be in the range of a *****, and the second half would be in the *** range, and the combination lets the album settle into a solid **** range.

In my edition of the album, there are five bonus tracks, and except for the single version of the title track (it's just as long as and I think it just has a slightly different mix from the original), all of them are worth having. "Azrial (Angel of Death)" combines a solid grumbly guitar riff with bits of atmospheric piano and pompous (but fun) lyrics before briefly turning into a psychedelic freak-out near the end (then returning to the original riff), and it would have been a fine inclusion on the original album. "The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon" bases itself primarily around a gentle line doubled on Hammond and trumpet (from O'List), and the keyboard passages that grow out of it are rather lovely. The best of the group, though, come in the form of the full-length and single versions of "America," the band's instrumental take on the West Side Story number. The bombastic organ introduction and the closing recitation from a three-year old are a little ridiculous, but the bulk of the song shows The Nice at its very best. The main riff, played by the organ, is used as the launching pad for all sorts of rousing guitar work and inventive keyboard work, and I never find myself getting bored or tired when listening to it. It's too bad the band didn't use this as the album's conclusion, as a sort of balance to closing out the first side with "Rondo" (I get that "War and Peace" is the "Rondo" counter but I'd be fine with swapping that out for "Azrial").

Review by Guillermo
4 stars I remember that I read an interview in the early eighties done with Tony Banks (GENESIS`s keyboard player) in 1979 by a Spanish magazine called "Vibraciones". He said that he went to see THE NICE playing in concert and that he liked the band a lot, and that he even wanted to play with them ("they were a very good band"), a thing that never happened, of course. But I listened to this album recently and I can see why Banks liked this band. I also remember that the Dutch band called EKSEPTION, in the liner notes from their debut album which was released in 1969, mentioned that one of the inspirations for their musical style was seeing THE NICE playing in concert. So, I think that THE NICE, while still sounding very influenced by Psychedelic Rock, were as a band pioneers of the Prog Rock music style, particularly of the Symphonic Rock music style.

Being recorded in 1967, I think that I can listen in this album to some very characteristical things which were similar to other albums from the same period. I think that the Psychedelic influences were by 1967 very prominent, and in that year maybe those influences were at their highest point. So, this album has some similar musical things to other albums from the same period, like from "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" by PINK FLOYD (but with more Baroque musical influences), "Mr. Fantasy" from TRAFFIC... I mean, those Psychedelic musical inlfuences were more in the use of sound effects and distortion, with somewhat "whimsical" and "crazy" arrangements and even some humour in some parts (in "Tantalizing Maggie", for example). But there are even some Pop Rock inlfuences in some parts (particularly in "Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack" and "Bonnie K "), with the use of some distorted heavy guitars. "Rondo" is as noisy as EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER`s version of this song which was recorded live years later, but even if I don`like this song very much Keith Emerson shows his classical music trainning very well in his organ playing. Lee Jackson sang and played his bass guitar very well in general in this album. Brian Davidson was a very good drummer, maybe playing with some excess in some parts, like David O`List. They were young musicians then, of course, so maybe that was the reason this album has some excess in volume in their playing in some parts.

Anyway, this is a good album with still some mixed musical styles which I can`t consider as a full Prog Rock album as a whole. But it shows the early signs of the musical direction that these musicians (particularly Emerson) were looking for then.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Who was Emerlist Davjack?

The answer is that he was a collective persona of Keith Emerson, David O'List, Brian Davidson, and Lee Jackson. Emerlist Davjack's first "thoughts" were gathered together here on the debut album of The Nice, released in 1967. Today, most people, this reviewer included, probably come to this from Emerson Lake & Palmer. Being a huge fan of ELP, I simply had to find out what Emerson was up to before he teamed up with Lake and Palmer. I have actually been aware of The Nice for many years already, but never managed to get into them.

Fellow ELP fans will recognize Rondo here, an adaptation of a piece by Brubeck that Keith would bring with him into ELP and often perform live with them. This eight minutes plus track is however the only one here that points towards the future, as the rest of The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack are firmly rooted in Psychedelia and 60's Pop. If you are into that sort of thing, you may find this album a delight. But for me this album is mainly of historical interest, and not that enjoyable.

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3 stars It is often argued that The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack is the beginning of progressive rock, and while you can likely make the claim that any other group or artist can be tagged with that crown (since all music people love to fight about everything) I'm going to just run with the old standard that ... (read more)

Report this review (#2578486) | Posted by NmDPlm | Monday, July 12, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As I said on the Captain Beefheart debut review, 1967 is indeed the year of landmark for progressive rock. And, interestingly enough, so as with Captain Beefheart, The Nice, for most a little fame it has for bewing the first band of Keith Emerson, as a whole does not gain much praise. The Thought ... (read more)

Report this review (#1034352) | Posted by GKR | Friday, September 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "... they were to set the standard for Progressive, Classical based rock. The many groups that subsequently took to utilising classical themes in their music were merely followers in the steps of these often underrated pioneers." - Robert M Corich. A forerunner of ELP, this was the firs ... (read more)

Report this review (#1005712) | Posted by VOTOMS | Friday, July 26, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The Great Leap Forward by the Gang of Four Whether intentional or not, the Maoist connotations of the appalling title wedded to some groundbreakingly inventive music captures some of that heady whiff of revolution that was in the air on this precocious 1967 debut by the Nice. If that were not s ... (read more)

Report this review (#170215) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An uneven and flawed effort in some ways, but also pretty ambitious and fun as long as one doesn't expect this to be extremely similar to ELP. David O'List is an underrated guitarist, much in the vein of Syd Barrett (and apparently nearly as eccentric, personality- wise) and his guitar textures ... (read more)

Report this review (#45176) | Posted by prabbit | Thursday, September 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars All the hallmark elements of ELP are there, even though L and P aren't present: classical and jazz quotes, virtuosic musicianship, bafflingly inane lyrics... The instrumentals are the best part of the album, most notably "War And Peace," although "Flower King of Flies" is a nice song. It is ve ... (read more)

Report this review (#5125) | Posted by | Thursday, July 8, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Many people call this album "the first progressive album" , far, far , far from reality, the things is that in those years the nice were totally unknown and non influential while others were not only far in front but known among music lovers and musiciens, the duo "Hansson and Karlsson" by 196 ... (read more)

Report this review (#5124) | Posted by | Thursday, July 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Like many an ELP fan, I started listening to the Nice long after they had broken up. Because the record shops weren't exactly overflowing with Nice albums, I became acquainted with their work in reverse order- that is, the KEITH EMERSON AND THE NICE stuff first and "Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" las ... (read more)

Report this review (#5121) | Posted by | Friday, February 6, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I was too young to be into the Nice when they were around but I did follow Emerson Lake and Palmer and Refugee as a teenager. Out of curiousity I bought this CD in the hope of discovering a sound I was already familiar with. Big surprise! Clumsy sixties experimental pop. A bit like trying to find Le ... (read more)

Report this review (#5119) | Posted by | Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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