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


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.21 | 150 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Nice try. . .but no cigar

The Nice's second album saw the band reduced to a trio with the departure of guitarist David O'List during recording. The band initially looked to recruit a replacement guitarist, with Steve Howe actually joining the band but for less than a day. Ultimately it was decided to carry on as a three-piece. This of course meant that the already heavy bias towards the keyboards of Keith Emerson was tilted even further in that direction.

The album opens with a trilogy of throwaway psychedelic songs which, while mildly amusing, do little to explain why the band is now held in such high esteem. It is only when we get to the band's interpretation of the classic piece Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite composed by Sibelius that we are reminded of Keith Emerson's true talent. It should be said that this is not the stunning live version which appears on the Five bridges album, the version here being devoid of the orchestral arrangement and Emerson's knife attack on his instrument being somewhat muted. This rendition is very much an organ recital, Emerson playing it pretty straight in terms of keeping to the original composition.

The feature track though is the suite in 4 movements which gives the album its title. This was the first time the band has worked with an orchestra, the piece being an ambitious undertaking which only works in parts. On the downside, we have a superfluous drum solo and some mediocre composing. On the plus side, the third movement is a fine interpretation of part of Bach's Brandenbuger concerto. In reality, this is rather a crude effort to combine band and orchestra, the two coming from completely different directions. As such, the piece of value as a historical item rather than a musical one.

In all, an album which demonstrates how the fusion of band and orchestra, and of rock and classical music was a more painful process than history might now indicate. While there is plenty of innovation and a genuine effort to break down barriers here, the results are patchy at best.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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