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The Nice - Five Bridges Suite CD (album) cover


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.48 | 108 ratings

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Steven in Atlanta
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.

Steven in Atlanta | 4/5 |


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