The Nice were an English progressive rock band active in the late 1960s. They blended rock, jazz and classical music and were keyboardist Keith Emerson’s first commercially successful band.
The group was formed in 1967 by Emerson, Lee Jackson, David O’List and Ian Hague to back soul singer P. P. Arnold. After replacing Hague with Brian Davison, the group set out on their own, quickly developing a strong live following. The group’s stage performances featured Emerson’s Hammond organ showmanship and abuse of the instrument, such as playing rhythms while switching the reverb on and off while the spring unit was crashing about. Their compositions included radical rearrangements of classical music themes and Bob Dylan songs.
The band achieved commercial success with an instrumental rearrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s “America”, following which O’List left the group. The remaining members carried on as a trio, releasing several albums, before Emerson decided to leave the band in early 1970 in order to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The group briefly reformed in 2002 for a series of concerts. (by wikipedia)
Keith Emerson’s first prog trio in full live action:
Out of all of EMI’s new reissues of The Nice’s Charisma label back catalogue, this two-disc set totaling over 90 minutes is likely to be of most interest to fans of The Nice.
Whilst the song titles will be familiar this is the first time this concert at New York’s legendary Fillmore East has been released.
Where the studio albums were often a little too variable for their own good, hearing the set flow from start to finish gives us a greater appreciation of how powerful and cohesive a unit The Nice were in concert.
Whilst Keith Emerson’s off-the-cuff quotes of Bach and other popular classics may sound a touch arch by today’s standards, it’s easy to forget how hard-edged and radical this was to audiences largely fed on a diet of bluesy guitar jams.
This, coupled with his theatrical mauling of the Hammond organ, added not only an arresting visual dimension but the resulting ear-bleeding atonality of such pre-meditated destruction gave the group something of an avant-garde frisson as well.
Though Lee Jackson’s sandpaper-rasp of a voice suited the rockier repertoire, his limitations are spotlighted in the quieter parts such as their imaginative reading of Tim Hardin’s sublime Hang On To A Dream.
Nevertheless, Jackson’s bass playing was entirely dependable and together with drummer Brian Davison’s always elegant but robust swing, the pair provided an unswerving rhythm section that was in effect the safety net to Emerson’s high-wire act.
When this show was recorded The Nice were only weeks away from breaking up. Yet the risk-taking that went from Dylan to Dvorak remains exhilarating, edgy and largely underrated. (by Sid Smith)
Brian Davison (drums, percussion, whistle)
Keith Emerson (keyboards)
Lee Jackson (bass, vocals)
01. Rondo (Davison/O’List/Emerson/Jackson) 7.01
02. Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Davison/O’List/Emerson/Jackson) 13.48
03. Little Arabella (Emerson/Jackson) 6.24
04. She Belongs To Me (Dylan) 13.18
01. Country Pie (Dylan) 6.14
02. Five Bridges Suite (Emerson/Jackson) 13.54
03. Hang On To A Dream (Hardin) 7.30
04. Intermezzo: Karelia Suite (Sibelius) 12.30
05. America (Bernstein/Sondheim) 7.51
06. War And Peace (Davison/O’List/Emerson/Jackson)
Keith Emerson (2 November 1944 – 11 March 2016)