The Nice – Live At The Fillmore East 1969 (2009)

FrontCover1The 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)


CD 1:
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

CD 2:
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)




More from The Nice:


Keith EmersonKeith Emerson (2 November 1944 – 11 March 2016)

The Nice – Same (1969)

OriginalFrontCover1Nice was the third album by the Nice; it was titled Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It in the US after Immediate’s distribution changed from Columbia to Capitol. Nice had been initially released in the US with a slightly longer version of Rondo 69 not available on the UK or on the Capitol distributed US versions. The first US version of Nice was briefly reissued in 1973 by Columbia Special Products.

Continuing the Nice’s fusion of jazz, blues, and rock, this album consists of studio (1–4) and live (5–6) tracks, the latter having become firm favourites in the band’s live performances.

The album reached number 3 in the UK Album charts.

The UK version of the album came in a gatefold sleeve, showing photographs of the band relaxing at an unknown location, the interior of which featured handwritten notes by Keith Emerson.


Azrael was the first thing I wrote with Lee – now revisited it relates to the Angel of Death. The 5/4 riff revolves round in a circular motion rather like the birth, life & death cycle, and proves to be an interesting medium to improvise in. The verses are taken in common time (4/4). The quote from Rachmaninoff’s Prelude (in) C# Minor is intentional as when it was written. Rachmaninoff had Edgar Allan Poe’s vision of a man coming back to life in the coffin after burial.

For the number I detuned the strings on the piano slightly to give it a “honky-tonk” effect Brian Davisonwhich helped in creating an air of something ageing. I’d like to apologise to Amen Corner for not retuning the piano afterwards. They had to use the same piano after our session, unfortunately they didn’t need a “Winifred Atwell’s Other Piano” sound.

“Azrael” had been the B-side of the Nice’s first UK single release, “Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack”. As well as the Rachmaninoff quotation, the track relied on Lennie Tristano’s Turkish Mambo. The album version is lighter in tone than the original, and taken at a slightly faster pace, but retains the menace of the original.

On Hang on to a Dream we have Duncan Browne to thank for the choir.

At one of our London Concerts I had the pleasure of performing Lalo’s Symphonie Espaniol (sic) with violinist John Mayer who also leads Indo-Jazz Fusions.[4] We all thought the main riff too good to be forgotten after (a) one performance and set about giving it a new treatment. The words were written on a very dull journey from Newcastle to Birmingham and it became “Diary of an Empty Day”.

People often ask us “why don’t you play Blues”. The Blues to us is a Universal language. Musicians from different speaking countries on first meeting will know exactly where they are on the basic blues structure. Brian, Lee and I have all been through this grounding and have said what we wanted to say in the blues for the time being through other groups. At rehearsals we’ll usually warm up with a twelve bar. That’s how the opening of “For Example” happened. However we didn’t leave it there. The B minor blues Keith Emersonmoves into its relative major of D for the main theme then back again. The movement in E which follows is rather Hendrix-inspired after which the original D major theme is given a “Gregorian” feel and a 6/8 jazz waltz treatment in F. It is as the title says an Example.

The track added jazz players (including Joe Newman and Pepper Adams) with musical figures reminiscent of the work of Oliver Nelson as well as a section inspired by Gregorian chant and fleeting references to the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”.

Side 2 [tracks 5 & 6] was recorded on our first live appearance in New York at Fillmore East. Here we have Rondo ’69. After the performance an urgent telegram was sent back to England- “please send more trousers”.
She once belonged to Bob Dylan. She now belongs to you, me and anyone else who cares to listen. Keith Emerson.

Quotes of the theme to the film The Magnificent Seven can also be heard.

The live version of “Rondo” was also performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. (by wikipedia)

The Nice’s third album was their first to break them into the star recording bracket in the U.K., where it reached number three on the charts. Though only measuring six songs in Lee Jackson.jpgall, it covered a lot of territory, in a rich mixture of psychedelic rock, jazz, and classical that did a lot to map the format for progressive rock. The extended pretension of some of the numbers, viewed less forgivingly, might also seem like an antecedent to pop/rock. But the studio side of the LP (in its pre-CD incarnation) included one of their best tracks, a cover of Tim Hardin’s “Hang on to a Dream,” with grand Keith Emerson classical lines and an angelic choir. It also included a reworking of the B-side of their first single in “Azrael Revisited,” a slight throwback to the more playful psychedelia of their roots with “Diary of an Empty Day,” and the nine-minute “For Example,” in which Emerson stretched out his jazz-classical mutations to a fuller length, throwing in a quote from “Norwegian Wood” along the way. More attention was given to the second side of the LP, recorded live at the Fillmore East, with a berserk workout of a number from their debut album, “Rondo” and a 12-minute overhaul of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.” (by Richie Unterberger)


Brian Davison (drums, percussion)
Keith Emerson (keyboards)
Lee Jackson (bass, vocals)
Roy Harper (vocals on 09.)


01. Azrael Revisited (Emerson/Jackson) 5.57
02. Hang On To A Dream (Hardin) 4.45
03. Diary Of An Empty Day (Lalo/Jackson) 3.59
04. For Example (Emerson/Jackson) 8.53
05. Rondo ’69’ (Bach/Brubeck/Emerson/Jackson/Davison) 7.55
06. She Belongs To Me (Dylan) 11.51
07. Hang On To A Dream (Mono Single Mix) (Hardin) 4.45
08. Diary Of An Empty Day (Mono Single Mix) (Lalo/Jackson) 3.59
09. St. Thomas (BBC Session, June 1969) (Rollins) 2.29
10. Pathetique Symphony 4th (Live at Fairfields Hall, 1969) (Tchaikovsky) 10.21
11. Lt Kije (The Troika) (Prokofiev) / Rondo (Bach/Brubeck/Emerson/Jackson/Davison)  (Live at Fairfields Hall, 1969) 8.01




The Nice – The Swedish Radio Sessions (1967/2001)

FrontCover1.jpgOne of the mainstays of the early Prog-rock/Art-Rock genre were Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Their popularity was enormous worldwide and their fans ran the gamut from mainstream pop enthusiasts to hardcore stoners.

But that was the 70’s. Tonight it’s an incarnation from 1967 in which the common link is keyboard maestro Keith Emerson. The Nice came on the scene right at the time of Psychedelia and were a sizable hit with audiences. They blended an interesting mixture of Pop, Psych, Jazz and Art-Rock into one relatively seamless presentation and had an enthusiastic following as the result.

Here´s a very rare live session done by The Nice while on tour in Sweden. Recorded by Sveriges Radio with a reasonably sedate audience, this live document of The Nice offers a few disappointments. First off, the vocals were not the strong suit of The Nice, and Keith Jackson’s voice is flat a lot of the time, a well documented weak aspect of the band which probably hampered their universal success.


But that’s a small nit to pick for an otherwise long-thought-lost radio session by a band that, at the time were just getting ready to release their first album and were destined to do great things.

What more than makes up for any vocal deficiencies is the fact this recording is so good and is something of an anomaly for a period of time where live recordings were rare and well recorded ones even rarer. (by


The Nice were booked to play live on Swedish radio in the fall of 1967, prior to the release of their debut record while they were still a quartet. Organist Keith Emerson was not yet the dominate force he became following the departure of guitarist Davy O’List, who is quite prominent on this session. The music is a bit of a mishmash, with Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me” starting a bit erratically but finally coming together. Their own composition “Flower King of Flies” has a more subtle vocal by bassist Lee Jackson than the studio version they eventually released, though he has trouble staying in tune. The instrumental jam upon jazzman Charles Lloyd’s “Sombrero Sam” seems a bit like filler, but the turkey of the evening is a forgettable cover of Vanilla Fudge’s overwrought “You Keep Me Hanging On.”


A quick take of their own “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” is followed by the gem of the date: a 12-minute workout of “Rondo,” better known as jazz pianist Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk” (though the Nice were initially credited with composing the piece by their own label, Castle gets it right).


This version of “Rondo” easily eclipses all the other versions by the Nice (even though the rhythm is still very stiff compared to its composer’s recordings) because of the interaction between the organist and the guitarist. Considering the vintage of this long overlooked music, the sound is quite good, so any fans of the Nice should consider this to be a lost treasure worth acquiring. (by Ken Dryden)


Brian Davison (drums)
Keith Emerson (organ)
Lee Jackson (bass, vocals)
Guitar – David O’List (guitar)


01. She Belongs To Me (Dylan) 6.06
02. Flower King Of Flies (Jackson/Emerson) 4.25
03. Sombrero Sam (Lloyd) 7.27
04. You Keep Me Hanging On (B.Holland/Dozier/E.Holland) 6.44
05. The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (Emerson/O´List) 3.07
06. Rondo (Brubeck/Emerson/Jackson/Davison) 12.14




The Nice – The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (1967)

FrontCover1The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack is the 1967 debut album by the English psychedelic rock and progressive rock group the Nice. It is considered one of the first albums in the latter genre.

The name Emerlist Davjack is a pseudonym created by combining the last names of the four members of the group; Keith Emerson, David O’List, Brian Davison, and Lee Jackson.

The album was promoted by a sampler (featured on the Castle Communications 2000 box set “Here Come The Nice” (CMETD 055-1)) featuring a commentary by John Peel, which included the following comments:

1967 was a strange year for pop music with groups experimenting with new sounds and bouncing on and off bandwagons with dizzying speed and agility. They were calling themselves ridiculous names and regretting it shortly. The Nice came together in a void and will be here when the others are in pantomime in Wolverhampton.

The cover, photographed by Gered Mankowitz, shows members of the band shirtless, wrapped in cellophane.

The original disc credits all compositions to “Emerlist Davjack”; later releases gave more specific credits.


At the 1967 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival, lead singer Jackson said the song “Flower King of Flies” was about Beatle Paul McCartney. “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” was used as incidental music for the 1968 children’s television drama “The Tyrant King”, directed by Mike Hodges and written by Trevor Preston for Thames Television, from the London Transport book by Aylmer Hall. The 6-part series also featured music by the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd.

“Rondo” includes a short excerpt from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, as well as an extended quote and re-harmonization of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk”. “The Cry of Eugene”, which was later re-recorded by Jackson’s group Jackson Heights, refers to “Harlequin & Columbine”.

The album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine’s “50 Albums That Built Prog Rock”.(by wikipedia)


The 1998 Castle Communications reissue (ESM 647) of the only album by the progressive band as a quartet runs circles around every other version of this album on CD, including the material in the 1995 Charly Records box, which was pretty good. Otherwise, the music is a flawed but valiant effort at progressive-type art rock, a little too heavily influenced by spaced-out, druggy psychedelia and suffering severely from the lack of a real singer in the ranks of the band. Keith Emerson’s organ and piano flourishes never sounded crisper, and Davy O’List’s Hendrix-ish guitar is in sharp relief as well. Mostly, though, this record still suffers from the fact that the players had virtually no experience in a recording studio, and seem uncomfortable working without an audience in front of them. (by Bruce Eder)

This album surprised me. The music is a blend of psychedelic and progressive rock, somewhere between The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Thick as a Brick. Rondo is the centerpiece but inventive and exciting music abounds. The problem is that it is not an instrumental album. The lyrics and vocals are borderline embarrassing. An instrumental version of the album would be a 5* classic. (Jeff Yutzler)


The Nice’s debut album, and the only album released by the band as a quartet, is more of a band-oriented effort than their subsequent works. It shows the group in a more formative stage, playing typically English psychedelic rock with only a few hints of the classical/progressive music they would soon be remembered for. And although this isn’t in the same class as, say, a Pink Floyd or Deep Purple, there is some interesting material here that you’d rarely hear Keith Emerson attempt ever again. Emerson’s keyboard virtuosity manages to peek through in spots here, though he’s not the dominant force in the band quite yet. Regardless, his organ fills in “Flower King of Flies” are bedeviling, dissonant playing in the bluesy “Bonnie K” is unexpected, and pieces like “Rondo” and “War and Peace” rank among his first classical adaptations. He also handles the harpsichord well in the album’s title track.

Music by the Nice even at this stage in Emerson’s career is quite dense and demanding, and is something of an acquired taste, even for prog rock fans. Nevertheless, this album is the band’s most accessible outing, and fans of Emerson, Lake & Palmer may find this album a fascinating piece of history. (Russell Newton)

This is really not the best LP of The Nice (because of the vocals parts), but it was the start of a brilliant career of an organ player called Keith Emerson. And on this album you can hear his first masterpiece … called “Rondo”.


Brian Davison (drums, tubular bells, timpani)
Keith Emerson (keyboards, harpsichord, vocals)
Lee Jackson (bass, guitar, vocals, timpani)
David O’List (guitar, trumpet, flute, vocals)
Billy Nicholls (background vocals on 02.)


01. Flower King Of Flies (Emerson/Jackson) 3.20
02. The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (Emerson/O’List) 2.49
03. Bonnie K (Jackson/O’List) 3.24
04. Rondo (Bach/Brubeck/Emerson/O’List/Davison/Jackson) 8.21
05. War And Peace (Emerson/O’List/Davison/Jackson) 5.13
06. Tantalising Maggie (Emerson/Jackson) 4.35
07. Dawn (Davison/Emerson/Jackson) 5.17
08. The Cry Of Eugene (Emerson/Jackson/O’List) 4.41
09. The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack” (Single Version) (Emerson/O’List) 2.49
10. Azrial (Angel of Death)” (Emerson, Jackson) 3.44
11. The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon (Davison/Jackson) 2.48



The Nice – Five Bridges (1970)

FrontCover1The work was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival and premiered with a full orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger on 10 October 1969 (the recorded version is from 17 October 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, by Hipgnosis, features an image of the Tyne Bridge.

The five movements are:

Fantasia – orchestra with solo piano interludes by Keith Emerson
Second Bridge – trio without orchestra
Chorale – Lee Jackson’s vocals with orchestra, alternating with piano trio interludes
High Level Fugue – piano with accompanying cymbals
Finale – a restating of the Second Bridge with additional jazz horn players.

The most elaborate orchestral writing is the Fantasia, but even this is fairly rudimentary, which is understandable as it was Emerson’s first foray into this medium. Emerson credits Friedrich Gulda for inspiring the High Level Fugue, which uses jazz figures in the strict classical form. The suite was recorded at a concert performance.

Also included on the Five Bridges album were live performances from the same Fairfield Hall concert of the Sibelius Intermezzo and a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony. Both involved the orchestra playing the “straight” music juxtaposed with the trio’s interpretations. Newly discovered material from this concert was later issued as part of a 3-CD set entitled Here Come The Nice.

The Five Bridges album also included a blending of Bob Dylan’s “Country Pie” with Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6” (with a quote of Coleman Hawkins’ jazz line “Rifftide” as well) and a studio recording of the original “One of Those People”. (by wikipedia)

Booklet01AFive Bridges is a delectable representation of early-’70s progressive rock. Its makeup contains all of the elements needed to complete a solid prog album: a heavy intermingling of synthesizer and electric guitar, strong punctuation of both bass and drums, a central concept, and the fusing of rock and classical music, which in this case employs the Sinfonia of London. The eight tracks, centered around Newcastle’s urban structure and life in a blue collar society, are as colorful as they are intricate. “Intermezzo” from Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” are marvelous examples of classical and rock commingling, with the spotlight focused on Keith Emerson’s keyboard virtuosity. The second movement from Fantasia is a sparkling model of improvisational use containing various rock & roll rhythms and time structures, while the third track entitled “High Level Fugue 4th Bridge,” was inspired by Guida’s “Prelude and Fugue” and incorporates assorted jazz techniques and boogie-woogie styles into a classical recipe. “Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto, No. 6” unites Dylan with Bach for a most extraordinary illustration of instrumental creativity. Each example of genre merging is pristine and fluid, making the actual overlapping of multiple styles completely transparent. Five Bridges may rank just a tad below The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack or Ars Longa Vita Brevis on the patience scale, but it does demonstrate how Emerson’s work with ELP came into fruition. (by Mike DeGagne)


Brian Davison (drums, percussion)
Keith Emerson (organ)
Lee Jackson (vocals, bass)
The Sinfonia Of London Orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger
Joe Harriott (saxophone)
Peter King (saxophone)
Chris Pyne (trombone)
Alan Skidmore (saxophone)
John Warren (horn)
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn)

01. The Five Bridges Suite (Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson) – 18:06
01.1.Fantasia 1st Bridge
01.2.2nd Bridge
01.3.Chorale 3rd Bridge
01.4.High Level Fugue 4th Bridge
01.5. Finale 5th Bridge
02. Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite’ (Sibelius) 9.01
03. Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement) (Tchaikovsky) 9.23
04. Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (Dylan/Bach) 5.40
05. One Of Those People (Emerson/Jackson) 3.08
06. Fairfield Hall finale:
06.1. Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
06.2. Rondo (Bach)
06.3. She Belongs To Me (Dylan)
07. Country Pie (studio overdubbed version) (Dylan) 5.41
08. Excerpts from the Five Bridges Suite (live BBC Radio 1) (Emerson/Jackson) 7.51