Nice 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 which 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. 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 moves 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 all, 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