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The Nice - Japanese SHM-CD Reissue (2011) [4 Albums]

The Nice - Japanese SHM-CD Reissue (2011) [4 Albums]

The Nice - Japanese SHM-CD Reissue (2011) [4 Albums]
EAC Rips | 5x FLAC Images with CUEs and LOGs - 1,46 GB | Full PNG Scans | MP3 CBR 320 Kbps - 595 MB
Progressive Rock / Sympho-prog / Psychedelic Art Rock | TT = 258:17 mins | Label: EMI Music Japan Inc. | Catalogue # VJCP-98001~5

The Nice were an English progressive rock band from the 1960s, known for their blend of rock, jazz and classical music. Their debut album, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack was released in 1967 to immediate acclaim. It is often considered the first progressive rock album. The Nice are also a forerunner of the much more widely known Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Cardboard sleeve (mini LP) reissue from The Nice featuring the 2009 digital remastering and the high-fidelity SHM-CD format. The series featuring the albums "Five Bridges", "Elegy", "Autumn 1967 And Spring 1968", and "Live at the Fillmore East December 1969". This reissue faithfully replicates the original UK jacket artwork.
During much of their three years together, the Nice were more of a cult act than actual stars -- but they eventually did find major success in England and an international following and, in the course of making some great records and playing even finer shows, they bridged the gap between mid-'60s psychedelic pop and '70s art rock, laying the groundwork for the entire progressive rock explosion in the process. And it was with the Nice that Keith Emerson began his transformation from an unknown musician into an international rock star.
Ironically, the Nice's origins made them a seemingly unlikely cutting-edge outfit -- they were initially conceived as a backup band, a la Booker T. & the MG's, for American-born soul singer P.P. Arnold, an ex-member of the Ikettes (who producer, manager, and music mogul Andrew Oldham hoped to make into the next Tina Turner). Keyboard player Keith Emerson had previously played in Gary Farr & the T-Bones, and the new group's rhythm section was filled by T-Bones alumni Lee Jackson on bass and Ian Hague on drums, while former Attack guitarist Davy O'List filled the fourth spot.
They got together in May of 1967 and soon found themselves given an unexpected amount of freedom in their role as Arnold's backing band. Part of their role was to warm up the crowd for Arnold's entrance, and the singer told them to play anything they liked -- as a result, slipped in between covers of various soul standards was a brace of ever more ambitious originals composed by the group members, and soon their opening sets began building a following of their own. By that summer, the quartet had earned billing on its own at the National Jazz and Blues Festival, and by the fall of 1967 the group had a recording contract of its own with Oldham's Immediate Records. Hague, however, proved a weak link in their lineup, and by the time they were ready to formally begin recording, the drummer had been replaced by O'List's onetime Attack bandmate Brian Davison. They were an amazingly freewheeling outfit, in keeping with the times, playing a strange mix of psychedelic blues, heavily laced with cadenza-like solos on the piano or the Hammond organ, and dressed up in ornate, flashy guitar, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix -- amid the pop flourishes and heavy piano and guitar riffs, one could hear influences of classical, soul, and jazz. Their debut album was ready for release early in 1968 but was delayed getting into stores until much later in the year, at which point they had released a single to support it -- their chosen track was a driving, flashy, instantly memorable instrumental rendition of the song "America" from the musical West Side Story, which got them lots of airplay and appeared to be a possible vehicle for the band's entry onto the U.K. charts -- until, that is, objections were raised to a very tasteless picture-sleeve design, coupled with the complaint of composer Leonard Bernstein that the group had never gotten permission to revamp the piece, all of which contrived to limit sales in England and prevent a U.S. release of the single.
Their first year's worth of work had begun to build the group, and especially the extroverted personality of Emerson, a following in England. The organist would jam knives into his keyboards, set fire to various objects on-stage (including, at least once, at Royal Albert Hall, the American flag, creating a potential diplomatic incident for the government), and simulate sex with his instrument -- by 1968 he was known as the Jimi Hendrix of the keyboard. The quartet's debut album, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, managed to sound different from virtually anything else in music at the time -- spooky organ solos and slashing guitar attacks ran together and clashed, and heavily veiled quotations from Dave Brubeck and Johann Sebastian Bach all seemed to trail out from in and around their songs, and pointed to something wonderfully strange about this band. They were working hard on their second album when guitarist Davy O'List, owing to personal instability, left the group in the early fall of 1968, and he wasn't replaced -- instead, the Nice became a trio comprised of keyboard, bass (with a guitar added occasionally as needed, by a guest support player), and drums. Their sound tightened and also evolved in a new direction -- the centerpiece of their second album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, was the title suite, a rock-classical amalgam for band and orchestra that took up the whole second side -- that work included an arrangement of one movement of the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. The other highlight was a band rendition of the intermezzo from The Karelia Suite by composer Jean Sibelius, and both of those classically inspired works dominated the record.
Released in November of 1968, just four months after their debut album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis garnered sterling reviews, but it died without a single to help promote the album. By this time, the group's manager, Tony Stratton-Smith, was wary of the financial underpinnings of their label, Immediate Records, which always seemed to have someone knocking on their door demanding payment for some long overdue invoice or other, and lots of people hanging around trying to spend the company's money. They went ahead with plans for a third LP, which initially was to have been a live album recorded at the Fillmore East during their early 1969 tour of the United States. In the end, that album, variously titled Nice or Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It (or, later, Nice #3), was a mix of live and studio performances that showcased the group working from strength to strength, and evolving even on the record itself. Gone were the obvious psychedelic flourishes of the first two albums -- instead, they were intense and concentrated in their focus on jazz and classical elements, a lean music machine that surged and pounded away at their material, yet who were subtle enough to work in delightful little embellishments, and playful and clever as well. The record peaked at number three on the British charts, and suddenly the Nice were ranked among the top bands in the country. And they were sufficiently popular in Europe to have spawned a rival group in the Netherlands, patterned along the same lines, called Ekseption, organized by Nice admirer Rick van der Linden.
It was just about at the time of the third album's release that Immediate finally declared bankruptcy. Fortunately, Stratton-Smith had already started positioning the group to break away from Immediate at the first opportunity, which the bankruptcy provided. Additionally, the Nice had moved into wholly new artistic territory in 1969, rising to an odd plateau of success, when they received an actual commission -- a formal, classical-type commission, and a first for a rock band -- to deliver a work for rock group and orchestra to the Newcastle Arts Festival, a highly prestigious affair scheduled for the fall of that year. They rose to the occasion with "The Five Bridges Suite," which was performed at the Newcastle festival and later recorded at Croydon. Between that piece, some of the live recordings being generated, and some shorter studio works that were in various stages of completion, the Nice suddenly had a little breathing room in the form of two complete LPs' worth of high-quality material coalescing around their work. The Five Bridges, released on Stratton-Smith's new Charisma label in England and on Mercury in America, would become the group's biggest seller to date.
By that time, however, Emerson felt the group had gone about as far as it was ever going to musically, especially given the limitations he'd always found on the vocal side; Jackson was a limited singer and Emerson scarcely one at all (that's him singing lead on "Happy Freuds" from their second album). In late 1969, he'd crossed paths with newer band called King Crimson when the two shared a bill at the Fillmore West, and was impressed by their lead vocalist/bassist, Greg Lake; he also discovered, in turn, that Lake had been growing increasingly unhappy as a member of Crimson. He subsequently contacted Emerson and agreed to join up with him -- thus, Emerson was already set to leave the band by the end of that winter, though the decision wasn't announced publicly until the spring. Meanwhile, the Nice soldiered on, playing some amazing shows that were captured on tape, and generating the Five Bridges album. Stratton-Smith followed it up after Emerson's split with the group by putting together Elegy, a compilation of live and studio performances from the band's late-era work that was a killer showcase for Emerson's playing. Both were released in America by Mercury Records and did reasonably well. In 1973, Stratton-Smith issued a third LP, known variously as Autumn to Spring or Autumn 1967/Spring 1968, consisting of alternate takes and mixes of songs from the group's first two LPs on Immediate.
In the decades since, thanks to Emerson's fame as a member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Immediate bankruptcy, which placed its library in the hands of a succession of receivers who knew or cared little about music -- and the intentions of well-meaning producers who did care about the music -- the music on the Nice's three Immediate LPs turned up in various forms on vinyl and CD. The current reissues, in the 21st century, are the best representation that this end of the group's history has ever had on record. Jackson and Davison went on to various projects that never succeeded, and in 1973 tried to get a second bite of the apple by forming Refugee with keyboard player Patrick Moraz, but there was little interest in their sound or records, despite some fine music coming from them. By the end of the 1970s, with a change in public taste, even ELP had overstayed their welcome, and came to a halt. In 1999, as a one-off event on a personal occasion, Emerson, Jackson, and Davison played together for the first time in 29 years, and a live reunion album was released; Davison's death in 2008 put any further reunions out of reach. In the summer of 2009, Virgin/EMI, which controls the Charisma library, released a fresh round of upgrades and expansions of the group's 1969-1970 material, and also the double CD Fillmore East, made from long-lost tapes of their December 1969 shows at the latter venue.
-- biography by Bruce Eder
The Nice - Five Bridges (1970)
EAC-FLAC with CUE & LOG - 382 MB | Full Scans - 135 MB | MP3 CBR 320 Kbps - 157 MB
Label: EMI Music Japan Inc. | 68:24 min | Cat. # VJCP-98001
Five 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.
-- Mike DeGagne, allmusic com

Track List:

01. Fantasia: 1st Bridge / 2nd Bridge
02. Chorale: 3rd Bridge
03. High Level Fugue: 4th Bridge
04. Finale: 5th Bridge
05. Intermezzo: 'Karelia Suite'
06. Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement)
07. Country Pie / Brandenburg Concerto No. 6
08. One Of Those People
09. Fairfield Hall Finale: Lieutenant Kije / Rondo / She Belongs To Me [Bonus track]
10. Country Pie (Studio Overdubbed Version) [Bonus track]
11. Excerpts From The Five Bridges Suite [Bonus track]
The Nice - Elegy (1971)
EAC-FLAC with CUE & LOG - 265 MB | Full Scans - 116 MB | MP3 CBR 320 Kbps - 118 MB
Label: EMI Music Japan Inc. | 51:21 min | Cat. # VJCP-98002
Comprised of songs cut during the final 13 months of the Nice's existence, Elegy is a must-own title for fans of Keith Emerson, offering his best live performance on piano ("Hang On to a Dream") ever to get a legal release, showcasing his organ playing on unique and beguiling arrangements of Tchaikovsky and Dylan material, and ending with a live version of the Nice's showstopper, "America."
-- Bruce Eder, allmusic com
01. Hang On To A Dream
02. My Back Pages
03. Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement)
04. America (2nd Amendent)
05. Country Pie (BBC Radio 1's 'Sounds Of The Seventies') [Bonus track]
06. Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement) (BBC Radio 1's 'Sounds Of The Seventies) [Bonus track]
The Nice - Autumn '67 - Spring '68 (1972)
EAC-FLAC with CUE & LOG - 283 MB | Full Scans - 110 MB | MP3 CBR 320 Kbps - 103 MB
Label: EMI Music Japan Inc. | 44:40 min | Cat. # VJCP-98003
01. The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack
02. Flower King Of Flies
03. Bonnie K
04. America
05. Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon
06. Dawn
07. Tantalising Maggie
08. Cry of Eugene
09. Daddy, Where Did I Come From
10. Azrial
11. Diary Of An Empty Day
The Nice - Live At The Fillmore East, December 1969 (2009)
EAC-FLAC with CUE & LOG - 565 MB | Full Scans - 106 MB | MP3 CBR 320 Kbps - 215 MB
Double CD | Label: EMI Music Japan Inc. | 93:52 min | Cat. # VJCP-98004/5
Up until the middle of 2009, the core of the recorded history of the Nice lay rooted in the three albums they cut for Immediate Records between late 1967 and early 1969, augmented by Five Bridges, released during the period following Immediate's bankruptcy, and all of it appended by the posthumous collection Elegy and Autumn 1967/Spring 1968. This double-CD set moves the center of gravity of that legacy forward, toward the group's 15-month post-Immediate history -- their manager, Tony Stratton-Smith, wisely recorded a good deal of their live work during this period, and an amazingly high percentage of it has proved worthwhile listening, including these tapes from two shows at the Fillmore East from December 19 and 20, 1969 (shows on which they were billed alongside the Byrds, the Sons of Champlin, and Dion). And what makes the tapes even more astonishing is that these performances date from a period after Keith Emerson had made the decision to abandon the group -- but there's no sign of less than 100 percent effort or total cohesion in what is heard on this set. These tapes also demonstrate just how far the group had come since its spring 1969 U.S. tour -- whereas the best of the work from their earlier Fillmore shows (released on the group's third Immediate album) shows a band starting to seriously redefine conventional song structures, on this set of performances the Nice are opening out much of their material even further, and scratching it out wide enough to drive a tank through musically -- and at times, that's what they come close to doing. Not all of what they attempt works -- the more expansive rendition of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" included here was probably great to see as a performance, but it doesn't hold up as well as the more concise interpretation that it received in the spring 1969 show, and ultimately it's a slight disappointment when compared to that earlier version. Even that track is worth hearing, however, and is different enough so that completists need not feel cheated or abused by having to buy it here.
As for the rest, the trio roars through "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" (complete with a two-plus-minute drum solo from Brian Davison), sandwiched between bracing performances of "Rondo" and "Little Arabella," which is done pretty straight. It was their rendition of Dylan's "Country Pie" from these performances that would eventually find release on the Five Bridges album, but otherwise Stratton-Smith shelved the rest of this body of tapes in favor of Fillmore performances from a year later, on the trio's final U.S. tour, for use on the Elegy collection. Here, listeners get an odd yet worthwhile rendition of "Hang on to a Dream" done on a Hammond organ rather than a piano -- the piano version works better, but hearing this rendition will disappoint no one who likes Keith Emerson or the band. There's a riveting performance of "The Five Bridges Suite" as a piece for trio (the work is most familiar from the Newcastle live recording, done with orchestra), plus a romping and playful version of "Intermezzo: Karelia Suite" that leads into a pounding and fierce performance of "America," complete with an interpolation of "The Star Spangled Banner" (plus what sounds like Emerson's attempt to graft part of Holst's Mars, Bringer of War, from The Planets, into the piece -- and could that have been his political comment at the time about the United States and Vietnam?). And, as a finale, the trio gives listeners an improved updating of the early Nice composition "War and Peace." This set will obviously be a must-own release for fans of Emerson or the band, and the producers have spared little to make it worthwhile in terms of packaging -- the fidelity throughout ranges from very good to excellent, and the annotation is extremely thorough as well.
-- Bruce Eder, allmusic com
01. Rondo
02. Ars Longa Vita Brevis
03. Little Arabella
04. She Belongs To Me
01. Country Pie
02. Five Bridges Suite
03. Hang On To A Dream
04. Intermezzo- Karelia Suite
05. America
06. War And Peace

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