[Review] The Nice: Five Bridges (1970)

A mostly live recording that bridges the worlds of classical and rock music as well as any album by The Nice.

Kronomyth 4.0: Cars Longa, Vita Bridges

Released several months after The Nice officially ended, Five Bridges features a live performance from Croydon that places the focus on Keith Emerson’s classical-rock concoctions. Also included, at the end, is a new studio track, One of Those People, that foreshadows the mechanical madness of “Karn Evil 9.” Despite the live setting, the recording is crisp and clean (the occasional cough notwithstanding, and I’m sure there’s a concert hall in Hell just for people who cough during concerts). You can opt out of Elegy if you want, but Five Bridges is an essential album that find’s the band’s classical ambitions in full flower.

The centerpiece of the album is Five Bridges Suite, which combines classical movements with songs, clearly pointing forward to the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Bach and Bob Dylan are lauded on the second side to mixed results. Not everyone will appreciate the classical exercise, and Bob Dylan is best left to The Byrds, but I’m one of those people who think the band went out with a bang on this record.

Before the year was over, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had begun to erase the memory of The Nice, particularly with their performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, which supersedes what The Nice achieved on “Five Bridges Suite.” Yet the two works otherwise have much in common, and those who enjoy the one are bound to enjoy the other. Combining rock and classical music may seem the height of pretension but, as The Nice proves here, the combination was capable of great heights when done right.

Original elpee version

A1. The Five Bridges Suite (composed and scored by Keith Emerson, words by Lee Jackson)
A1a. Fantasia–1st Bridge (6:08)
A1b. 2nd Bridge (3:59)
A1c. Chorale–3rd Bridge (3:30)
A1d. High Level Fugue–4th Bridge (1:02)
A1e. Finale–5th Bridge (3:34)
B1. Intermezzo “Karelia Suite” (Jean Sibelius, arranged for orchestra by Keith Emerson/Joseph Eger) (9:00)
B2. “Pathetique” Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement (P.I. Tchaikovsky, arranged for orchestra by Keith Emerson/Joseph Eger) (9:27)
B3. Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (Bob Dylan/J.S. Bach) (5:40)
B4. One of Those People (music by Keith Emerson, words by Lee Jackson) (3:08)

CD reissue bonus tracks
6. The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (David O’List/Keith Emerson) (4:12)
7. Flower King of Flies (Lee Jackson/Keith Emerson) (3:36)
8. Bonnie (David O’List/Lee Jackson) (3:19)
9. Diary of an Empty Day (Keith Emerson/Lee Jackson) (3:58)
10. America (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim) (6:06)

Japanese CD reissue bonus tracks
6. Fairfield Hall Finale: Lieutenant Kije/Rondo/She Belongs to Me
7. Country Pie (studio overdubbed version)
8. Excerpts from The Five Bridges Suite

The Players

Brian Davison (drums), Keith Emerson (organ, piano), Lee Jackson (bass guitar, vocals) with Sinfonia of London conducted by Joseph Eger. Produced by The Nice; engineered by Bob Auger, Eddie Kramer, Malcolm Toft; mix engineered by Eddie Kramer, Malcolm Toft.

The Pictures

Cover and front photo by Hipgnosis. Inner photo by Eric Hays.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in June 1970 in the UK (Charisma, CAS 1014), the US (Mercury, SR/MC8-61295), France (Philips, 6459.001), Germany (Philips, 6303 004) and Japan (Philips, SFX-7204) with gatefold cover. Reached #2 on the UK charts and #197 on the US charts.

  1. Re-packaged with Autumn ’67 and Spring ’68 on 2-for-1 cassette in the UK (Charisma, CASMC 103).
  2. Re-issued on cassette in 1983 in the US (Mercury, 830 291-4 M-1).
  3. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in the UK and the Netherlands (Virgin, CASCD 1014) with 5 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in Europe (Virgin, 787384) with bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on expanded super high material compact disc on June 10, 2003 in Japan (Charisma, VJCP-989001) with 3 bonus tracks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *