[Review] The Nice: Nice (1969)

The group’s third album is a studio/live hybrid that retreads familiar ground.

Kronomyth 3.0: Nice whether we’re halving.

By the summer of 1969, The Nice had made quite a name for themselves as a kind of organ-ic Cream. Their third album capitalized on that success, nearly topping the UK charts despite being the weakest of their first three albums. Following the format of Cream’s last album Goodbye, Nice is split between studio and live material including a remake of “Azrael” now titled Azrael Revisited. As such, there are only two “original” songs on the album and only one of them, For Example, stands equal with their earlier work.

The new version of “Azrael Revisited” replaces the original organ with piano, so it has a less intense vibe. A cover of Tim Hardin’s Hang on to a Dream is very nicely done, particularly in the orchestration. Diary of an Empty Day can be perfunctorily filed under proto-ELP. “For Example” is another ambitiously orchestrated piece that invites favorable comparison to Frank Zappa. All in all, not a bad string of songs, but after having been shocked by “The Flower King of Flies” and “Little Arabella,” the first side of Nice seems shockingly predictable.

The second side features a live version of Rondo that the crowd at the Fillmore East clearly enjoys and an interesting interpretation of Bob Dylan’s She Belongs to Me. Both pieces are more or less an excuse for Keith Emerson to go on extended solos (during which numerous classical and popular references appear) while Brian Davison beats his drum kit and Lee Jackson plays the snot out of a single bass string. As I said, interesting, but nothing that Greg Lake and Carl Palmer didn’t clearly surpass on their first album together.

Personally, I prefer The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack and Ars Longa Vita Brevis as the better showcases for the groups’ psychedelic/classical mash-ups. The gravity of Keith Emerson’s keyboards begin to overshadow the band on later albums, and I can actually understand why some critics like Robert Christgau were totally turned off by the whole massturbatory in a minor schtick. That said, any album by The Nice makes for a nice supplement to your ELP collection. Of interest, this album was re-issued in the United States under the cleverly creepy title of Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It, which apparently features a slightly longer version of “She Belongs to Me.”

Original elpee version

A1. Azrael Revisited (Keith Emerson/Lee Jackson)
A2. Hang on to a Dream (Tim Hardin)
A3. Diary of an Empty Day (Keith Emerson/Lee Jackson)
A4. For Example (Keith Emerson/Lee Jackson)
B1. Rondo (69) (live at Fillmore East) (Keith Emerson/Lee Jackson/Brian Davison)
B2. She Belongs to Me (live at Fillmore East) (Bob Dylan)

The Players

Brian Davison, Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson. Arranged and produced by The Nice; engineered by Malcolm at Trident except (B1/B2) engineered by Eddie Kramer.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in August 1969* in the UK and the US (Immediate, IMSP 026) with gatefold cover. Reached #3 on the UK charts. (*First appeared in 08/23/69 issue of Melody Maker.)

  1. Re-packaged as Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It on elpee in the US (Immediate, IMOCS 102) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Immediate, Z12 52022) with different cover.

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