June 11, 2007
Pop/Rock, Art Rock, Prog-Rock, Psychedelic, British Psychedelia

Album Review

The Best of the Nice is essentially a boiled-down version of the two-CD The Essential Collection, issued in 2006 by the Metro Doubles label, a division of the same company behind this set. Every track on the single-CD best-of is also on the larger set, so whether a potential buyer goes for one or the other comes down to just how much of the Nice one wants. For most, the single disc will surely suffice. It does truly contain everything that made the Nice the oft-cited progenitors of prog rock that they were, from their hopped-up version of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story showcase "America" to the complete multi-part suite "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" and their fine translation of Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream." The Nice are still remembered primarily as the band that, for better or worse, gave the world Keith Emerson, whose over-the-top keyboard pretensions would manifest more fully with his next band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The Nice rocked much harder than ELP, to be sure, coming out of the psychedelic era, and ultimately their music holds up better. For a healthy taste of what they did, this comp is surely the way to go. For twice as much, the double-disc collection will fill in some gaps but, despite its title, truly offers nothing more that might be considered essential to the story of this transitional British band.
Jeff Tamarkin, Rovi