June 20, 2006
Metro Doubles
Pop/Rock, Art Rock, British Psychedelia, Psychedelic, Prog-Rock

Album Review

The Nice were continually cursed with bad timing during their three-year existence, either trailing the pop culture trends of the day or else out so far ahead that it amounted to the same thing. Formed in 1967 by keyboardist Keith Emerson, bassist Lee Jackson, drummer Ian Hague, and guitarist Davy O'List as a support band for singer P.P. Arnold (who was quickly replaced by Brian Davison), the Nice's first album, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, was an ambitious psychedelic project that was inexplicably delayed a year, finally appearing in 1968 when psychedelia had already become a faddish cliché. O'List exited, and the Nice became essentially a trio, which tightened the group's sound considerably for their second album, the proggish (before prog rock was even on the musical map) Ars Longa Vita Brevis, released in late 1968 to critical praise and an equally resounding commercial silence. The group's third album, a hodgepodge of live and studio tracks that somehow exhibited a real coherence, never even got a proper title, and was known variously as Nice, Everything Nice as Mother Makes It, and finally, as Nice 3. As luck would have it, the album attracted commercial attention just as the group's label, Immediate Records, declared bankruptcy. By the end of 1969, Emerson had departed to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and for all practical purposes, the Nice were done, although cobbled-together albums continued to appear for a time. This two-disc set draws tracks from the three main albums, and what emerges in retrospect is a band that was more varied than its subsequent reputation would suggest. The Nice are difficult to anthologize because of the sheer length of some of their tracks ("Ars Longa Vita Brevis," at nearly 20 minutes in length, took up one entire side of its namesake LP), but this set manages to capture the feel and range of the Nice, well, nicely. "Ars Longa" is here in full, as well as more focused and succinct explorations like "Rondo" (and its beefed-up offspring, "Rondo [69]") and pure pop attempts like the snappy "Little Arabella," as well as Emerson's taut cover of Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream." True, a lot of the Nice's output sounds dated now, but no more so than the other prog rock-leaning bands of the era. This collection has all of the Nice that most folks will ever need, and maybe then some.
Steve Leggett, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Flower King of Flies
  2. The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack
  3. Bonni K
  4. Rondo
  5. War and Peace
  6. Tantalising Maggie
  7. Dawn
  8. The Cry of Eugene
  9. America/Second Amendment
  10. The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon
  11. Daddy Where Did I Come From?
  12. Don Edito el Gruva
  13. Ars Longa Vita Brevis
  14. Little Arabella
  15. Happy Freuds
  16. Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite
  17. Brandenburger
  18. Azrael Revisited
  19. Hang on to a Dream
  20. Diary of an Empty Day
  21. For Example
  22. Pathetique Symphony 4th [Live]
  23. Lt Kije (The Troika)/Rondo [Live]
  24. Rondo (69) [Live]