Emerson and Jackson had played with
Gary Farr and The T. Bones and Emerson had also been in the short-lived
V.I.P.'s prior to the above quartet establishing themselves as P.P. Arnold's backing group in 1967. The Nice would play their own set prior to her own show in which they would back her. They went down so well that Immediate offered them a recording contract in October 1967.
They became very much a part of the psychedelic era in their appearance and dress and were popular among British underground fans in the late sixties. Musically, they were dominated by Emerson's virtuoso keyboard playing and concentrated on re-vamped classics. Their debut album was well-received including lengthy renderings of Rondo and War And Peace. O'List departed after this and was replaced for a while by Longstaff the following year. After his departure the band became more centred around Emerson and his highly theatrical keyboard playing. Their second album is certainly worth investigation and included Emerson's interpretation of Leonard Berstein's America from West Side Story which also reached No 21 in the UK when issued as a seven-minute single in the Summer of 1968. Side two of the third album was recorded live at the Filmore East, New York and included renderings of Rondo '69 and Dylan's She Belongs To Me!. Overall, the album had its moments but at times was frankly tedious. Their fourth album was their most ambitious to date. By this time Immediate had folded and the band had switched to Charisma. However, by the time of their fifth album Jackson and Davidson were beginning to resent Emerson's almost total dominance of the group and the band broke up amid considerable ill-feeling. The album is not really worth purchasing as two of the four tracks are merely new arrangements of earlier compositions, America and Hang On To A Dream.
Often controversial (they were banned from London's Albert Hall in June 1968 after setting fire to the stars and stripes during a rendition of America, which Bernstein prevented them from issuing in the US), The Nice's music was unique. Despite their popularity, it was detested by some.
Emerson, of course, went on to achieve greater fame with
Emerson, Lake and Palmer. O'List re-emerged in the seventies in
Jet. Both Jackson and Davidson, however, were relatively unsuccessful in their attempts to launch their own bands,
Jackson Heights and
Every Which Way.
Side one "Azrael Revisited" (Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson) – 5:52 "Hang On to a Dream" (Tim Hardin) – 4:46 "Diary of an Empty Day" (Emerson, Jackson) – 3:54 "For Example" (Emerson, Jackson) – 8:51 Side two Live at Fillmore East, New York: "Rondo '69'" (Emerson, Jackson, Brian Davison) – 7:53 "She Belongs to Me" (Bob Dylan) – 12:15 2003 bonus: 07. Hang On To A Dream (Mono Single Mix) 4:47 08. Diary Of An Empty Day (Mono Single Mix) 4:02 BBC sessoin track:
09. St. Thomas 2:36 Live at Firfield Hall, 1969:
10. Pathetique Symphony 4th 10:35 11. Lt Kije (The Troika)/Rondo 8:01
Keith Emerson - keyboards Lee Jackson - bass guitar, vocals Brian Davison - drums
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