Music Appreciation: The Nice

Before Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Keith Emerson was a member of a British band, The Nice.

Having started my Progressive Rock trip in the late 1970’s and really by the fascination of the ELP song Karn Evil #9, 1st Impression, Part 2, that got a lot of airplay. If you click the link, I suspect that you will recognize the song.

After this initial introduction to the rabbit hole of Prog Rock, I chased many of the other big names. Pink Floyd, Camel, Yes, Jethro Tull, and so on. This accelerated when I got my driver’s license and began trekking to Santa Cruz, and the used record stores on Pacific Grove Avenue. My collection grew and grew.

Then one day, a friend, Ken Rice, pointed me at this used album from this 1960’s vintage band, The Nice. Being told that it was the band Keith Emerson was in before he formed ELP, I was intrigued, so I bought an album.

Wow. What a sound. Fun, energetic, and some amazing musicianship. I quickly bought as much of their music as I could. Unfortunately, at this time (early 1980’s) virtually all of their albums were out of print, so it was diving in the cheap bins, and the used music stores.

Being pre ELP, this was Keith Emerson pre-Synthesizer. He used acoustic and electric pianos, and one of his favorite instruments, the venerable Hammond B–3 organ that he absolutely wailed away on. That, coupled with the Leslie cabinet, and masterful playing by Keith, and you have a winning combination.

Sadly, The Nice didn’t leave a lot of recordings in their brief (3 year) history, but in the past 20 years several sets of live tapes have added to the record, giving the enthusiast some more grist.

The song that captivated me first was an adaptation of “America” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story”. A spirited rendition, with all the energy of Keith’s playing, and abuse of the Hammond organ.

A search of youtube will find many other clips of this classic.

Second, and one of my favorites, is the alternative version of a song called “Daddy, Where did I come From.” When this comes up on my phone while I am exercising, a big smile comes across my face. Be sure to listen carefully to the lyrics on this studio recording from Ars Longa Brevis Vita album

Summary

Here it is, 2017, nearly 40 years after I first discovered prog rock, and while I have expanded my collection, there is still fondness for my early loves in the genre.

As I am curating and organizing my music collection, I stumbled again on The Nice, and that triggered warm reminiscences of my misspent youth.

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