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The Nice - Five Bridges Suite CD (album) cover

FIVE BRIDGES SUITE

The Nice

 

Symphonic Prog

3.46 | 93 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars At the very least, this is better than Concerto for Group and Orchestra. The follow-up to Nice is a live album (as opposed to the half-live Nice) of the band playing with the London Symphony Orchestra, and the first half of the album is a full-fledged rock/jazz/classical-fusion suite (naturally called "The Five Bridges Suite" since it's about five bridges over the River Tyne). It's nothing special, but I don't feel myself getting stupider when listening to it the way I do when listening to the Deep Purple album released earlier in the year. The "1st Bridge" section (it should be noted that the track divisions are completely unrelated to the breakdown of the actual sections of music, which helps explain why I was a little confused as to the organization of the pieces the first couple of times I listened to them) is the longest, and it initially consists solely of the orchestra (playing a piece that sounds an awful lot like a knockoff of Copland's populist period, but there are worse things) before Emerson begins mixing in some piano interludes. The "2nd Bridge" (which is actually on the track labeled "High Level Fugue 4th Bridge") is basically standard solo Nice, with Jackson singing terribly over a decent organ-driven groove. The "3rd Bridge" (actually the first 3 minutes of "Finale 5th Bridge") isn't especially great because Jackson singing gently over an orchestra (with a little bit of background Emerson organ playing) seems kinda gross, but I like the jazzy trio bits in it. The "4th Bridge" section is Emerson playing a brief fugue on piano (with lightly tapping drums in the background), and finally the "5th Bridge" section reprises the "2nd Bridge" section but brings in some saxophones. All in all, the suite isn't amazing, but there are a lot of decent individual moments and little that outright sucks, and considering that this was Emerson's first attempt at large-scale orchestra writing, it's better than it could have been.

The second side is similarly ok, except for the out-of-place closing track "One of Those People," which largely features Jackson singing through a vocoder (it doesn't make him sound any better!) in a way that just makes him sound like a robot in need of a battery change. The live version of the intermezzo from Sibelius' "Karelia Suite" is probably a little better than the original studio version (which was fine itself), partially because of the inclusion of the LSO (which plays the opening portion as normal) but also because it seems like there's a little more energy this time around. Somewhat less successful is the album's interpretation of the scherzo from the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony; the original movement is one of the all-time great scherzi, a complete misdirection before the emotional steamroller of the 4th movement, but hearing it in this context makes it seem cheap and gimmicky. The orchestra plays the opening themes solo (aside from some drum taps from Davison) for a very long time, and while the band does work its way in eventually, the two entities never combine in a way that's very satisfying. And finally, the band finds a way to combine the Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan number "Country Pie" with portions of Bach's 6th Brandenburg Concerto, and while it's actually somewhat slick (and it's way more entertaining than the "She Belongs to Me" bore on Nice) it never really leaves me wanting to listen to it again. I really wish Jackson sang better.

This album is ok, but while it was probably intended to appeal to both rock fans and classical fans, I'd have a hard time recommending it to either. There's a such a long distance in quality between the classical music the band (well, Emerson) was writing and the classical music the band was covering that it should have left everybody involved feeling a little embarrassed, and while the band's efforts are noble in spicing up the pieces with organ solos and a rhythm section, they just don't work that well. Still, it's worth hearing a couple of times, and it's actually one of the easier Nice albums to get a hold of, so that's a plus.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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