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The Nice - Elegy CD (album) cover

ELEGY

The Nice

 

Symphonic Prog

2.93 | 77 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars I honestly don't know how much the band members had to do with compiling this post-breakup hodge-podge, but this has all the markings of an attempt to cash in on the contemporary success of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. From that perspective, it actually kinda worked, peaking at #5 on the UK album charts, but I find it a maddeningly mediocre (and almost outright bad) album in its own right. It's another half-live, half-studio affair, though unlike Nice it sets the live material as bookends and puts the studio material in the middle, and both portions are essentially vehicles for semi-engaging Emerson noodling with little of note from the other members. Now, I like Emerson noodling as much or more than most people would, but he can only carry things so far, and this doesn't come close to representing him at his engaging peak.

The studio tracks are awful at worst and pointless at best. Once again the band decides to take on a Dylan cover, this time choosing my beloved "My Back Pages," and while I appreciate the band's efforts to embellish it during the instrumental breaks, I find that I just can't get beyond the singing. Dylan's vocals in the original might irritate some, but he conveyed a perfect balance of humility and majestic power in them. Jumping forward a few years, the version that The Byrds did on Younger Than Yesterday preserved the emotional heft of the original vocal part while adding some nice harmonies and making it a bit more tuneful. This version, though, is a vocal massacre, and whether the tendency to fall out of key repeatedly was intentional doesn't really matter to me. Among the list of artists whose work I generally respect, this is one of the worst Dylan covers I can think of (oddly, another contender for this title is a "My Back Pages" that The Ramones did on Acid Eaters).

The other studio track is the band's interpretation of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony, done in live form on Five Bridges, and it's as dull and pointless as before. As I've said before, the movement is amazing and majestic and rousing and everything a scherzo should be, but it doesn't seem like the band (read: Emerson) really knew what to do with it. There's a distressing sense of auto-pilot here that wasn't really present on the band's "Karelia Suite" interpretation, and certainly wouldn't be present on Pictures at an Exhibition.

The live tracks are a little better on the whole, but not enough so to save the album. In "Hang on to a Dream," the vocal parts improve from "awful" to "anonymous," thanks to the elimination of the generic female chorus and Jackson's very quiet and timid delivery, so that helps some, though not a lot. Emerson leads the band through a lot of different styles over the course of 12 minutes, and it's fun to hear Emerson fully turned loose, but the mid- section could have just as easily been transplanted into any other song. Personally, for this sort of Emerson playing, I'd much rather listen to his piano improvisations in the Welcome Back live album a few years later. And finally, there's a 10-minute rendition of "America," which is a lot of fun for about 6 minutes, then gets a little too organ-stabby-feedback-y for a while, but ultimately is still a blast on the whole. If there's a reason to buy this album, it's definitely "America." That's not really a great endorsement for the album, though; the original studio version is ultimately superior.

I should note that the version I acquired, the 1990 CD release, has a bunch of bonus tracks, but these are just the studio renditions of a bunch of stuff from the first couple of albums. "Dawn," "Diamond-Hard Blue Apples of the Moon," "Daddy Where Did I Come From?" and the like. Were the people reissuing this were counting on the first albums going out of print, so that this album would be the only way to get those tracks? In any case, don't let these entice you into thinking you're getting live or alternate renditions of these tracks if you've already heard Emerlist Davjack and Ars Longa.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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