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The Nice - Five Bridges Suite CD (album) cover


The Nice


Symphonic Prog

3.48 | 99 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars The symphony orchestra dominates but The Nice knew how to make incredible music to massage the ears.

The name of this release is a reference to the five bridges of the city, encompassing the River Tyne. This curio begins with a bombastic massive orchestra sounding more like the soundtrack to the latest fantasy flick then anything else. The brass, strings and woodwind are perfectly balanced with dramatic temperance and beauty. The lovely flute passages are dreamy and whimsical; the violins are sweeping and emotional; the brass is vibrant and heavy; together a foundation is created to usher in The Nice's blazing 70s sounds. Welcome to "Five Bridges Suite", an amalgamation of 70s psych merged with symphony orchestra, led by Joseph Edger in October 10, 1969 written for the Newcastle Arts Festival.

Eventually, the Hammond infiltrates and the first song begins; sounding like ELP at its most manic. The vocals of Lee Jackson are raw but somehow work better than a smoother vocal because the musaic is smooth enough. Emerson is incredible on Hammond as usual and his earlier performances are always exciting. He is a dominant force and extrememly creative. The band are so tight and technical and with that majestic symphonic score it is little wonder this album peaks at the top of the all time greatest albums for The Nice. Later in the epic opening tracks, Emerson tinkles away on his grand piano and the music gets dreamier, with strings caressing the sound. The time sig is ever changing and intricate.

It is really the "Pictures of an Exhibition" album for The Nice, Emerson taking full control of the direction of the band. The tracks blend together but the shining lights are the awesome bass and Hammond trade offs and the sections where the sax comes in with the orchestra in full support. The 5 Bridges suite is a fantastic track especially the section 'Finale 5th Bridge' with some frenetic trumpet and glorious happy organ.

The late great Brian Davison is sensational on this live performance and an important asset to the sound. He really shines on 'Intermezzo, 'Karelia Suite'' it sounds a little like the driving beat of 'America' or 'Rondo' in places but has its own distinct feel; one of The Nice's better compositions. Jackson's pulsing bass is a real treat and the brass section is grandiose.

Emerson's solo near the end is very ELP sounding with robotic fluctuations and experimental squelches, low crunches and perhaps devoid of a knife in the keys but very similar distortion feeling quite disconcerting after the lush orchestrations. The closing section is bombastic and a pomp rock finale.

The rest of the album is a hodge podge of ideas where some work and some don't but it is never less than engaging, if at times a little pretentious. The honky tonk cover of Bob Dylan's 'Country Pie', merging with the hilarious happy Hammond of 'Brandenburger concerto', and 'One Of Those People', the idiot brother of 'Are you Ready, Eddy', are maddening fillers. However, the rest of the album, especially the opening suite, is more than enough reason to get hold of this and treat your ears to a feast of The Nice at their absolute best and most daring.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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