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4.8 out of 5 stars
Live at the Fillmore East December 1969
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2009
I am a self confessed 'Nice Nut', but will be as subjective as possible with this review.

Yes, Christmas has come early, this album contains previously unreleased live material. The recordings were made at the Filmore East New York during December 1969, very close to the demise of the band and the formation of ELP. Some other material from these concerts was previously included on the 'Elegy' and "Five Bridges' albums and it was only when the remastering process for those albums was being done that they discovered the tapes of the whole concert.

In reviewing this album I will assume some knowledge of the original music rather than trying to describe each piece from scratch, a large book would be needed to perform such a task.

(CD 1)
1. Rondo - This belts along at a furious pace and is quite similar to the live 'Rondo 69' which is on the album 'The Nice', but a little shorter and somehow more controlled if that is possible.

2. Ars Longa Vita Brevis - The original version of this was on the studio album of the same name and contained orchestra. This live version at 13.18 is some 6 minutes shorter and notably omits the 3rd Movement 'Brandenburger'. It is certainly punchier than the original and contains an extended percussion section in the middle, together with assorted thudding and scraping sounds that I was beginning to lose the plot with, until a more traditional drum solo took over. An interesting piece by the way the orchestral sections were omitted or replaced by Emerson's keyboards.

3. Little Arabella - This tune was originally on the 'Ars Longa ..' studio album. This 6 minute version in a couple of minutes longer and contains an extended organ solo in the middle by Emerson. Until hearing this I didn't know this was a song they did live.

4. She Belongs To Me - To my knowledge, the only other Nice version of this Bob Dylan song is on the album 'The Nice'. This is a different live version and at 13.18 is a couple of minutes longer. It is the same song, but some additional improvisation and well known theme tunes are thrown it - a great way to finish off the first CD.

(CD2)
1. Country Pie - Another Dylan song with a bit of Bach thrown in. A different live version of this was included on the 'Five Bridges' Album. They are very similar, but as usual Mr Emerson doesn't play something quite the same way twice, so you always hear something a little different.

2. Five Bridges Suite - The original version of this appeared on the album of the same name that was recorded live with orchestra in London in Autumn '69. This version is obviously without the orchestra and if you pardon the pun is an 'abridged' version. At 13.40 it is about 5 minutes shorter. As with 'Ars Longa' the out and out orchestra sections are either omitted or replaced by keyboards. The band play very well on this piece.

3. Hang On To A Dream - I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. This song was first seen on 'The Nice' album and at around 4 minutes long contained mostly piano and vocals. The other version I was aware of is on the 'Elegy' album and was a 12 minute live version with an extended piano section. So when I played this version (7.30) my first thought was 'Hold up, where's the piano?'. Interestingly KE plays Hammond organ all the way through, which I presume he did because his piano wasn't up to the job, or he just fancied a change!

4. Intermezzo: Karelia Suite - First heard on 'Ars Longa' and also a live version with orchestra on 'Five Bridges'. This live version is organ, drums and bass. At over 12 minutes long it includes additional improvisation and a rousing conclusion to this adaptation of a piece by Sibelius.

5. America - Perhaps the most well know tune by the Nice, other versions abound including a couple of live ones. This is similar to the one on 'Elegy', but a bit less of the weird section at the end where it sounds like KE converts his hammond organ into spaceship.

6. War And Peace- This tune was first heard on the album ' The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack'. Not much to report other than it is similar and excellent.

Overall a brilliant album which seems almost wholly unedited, so it includes the band introducing the songs to the audience and gives you a great feel of what it must have been like to see them live. Sound quality is generally very good considering the concert was almost 40 years ago.

Buy this with confidence if you are a Nice or ELP fan. For collectors of their music it is an absolute must.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2009
I've discovered the Nice rather late in my longterm addiction to sixties psychedelia, having strangely snubbed them for years because of just one track I'd heard and didn't quite get as well as their reknowned makeovers of classical pieces which tend to make me squirm and have become a bit dated now. However their first album blew me away as well as much of the second. They have a real 'oomph' and energy and Keith Emerson's keyboard, when not showing off his knowledge of classical repertoire is phenomenal. His extraordinary abuse of the Hammond organ is...refreshing... the sounds he can get out of it are unbelievable and have helped me to reassess the Hammond's potential (put next to 'A whiter shade of pale'). The bass and drums are driving and, in response to other reviewers' comments on other releases, certainly not bad at all and do a very good job of holding together the mayhem unleashed by Mr Emerson. The vocals are an acquired taste apparently but don't bother me.
About this release: I wasn't sure what to expect, not having yet heard much of their later recordings, but the idea of a live keyboard, bass and drums trio performance and the set list were very appealing. It doesn't disappoint ! The version of 'Rondo' starts off with a mock steam train sound, all generated on Emerson's keyboard and runs its course as Rondo does (never been one of my favourites *gasp!*). 'Ars Longa Vita Brevis' is very good, though I do miss the guitar. Very interesting abstract bits and the blasting theme after the drum solo section (which is nicely sparse and not too cringy, for the times) shakes it all up nicely. Again, great chord sequences you don't find on the studio version, which is what makes live recordings like this so exciting. It's nice to find a live version of 'Little Arabella', an unusual piece. Typical Emerson solo following the sung part, with a small classical snippet added to a fine performance. 'She Belongs to me' is brilliant. The wonderfully sparse opening is brilliantly controlled and you can hear they've been playing it a lot. The contrasts between the loud main theme and the looser, quieter moments work very well. Beautifull chord sequences and great intuitive interplay between the players... and the odd 'weird' bit, which I'm all for. A few surprises along the way too.
'Country Pie' I didn't know beforehand. It's upbeat and lends itself to some great keyboard licks. Not sure about the Brandenburg concerto bit; yet another one... the 'Five bridges suite' I didn't know either and not sure I want to hear the full orchestral version. The stripped down trio live version is very interesting, containing some killer riffs that just have to be heard at full volume. Again great interplay and control. Once again the dynamic shifts are great, ranging from full intense sound to more sparse and looser parts. 'Hang on to a dream' is all played on Hammond (though there is a piano on stage) and works well. I don't know the sutdio version so can't compare. The 'Intermezzo: Karelia Suite' I really like, despite being a classial makeover. The live version is just as mesmerising as the studio one and at 12.30mins has 'room to breathe'. Stunning passages and great improvisation. The descent into the groaning and moaning organ section is greeted by an enthusiastic 'more' from the audience. 'America', one of my favourites, especially when Keith plunges into full Hammond mayhem, which he does to an extent here, follows. Lee Jackson is on fine form at the bass, underpinning faultlessly and undauntingly the chaos around him, Brian Davison bashing away.
Finally, 'War and Peace' from their first album. Played swiftly as an encore it seems.

Anyway, to sum up, a great performance that keeps you interested and amazed throughout. Keith's playing is sophisticated yet 'groovy', with some magical harmonies and chords and killer riffs, all brilliantly supported by Lee jackson and Brian Davison, who rise perfectly to the challenge. Interesting to compare with the live 1967 recording and I'll be investigating the other live stuff available - you can't have too many versions of 'America' !!

Check out Soft Machine live at the Paradiso from the same year and Egg...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 7 August 2009
My first experience of the Nice was hearing their 3rd album called "Nice" The version of Rondo on there has stayed with me as the finest version that Keith Emerson ever did. There was a special products vinyl version of the album in which the Rondo was 30 seconds longer, but this never appeared on cd and for 40 years I have been waiting for more of this wonderful series of concerts at the Fillmore. Some has appeared on other albums, but now here is a complete concvert all together. It only lasts about 1.5 hours, but really gives you a great feeling of the Nice in concert. KE had to play his socks off in the days of the Nice, because although competent, neither Lee Jackson or Brian Davison contributed much more than a solid backing. Greg Lake would provide much more in the way of support in ELP.
Anyway, the music. Driving aggressive Hammond fronted rock. Once they get into the groove they fairly race along. There are no cheesy Hammond organ sounds here, just a distorted snarl. Rondo has the crashing train start that KE achieved by turning the organ on and off as he banged it on the stage to set the reverb springs rattling, then switching the reverb on and off with the toggle switch on the panel to simulate the steam. I am sure that the audience felt the power and raw energy of this performance. I saw them live in 69 and loved the concert ( not the Filmore..Wolverhampton )
It isnt the concert that was on the 3rd album, I still have to wait to see if they ever find the master tapes to that, as so far they havent been used. BUT this is a great concert from the 3 piece Nice. Hugely recommended. Oh if you havent heard much of the Nice, think "Hold your head up" by Argent for a taster
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2009
Fans of the Nice, and there are still some of us around, have been plaged by re-hashed re-issues and poorly designed compilations for way too long. At last we get a full concert by the band at their energetic and creative peak. Although this is not as technically proficient as the more recent Vivitas Reunion live album it is far more cohesive and focused. Many of the numbers have arrangements that are unfamiliar to me, giving everything a fresh sound. I have no idea why we had to wait 40 years for this but thank you to whoever pulled this release off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2014
I liked The Nice when they were doing nice short songs and pieces such as 'America'. On the live album the tendency to spin these tracks out, much like their successors ELP, tend towards self-indulgence.

Obviously, Keith Emerson is a virtuoso keyboard player and when he is contained the music is exceptionally good. The problem was the tendency to show off detracting from the force of the music. The only ELP album I liked was 'Trilogy' where the tracks were short and punchy. The live tendency to overcook the solos for, in my opinion, no good musical reason is on this album in spades and I soon got a bit bored and irritated.

It's not a bad album and the force, power and volume of the trio is exhibited in abundance, but it is not an album I will be playing often.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This album rocked my ideas of what The Nice were about. I have been a fan since around the time they split up and owned all the albums and versions. These 2 CD's show a mature band playing at times a storming set, and highlight the bass playing of Lee Jackson, particularly during America, where the bass holds it all together, where everything else is noise.
There is also some superb piano playing during the Fugue from Five Bridges. This is a well recorded live album, which eventually does the band justice, even if some parts seem overblown and the vocals are poor.
Excellent archive find.
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on 20 December 2010
In the short existence of the Nice (first as a quartet, later on as a trio) they released 3 albums, of which the third, simply called "The Nice", already consisted of a concertrecording at the Fillmore East in 1968 on the second half. Furthermore they recorded a wealth of other material, like the nonalbum "America" and the "Five Bridges Suite"-album, which was released after the band has disbanded, like an numerous quantity of compilations. However, these liverecordings stayed for 40 years in the can before being finally released and offer from all those albums the bulk, spread over 2 CD's. Although "Rondo" was mostly played at the end of the set this album starts with it. Further on songs from each of the 3 studioalbums (i.e. "Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack", "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" and the aforementioned "The Nice") plus a shortened version of "The Five Bridges Suite" are included in the stunning live set. The Nice was one of the forerunners of playing together with an orchestra but that was not the matter at these performances. Keith Emerson makes the lack of orchestralinterplay up by a more prominent feature of the Hammond organ. Surprisingly is the Tim Hardin cover "Hang on to a Dream", 'normally' played on the piano, completely played on the organ also. But Emerson played the piano on several other tracks, solely and/or in combination with the organ. The band made clear where they stood for in those final days: an amalgam of pop, jazz, blues, rock and classical music. With only 3 people aboard they could produce a lott of noise. Emerson tried everything to make the organ sound more abrassive, agressive and louder. He played it like an leadguitarist with use of feedback, overdrive and distortion, in an unusual way, by mistreating the hapless instrument and even with the help of armyknives, thus creating before unheard sounds and effects. This can be heard on the "Karelia Suite", among others. Lee Jackson added an earthly sounding bassguitar and his gruff vocals, whilst Brian Davidson used everything he could fit to bash on. All in all they were an unique troup an could not be easily compared with other contempories. So this smashing in the face double album is a fitting document and also an epitaph of one of the best progressive rockgroups that ever existed. Some of it is prolonged in ELP but that is another story to tell and listen to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2015
I have been a fan of The Nice since I first saw them on BBC TV in the 1960s; I have their studio albums and finally bought this one recently. When listening it must be remembered that recording quality has improved greatly since this concert, so my star rating takes this into account. However, I rate the content of the album and have enjoyed listening to it several times. If you are a fan of The Nice you should buy this.
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on 3 January 2012
My first 'big concert' was the Nice playing Caird Hall In Dundee - I think it was early 1968. They played a storming set based mainly on the first 2 albums with a couple of their Dylan versions thrown in for good measure. Over 40 years on this still ranks as one of my best gigs ever. The live tracks on The Nice, Elegy and Five Bridges captured much of the essence of the band - but this Fillmore set is finally (warts an all) the real deal. What we get is a virtual 'best of ' live played by a band its peak - and we can hear how much Brian (now sadly departed) and Lee contributed to the Nice Sound. Both are on incendiary form here - and give keith a fantastic foundation to build on. Sadly this was to be the end - until the 2002 Reunion tour captured on Vivacitas (recorded live In Glasgow). Keith may have moved on to different things but the Fillmore recordings show that the Nice maybe had a bit further to go before calling it a day.
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on 29 April 2013
Keith Emerson can do NO wrong in my estimation. I have been into Keith - and all his bands and incarnations - since early 1971. I started with ELP and headed back to The Nice. I had not heard this recording before, but had heard the pieces on Five Bridges, which is an amazing album in itself. I was not prepared for the quality of this recording, which is part of the reason I love it. The other part of my sheer enjoyment of this recording is that the band are not over-technicalised, with the emergence of the many iterations of the work of Robert Moog still a long way off. This is the band playing unmodified (though strangled in Keith's case...) instruments: Hammond, bass and drums. The Nice are ignored - wrongly in my estimation - and written off as "the band Keith Emerson was in prior to ELP". Shame on the music world for that. This recording captures the band in their "swan song" - get it, you won't be disappointed.
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