on 28 July 2012
While many are shaped by them, fewer artists actually define their times. Yet this restlessly ambitious British combo nailed the last gasps of the 60's with pin-sharp precision via a brace of albums for Rolling Stones' manager Andrew `Loog' Oldham's fab/happening Immediate label that fused jazz, pop, psych to the classics and in the process set in train the roller-coaster of prog. Keith Emerson (keyboards), Lee Jackson (bass, vocals), Brian `Blinky' Davison (drums) and Davy O'List (guitar) shared a background in the fast-deflating R&B boom but there's little to suggest so in this mis-titled compilation of their time with the soon-to-implode Immediate. If buttons could be pushed harder, they pushed them. Even compositionally-rich psych pop songs like "The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of The Moon" and debut album title track "The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" were worked into a lather by Emerson's dominating organ work, O'Lists' hard guitar and Davison's busily martial percussion, the whole lot supercharged by overdubs, period studio effects, witchy spoken words - in short, the kitchen sink. Emerson's obsession with reworking the classics ("Rondo", "Intermezzo", "Brandenburger") and show tunes (we get both US and UK crazed takes on Bernstein's "America") hitched the band's novelty value and reputation for gleefully wild improv further. By second release `Ars Longa Vita Brevis', O'List was out and the keyboard wizard was firmly at the helm. A transfer to Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator label, Charisma, saw The Nice develop into a more serious proposition for the discerning prog rock fan and the die was well cast by 1970's launch of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Titular misnomer aside, this 15-track overview of the Immediate days, replete with rarities and B-sides, sensitively compiles and packages an embarrassment of riches. For all the man's many and varied contributions to contemporary music, Emerson does not sound as if he had as much fun again as he did making this stuff.