It's an odd thought that what was one of the forerunners of prog rock started out life as a backing to a soul singer. The Nice were created as a backing band for the brilliant P.P.Arnold, but on the condition that they could do their own stuff too. This was apparently at the insistence of keyboard supremo Keith Emerson. Yep, that's Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame (infamy?) I know that people who love prog rock really love it, and there are those who find in interminable widdly nonsense - the truth, as always in somewhere in between, and much greatness can be found floating around endless drum solos and weirdness for weirdness sake.
The first track on here is a tearing up of America from Bernstein's West Side Story. Now, I'm quite prepared to admit that I really rather like many musicals, and of the many musicals that I like West Side Story is probably the one I like the most. America is great song too - with it's contrasting optimism for a new life in a free land, with it's sneering at the racism and less pretty aspects of 50's America. It's good stuff - The Nice drop the powerful imagery of the lyrics and replace them with a fierce thrashing of the tune that whirls like a waltzer at the fairground, dizzying and thrilling, and occasionally nauseating. Towards the end of America there's a child's voice briefly spouting of some pompous political rhetoric. I used to really like this record when I first heard it it was vibrant and alive and different take on some thing old. However I feel as that it's one of those records that suffer from the law of diminishing returns, getting more boring and more like a one-trick pony on each subsequent outing. Before listening to it for this blog I haven't heard this record for may years, and I was hoping that that temporal distance may have softened my feelings to this once loved piece. Maybe it did, I still found it a little boring and a chore to listen to, but I also could hear the skill and the passion in the music, and could completely understand what people, including my younger self, can see in this.
Maybe I'll have better luck with the b-side. Considering it goes under the preposterous name of The Diamond Hard Apples of The Moon, and that I couldn't remember how it went from last time that I listened to it I didn't have high hopes., and I'm afraid it lived down to my expectations. There are vocals on this track, but they had some odd treatment put on them. I afraid I can't really make out what they're on about - the title is dropped a few times, considering the incoherence maybe some acid was dropped at the same time. This is very generic hippie psychedelia. The song just doesn't know how to finish, and so it all falls apart in a noisy hazy puff of an ending.
I wanted to like this more - but as it stands I find to be little more than a curious relic of a very specific time and place, and out of that time and place - it's a bit boring with some annoying noisy bits. That probably makes me sound like some old fuddy-duddy - maybe that's what I've become.
Next time a voice from the 50's tries to be heard in the 70's...