Keith Emerson’s death hit me hard. I’ve listened to Trilogy over and over again. But I also have a couple of records he did with The Nice. I finally got a chance to sit down and listen to their 1970 album Five Bridges.
It’s a really interesting record that demonstrates the band’s creativity, as well as its limitations. The Nice was guitarist Davy O’ List, drummer, Ian Hague, bassist Lee Jackson, and Emerson on Keyboards. The record is fascinating for its combination of early progressive rock styling, led by keyboards and synthesizers combining rock themes with classical and jazz song structures.
The band always struggled to achieve success. They struggled financially, and eventually dissolved in bankruptcy. But Five Bridges was actually commissioned work by The Newcastle Arts Festival. They hired the band to produce a work for rock band and orchestra that would be performed at the Festival and later at Croyden. Side one is The Five Bridges Suite, focused on taking the listener through all sides of Manchester. It’s gorgeous. Side two is “covers” if such a thing is possible, of Sibelius’ “Karelius Suite” and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” symphony, followed by a medley of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 and Dylan’s “Country Pie.” The album closes with “One of Those People,” an Emerson/Jackson composition.
It’s clear from the opening, the creative construct is Emerson’s, and it’s impossible to miss the line of development from The Nice to ELP. The band suffers from lack of a capable vocalist. Jackson is simply not up to the task.
The brilliant Hipgnosis cover is the icing on the cake. While I would hesitate to Five Bridges a brilliant album, it certainly has brilliant moments. Definitely something unique and interesting.
So what have you bought lately, Smyth?
I’ve generally sworn off trying to buy massive quantities of vinyl . My recent trips to Goodwill have yielded little more than pocket lint and inspirational tunes. Thanks, I’ll pass. With spring break approaching, I may try the Goodwill outlet nearby, but maybe not.
Nope, I’ve kind of enjoyed spending too much money on records I really want, just in smaller quantities. Budget Tapes and Records, a longtime music store on South Hill closed at the end of the year, but reopened as Boogie Records very close to my house. I’ve tried to become a loyal customer and dropped by a couple of times in the month since they reopened.
I picked up a new copy of Radiohead’s OK Computer. It is unlike any record I’ve ever heard before. Having heard it only once, it will required repeated listening. I used to really dislike this band, and now I feel much differently. This is an album with many different textures, very different from their earlier album, The Bends, which I also like very much. Much less guitar, more electronic influence, but it still feels like a rock album. Thom Yorke is a great vocalist. My favorite song is “Paranoid Schizoid Alien.”
On a later visit I bought a copy of Metallica (the black album.) This is one of those 1990’s sweet spot albums that was originally pressed on vinyl, but a limited pressing, and is now quite expensive. A vintage copy of this record runs in the neighborhood of $175. I never saw myself as a Metallica person, but it’s pretty hard not to love “Enter Sandman” and “Unforgiven.” If you’ve only heard these on MP3, please, I urge you, beg yourself forgiveness and RUN to pick up a copy on vinyl. It is breathtaking.
For those in the South Hill area who want to support a locally owned record store, Boogie Records is a nice place. There are vinyl listening stations and there is a small, but growing collection of new and used vinyl. It tends to cost a couple dollars more for the new stuff, but it isn’t outrageous, and the owners love music every bit as much as you do.