Posts Tagged ‘The Fillmore East’

Out of all of EMI’s new reissues of The Nice’s Charisma label back catalogue is among the most interesting, this two-disc set totaling over 90 minutes is likely to be of most interest to fans of The Nice.

Whilst the song titles will be familiar this is the first time this concert at New York’s legendary Fillmore East has been released. Where the studio albums were often a little too variable for their own good, hearing the set flow from start to finish gives us a greater appreciation of how powerful and cohesive a unit The Nice were in concert the British Psychedelic/Art Rock band featuring a previously unreleased performance taped at the Fillmore East in 1969. Digitally re-mastered from the original eight track tapes. Including alternate unedited performances of “She Belongs to Me” and “Country Pie”, along with material previously unreleased on either vinyl or CD. The Nice would go down in history as one of the most exciting live acts of their age and as the creators of a series of excellent albums that would fuse the worlds of Rock and classical music, taking in elements of Jazz, Psychedelia and Rhythm & Blues on the way, effectively spawning the genre of Progressive Rock in their wake.

Whilst Keith Emerson’s off-the-cuff quotes of Bach and other popular classics may sound a touch arch by today’s standards, it’s easy to forget how hard-edged and radical this was to audiences largely fed on a diet of bluesy guitar jams. This, coupled with his theatrical mauling of his Hammond organ, added not only an arresting visual dimension but the resulting ear-bleeding atonality of such pre-meditated destruction gave the group something of an avant-garde frisson as well.

Though Lee Jackson’s sandpaper-rasp of a voice suited the rockier repertoire, his limitations are spotlighted in the quieter parts such as their imaginative reading of Tim Hardin’s sublime Hang On To A Dream. Nevertheless, Jackson’s bass playing was entirely dependable and together with drummer Brian Davison’s always elegant but robust swing, the pair provided an unswerving rhythm section that was in effect the safety net to Emerson’s high-wire act.

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 bass-guitar and his gruff vocals, whilst Brian Davidson used everything he could fit to bash on.

When this show was recorded The Nice were only weeks away from breaking up. Yet the risk-taking that went from Dylan to Dvorak remains exhilarating, edgy and largely underrated.

Vocals, Bass Guitar: Lee Jackson , Vocals, Organ, Piano: Keith Emerson , Drums: Brian Davison

Tracks:  Rondo,  Ars Longa Vita Brevis,  Little Arabella,  She Belongs to Me,  Country Pie,  Five Bridges Suite,  Hang On to a Dream,  Intermezzo: Karelia Suite,  America,  War and Peace.

In the late 1960s, the Doors, and particularly their frontman Jim Morrison, were one of the most unpredictable live acts on the planet. You simply didn’t know what they were going to do or how long they were going to do it for. Just two weeks after the Fillmore East opened, Bill Graham booked the Southern California psych rockers to play four sets of music spread across two nights. The final set on the second evening was the one to catch.

Doors Jim Morrison Performing Fillmore East

That night, the Doors played their regular collection of material but apparently enjoyed themselves so much that they came back after most of the crowd had thinned out and played again for nearly an hour. It was an incredible showing, and left a tremendous impression on one audience member in particular: future punk poetess Patti Smith. Her boyfriend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, was working as an usher at the venue and managed to get her a free pass to the show. It was a galvanizing experience, as she explained in her autobiography Just Kids. “I felt, watching Jim Morrison, that I could do that,” Smith wrote.