Crimes Against Singing (and Dylan)

Hi, my name is Bob and I listen to Prog Rock. There, it’s out in the open. The first step on the road to recovery.

When I got back into vinyl I decided to re-vist my past sins, but from a different angle. One of the bands I thought might be interesting, but had never listened to, was The Nice – a band headed by keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson who went on to form ELP, gawd help us. I picked up three of their albums on ebay for half nothing and gave them a spin. From a musical history perspective they were never less than interesting  and Five Bridges and Elegy are pretty decent albums that I enjoy, from time to time. But… ah there’s always a but… each one of them has a massive flaw that almost prevents me from ever playing them again. On CD I could easily overcome said flaw with a quick zap of the remote but on vinyl skipping tracks is a pain in the neck unless they are first or last on a side. And they never are. You ever notice that track one side one is usually the big hit single, or equivalent?

The Nice are mainly an instrumental band. How I wish that last statement read ‘only’ instead of ‘mainly’. Unfortuately the  vocals are never less than pathetic. But that’s only half the problem. Each of the albums contains a Bob Dylan cover. On Elegy it is Country Pie and for Five Bridges they chose My Back Pages. Nothing particularly wrong with the songs but they wouldn’t be in my top fifty Dylan songs. However if you take either of the songs and imagine them jazz inflected and sung by a tone deaf busker at half past midnight outside your local chipper backed by a stylophone you might get an idea of how bad Dylan covers can be.

I cannot imagine how or why the band or the record company or the band’s management reckoned this was a good idea. Did they listen to a playback before releasing the albums? Were these the only tracks they could find to pad the original releases? Thank goodness that The Nice are long disbanded and cannot make more songs with vocals or covers of Dylan. Of course they may be planning to reform to do a farewell tour as I write. If anyone gets wind of this (please insert fart joke here) perhaps they would be kind enough to let me know so I can start a Facebook campaign to prevent such abominations in the future.

In the interests of even-handedness you can listen to their superb version of Leonard Bernstein’s America here.

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About Bob Neilson

Bob Neilson lives in Dublin with his wife, two daughters, son, two dogs, one cat and a growing feeling of claustrophobia. In partnership with his wife he runs a successful retail business in Dublin city. His short fiction has appeared extensively in professional and small press markets and he has had two plays performed on RTE and one on Anna Livia FM. He also presented a radio show on Anna Livia for a year. He has had two short story collections published, Without Honour (1997, Aeon Press) and That’s Entertainment (2007, Elastic Press) as well as several comics and a graphic novel. His non-fiction book on the properties of crystals is a best-seller in the UK and Ireland.
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