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Nektar Remembers the Past

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Back in the early 70s, Nektar was one of the few progrock bands to achieve commercial success. Many audiophiles consider their Remember the Future to be a worthy rival for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. After a period of inactivity, this British band has revived itself, and several of their classic albums are finally seeing reissue on compact disc.

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NEKTAR: Remember the Future (double CD on It's About Music)

This release from 2011 offers 133 minutes of dynamic progressive rock music. (Considering that the original album from 1974 clocked in around 35 minutes, you can expect this reissue includes a good amount of bonus material.)

Nektar is: Alan "Taff" Freeman (on keyboards and vocals), Roye Albrighton (on guitar and lead vocals), Derek "Mo" Moore (on bass and vocals), and Ron Howden (on drums, percussion, and vocals).

Disc 1 offers the original album and a live recording of that material, totaling 72 minutes.

The original album was an epic composition, and although featuring separate songs, everything was (and still is) combined together as "parts" 1 and 2.

Inventive guitar carries a majority of the tunes. Albrighton coaxes an amazing range of versatility from the instrument, from twinkling chords to gritty occasions to blazing rock riffs. It's amazing how effortlessly guitar solos manage to hide in the midst of the busy music.

Keyboards offer integral support with slippery melodies and engaging passages, much of which cleverly lurks in the structured density of the overall music.

The drums are durable and slick, providing snappy tempos that manage to perfectly and unobtrusively fit into the mesh of instrumentation. And when needed, the percussion slides into prominence with compelling rhythms.

The bass maintains a guttural undercurrent and provides riffs that are vital to the album's reputation.

The vocals deliver a superbly mellifluous account of things-to-be, in lead and choral arrangements. Despite addressing the album's heady concept, many of the lyrics find ways to be universally accessible (dealing with interpersonal relationships) while simultaneously delving deeper into the topic of prescience. The vocals are crisp and passionately crafted to catch the idle listener with their charismatic harmonies.

These compositions present a dose of extremely memorable melodies, the type that linger in your brain for days after listening to the album. Dynamic and gutsy at times, lilting and tender at others, each segment is highly impressive on several levels: musically and performance-wise.

The live set of the album is fairly faithful to the original, with an adequate ratio of live fervor and subtle enhancements to make it worthwhile to listen to it right after the original music.

Disc 2 features 62 minutes from a live Nektar concert in Brazil on November 10, 2007. The songs represented here come from a wide range of the band's albums, affording a novice (and aficionado) a wealth of enjoyable tuneage.

Albrighton's guitarwork is in fine form, delivering succulent riffs with frenzied abandon. Freeman's keyboards are more noticeable here, generating golden melodies that shine with appealing warmth. In fact, the drums are similarly pronounced, too, belting out riveting rhythms that refuse to remain immersed in the mix. And boy, there are a good number of passages in which the band jams with glorious results.

This is no group of geriatrics seeking to relive their heyday, these guys still have the spark and time has only refined their talents.

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NEKTAR: A Tab in the Ocean (double CD on It's About Music)

This release from 2011 offers 77 minutes of spacey jam rock music (36 minutes being the original 1972 album, 41 minutes comprising the bonus disc, In the Beginning, the Boston Tapes).

Disc 1 features the original album. At this point (1972) the band was dabbling in psychedelic rock with tendencies to go off into long instrumental jams of a cosmic nature (the type of diversions that made 70s Grateful Dead concert's memorable; experimentation which gradually became stylish for more commercial bands to explore).

The band shows a more raw edge here (understandably) and yet the performance is still engaging in its coarse power. Not all that "coarse," really--just formative when judged against later material.

There's a lot of keyboards--specifically organ, voicing that progressive organ sound that dominated the jazz scene back in the late 60s/early 70s. The riffs slip and skitter through the mix, generating pastoral vistas of glittering promise.

The guitar possesses a gutsy rock potency, illustrated in numerous jam passages wherein Albrighton lets loose and strives for sonic nirvana.

The drums are aptly at home here, delivering powerhouse rhythms that exist in tandem with the other instruments, mirroring rather than expanding the tunes' gists.

The bass is similarly appropriate in this music, providing support with rumbling notes.

These compositions exhibit a psychedelic influence merged with a progressive edge. Melodies are established, then allowed to mutate as the band indulges in mid-song spacey jams that feature crashing climaxes followed by dreamy incidents.

Disk 2 features In the Beginning, the Boston Tapes, a session recorded by the band on an early visit to the USA. (The liner notes go into detail explaining how it came about in 1970.)

Here we have some really primal Nektar stuff, showing their roots and a decidedly more traditional rock-oriented style of tuneage. They even do a melancholic cover version of "Sealed with a Kiss" that ends up wandering into a cooking jam outburst.

There are occasions when the guitar adopts a distinctly California sound (all squealy and tranced-out). While the vocals are restrained and the lyrics tend to be more concerned with relationships and life situations. And the drums pursue a purist rhythmic sensibility.

Even though this set displays a conventional side of the band, the tunes clearly illustrate their inclination for something else--as they frequently burst into jams in midsong, with heavy drums and rock-out guitar and calliope keyboards.

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