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Nektar

Recycled (Remaster)

Review by Gary Hill

In the world of '70's progressive rock there are the clear leaders of the pack, bands like Genesis, Yes, Kansas and King Crimson. These groups achieved both critical and commercial succes while producing their brand of the complex musical form. Then there are another string of bands that, while every bit as talented, never got quite as much recognition as the first stringers. Nektar was always one of these groups. They achieved a "cult" status, becoming their own type of legend, but only to those hard core prog rockers who were really in the know. Well, as the progressive rock revival that has carried on for quite a few years now got back into full swing, many of these bands have begun to attempt another go at staking out part of the prog rock real estate. Nektar is also one of these groups.

In addition to reforming the band and touring and working on new material, they have set out to remaster and reissue much of their back catalog, most of which had been long out of print. Recycle is one such album. Along with a handful of other Nektar discs, these were the core prog rock output of the band, and the albums that were legend amongst prog fans. Nektar's output later, as with many groups in the genre, turned more towards pop rock, but on these earlier releases you find full blown arrangements full of complex changes, incredible instrumental passages and soaring vocal arrangements. These guys were in the more melodic school of prog (ala Yes, Genesis and others who focused more on song structure then chaotic wandering instrumental segments like King Crimson did). With Recycle the results of the remastering are awesome. This disc in its original CD issue sounded rather flat, and at times muddy. The sound on this reissue is so much better than that original disc that it is almost difficult to hear it as the same album. Certainly all the musical passages are the same, but here keyboard sounds that had never been audible there simply jump out. Bass lines that were once muddy sound full and crystal clear. There are new, previously unheard layers of sound that truly add to the experience.

With the limitations of time put on old vinyl records, versus the expansive allowances of CD, the band have done something rather unique with this release. They have included two different mixes of this classic album. The first is a remastering of the actual original release, but the second half is the same album in a previously unreleased mix created by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. While he is certainly brilliant at what he does, it is quite obvious from listening to this mix that he really didn't have a grasp of Nektar's sound, and it's actually a good thing that they chose not to release this as the original disc. Missing is much of the overlayers and drama that makes the album so special. If the original mix that came out on disc was flat and at times muddy and missing some of its layers, it was still worlds above this stripped ddown and dull version. Studio trikcs and other tyupes of weirdness replace a lot of the prog wonderment. The songs lose a lot of their character here, and take on a more bare rock texture that definitely does not to justic to the material. This is internesting both in terms of its archival value and in showing how the wrong producer, no matter how gifted, can truly screw up even a great album. Most likely you'll find yourself only listening to the brillian new remaster and skipping the second one most of the time. Since this CD in it's original format was already reviewed here, I will use the track by tracks from that album here for consistency. Even with the Emerick version the major song structure hasn't changed, so it seems OK to do this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Recycle
Beginning much like a hybrid of Yes and Genesis, it eventually gives way to more wholly Yes type approach, though not really derivative.
Cybernetic Consumption
Bringing to mind other progressive sounds, most notably ELP and Kansas, Cybernetic Consumption most reminds me of Drama era Yes, although it predates Drama by about 5 years.
Recycle Countdown
This is essentially a reprise of Recycle.
Automation Horrorscope
Starting in a poetic Moody Blues/Hawkwind type fashion, this song evolves into a more Yes style approach. This a very kinetic piece.
Recycling
Beginning more laid back and balladlike, this is a very dramatic piece, and contains one very playful and fun section.
Flight to Reality
This song contains a very dramatic build up leading into a recurrence of the opening theme.
Unendless Imagination
Containing some rather Steve Howeish guitar work and some nice choral vocals, this piece contains a bit more of the main theme, but in a more dramatic and symphonic treatment. Unendless Imaginations leads into a nice textural sort of section that carries into the next piece/movement.
Sao Paulo Sunrise
Beginning with the same textural feel that the last song introduced, this one moves into new ground, while still evoking (to an extent) some of the earlier themes. Sao Paulo Sunrise contains a section which is one of the most mainstream and straight-forward portions of the album, while actually imparting an almost Zappaesque feel.
Costa Del Sol
A rather playful progressive intro, including more choral vocals, leads into a somewhat jazzy/funky kind of groove. Definitely the most soulful part of the album, the bass and piano work really shine here. Eventually moving into some more conventional progressive territory, this piece covers a lot of musical ground.
Marvellous Moses
Starting with another return to an earlier theme, this one quickly moves into the main body of the piece which is at one time both mainstream and quirky as hell. The bass work is prominent on this piece. At one point the song moves into a very dramatic instrumental break before returning to the main body of the movement. Eventually the music is brought down to prepare for the nice calm opening of the final portion of the album.
It`s All Over
A very nice guitar ballad feel begins this one, becoming very emotional and richly arranged as the piece progresses. Some rather pretty piano/vocal work marks the ending of this album.
 
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