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Nektar

Fortyfied

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve been a big fan of Nektar for many years. They have always been one of the better obscure bands out there and I’ve always wanted to see them live, but I’ve yet to have the chance. This killer live disc goes a long way towards making up for that. They’ve just released it in honor of the band’s fortieth anniversary and it showcases material from quite a few of their discs. For my money there’s not a weak track here, but a few seem a little rough around the edges in the live performance. I personally would have loved to hear “Magic Is A Child” as I’ve always enjoyed that song, but you really can’t quibble with music this strong. For the most part I haven’t gotten into detail on the track by track reviews because I’ve already covered most of this music on the respective studio discs. All in all this is a great live album that should be a welcome addition to every Nektar fan’s collection. I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a first taste of the band since there are some spots that don’t seem to work as well as they do on the studio recordings.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
A Tab in the Ocean
They lead the set off with this tribute to psychedelic alteration of the mind. It’s quite a dynamic epic and we get a killer live version here. This is a great way to start the ride off in fine style. It’s hard rock at times, mellow at others and all the while quite cool.
Cryin' in the Dark
Another cut from A Tab in the Ocean, the first parts of  this are a bit more straightforward rock and roll.  Still, there are plenty of cool progisms in this. There’s a killer retro sounding keyboard solo on it, too. I also like the short Hawkwind-like movement.
King of Twilight
A bit less dynamic as some of the other pieces, this is another hard rocker. It’s also another that was originally on the A Tab in the Ocean album. There’s some killer guitar work on this.
Dream Nebula
This is a strong cut that’s a bit more like Pink Floyd a lot of the time. Sure this is definitely one hundred percent Nektar, but you can definitely hear some Floyd in the mix. It’s got some great guitar sounds and nice vocal arrangement. 
Desolation Valley
Moving straight out of the last piece, this continues many of the musical themes. It’s a great continuation of that ride. 
Waves
Another that is part of this suite, this one really feels the most like Pink Floyd. It wouldn’t be a huge stretch of the imagination to hear this – albeit a bit different – on Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album. It makes for quite a satisfying conclusion of this epic.
Remember the Future Part 2
This eighteen plus minute epic comes from one of my all time favorite Nektar discs, Remember the Future. It’s delivered in style here, but in many ways seems to rock out a bit harder in places than the studio rendition. 
Doctor Kool
There’s a lot more of a modern texture to this cut. The lyrics talk about “Botox beauty,” so this more modern sound is in keeping with the theme. There are still some great retro moments, though – like the extended keyboard solo. This is another killer epic length number.
King of the Deep
The first five minutes or so of this are in the form of a pretty and cohesive progressive rock journey. After that, though, they scream out into a killer guitar solo segment. We are taken after a time back to the song proper and eventually keyboards take over and end it. 
Disc 2
Where Are You Now
Another extended track, this one is hard rocking, but with a definite retro texture. It’s another killer cut on a disc that’s full of them. The cut is quite dynamic, though, with an extremely mellow portion put into the midst of it. There’s a real groove throughout. 
Day in the Life of a Preacher
In some ways this is the most straightahead cut, on show here. It’s hard rocking and at times has a bit of a honky tonk, rock and roll feel to it. 
Mr H
As this works its way out of the previous number we get some serious funk on the bass line. The first portion of this is extremely jazzy and essentially a showcase for the bass soloing. It turns out into a more standard rocker from there, but this has serious extended instrumental movements and it is just plain cool. 
Recycled Part 1
Another of the extended epics from Nektar, this one is one half of the Recycled disc. The studio take on this is one of my favorites, and this delivers, but pales a bit. There are a few sections that just seem a bit rough in the live setting. That said, even in that state this is an awesome piece of music. 
The Debate
The modes that make this one up are classic Nektar. We get hard rocking movements and lots of shifts and changes. This is another strong piece of music and another that holds up the flag of Nektar prog quite well. It does tend to feel a little rough here and there, though. The killer frantic instrumental segment late in the track, though, is stellar.
Man in the Moon
I have to say that I’ve never really been crazy about the Man in the Moon album – as it’s too pop and hair metal oriented. That said, this cut really is an incredible piece as delivered here. There’s some definite crunch, but there’s also plenty of real Nektarisms. It has me wondering if I need to dig Man in the Moon back out and give it another try. This is a cool way to end the set.
 
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