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Nektar

The Other Side

Review by Gary Hill

This is the brand new album from Nektar. A few years back the world lost Roye Albrighton, who had been a founding member of the band, and it could be argued was the leader of the group. I have to think that he would be very happy to hear this album. I think it really captured the spirit of the band and stands with some of the best of the catalog. Of course, a lot of that comes from the fact that much of this music had its origins from earlier incarnations, with the songs being finished for this release. One number even includes some of Albrighton's guitar at the beginning. While it's early in the year, this is likely to make my "best of 2020" list. I reviewed a couple songs here previously on a CD single review. For the sake of consistency those track reviews are used here.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
I'm on Fire
Keyboards brings this into being. The introduction is a bit noisy, but then they launch from there to more of a song-based thing for some killer guitar soloing. Changes ensue as it drives forward. It has a definite classic Nektar sound at its heart. They take this through a number of shifts as it goes along. The extended instrumental movement later gets downright heavy at times. I can make out some hints of Beatles reference at times on it, too, though. I love the jam at the end. It is decidedly classic Nektar in nature.
Skywriter
A percussive bit opens this and holds it for a time. Then a faster paced prog jam emerges from there to move it forward. It drops to a more stripped back arrangement for the entrance of the vocals. The cut builds gradually from there. This cut is tastefully complex and really has a classic Nektar sound to it.
Love Is / The Other Side
At nearly eighteen minutes of music, this two-fer is the epic of the set. A sedate keyboard led bit starts this. Acoustic guitar joins as it evolves. The vocals come in over the top in a mellow approach. After the first bit of singing the arrangement fills out and drives forward. It makes me think of Alan Parsons just a bit in some ways. There are definitely Beatles-like bits, particularly in some of the guitar work that makes me think of George Harrison. This first part of the epic has a real mainstream and accessible vibe to it, yet it's also decidedly proggy. As it kicks into the "The Other Side" portion of the piece it has a less mainstream, but still very cool prog sound to it. After the first vocals of that section it explodes into a harder rocking, fast paced jam that is so cool. The vocals return pretty quickly and the number continues to evolve with a very classic Nektar feeling to it. As it approaches the seven-minute mark it slows to a new movement. That holds it through the next verse, then they work out into a faster jam from there. A dramatic and pwerful shift toward the symphonic takes it around the eight-and-a-half-minute mark From there the number shifts and grows as killer instrumental movement that has all kind of changes. Again, it's trademark Nektar and just works so well. After the 11-minute mark it drops to a piano solo and eventually starts building outward again from there. The instrumental groove that takes over after that has some guitar work built into it that makes me think of David Gilmour just a bit. That guitar solo dominated movement evolves and different textures emerge on the guitar sound. A crescendo brings it all back to the basics of the "The Other Side" portion of the piece for a reprise that serves as the outro.
Drifting
This comes in heavy with a nearly metallic edge. Symphonic keyboard textures dance around in orchestral ways softening that edge a bit. There is a definite Pink Floyd reference to be made here, but it's decidedly Nektar. There are some killer synthesizer parts further down the road. This thing has some great musical passages throughout, though. This is a classy tune with plenty of change and driving power behind it. While this isn't an instrumental, it doesn't have all that many vocals, making it close to one. Those vocals have a suitably drifting, dreamy aspect to them.
Devil's Door
As strong as the previous cut was, I might like this even more. It has so much of that classic Nektar sound built into it. This has some strong hooks along with definite prog rock shifts and changes. It's mainstream, but also quite proggy. I love the keyboard solo section later in the number. It's so tasty. So is the guitar solo that comes in after that. It should be noted that the opening guitar part on this is actually by Albrighton and used with permission of Lyn Albrighton.
The Light Beyond
This is an instrumental, and at a little less than three-minutes long the shortest piece here. A dramatic, but mellow, opening bit takes it to a rather symphonic movement. That has a classical vibe, but delivered on keys rather than orchestral instruments. It continues to evolve based on that electronic keyboard sound. It reminds me a bit of something Larry Fast might do under the Synergy name. There are some voices later on the number, but it's more like a sea of spoken voices and probably sampled or otherwise synthesized.
Look Thru Me
A count-in gives way to a movement that is based on picked guitar and piano. It's dramatic and pretty. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. This is essentially a ballad, but as keyboards soar the skies of it further down the road, it's obvious that it's a power ballad. It's less dynamic as much of the rest of the album, but no less effective.
Y Can't I B More Like U (2020)
Intricate acoustic guitar opens this piece and holds the introduction very well. The cut shifts from there to more of a Beatles-like Nektar arrangement. The cut has some definite psychedelia and more in the mix. It's one of the more purely mainstream things here. There is a rather extended instrumental section that definitely brings the prog in classic Nektar ways.
 
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