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Nektar

...Sounds Like Swiss

Review by Gary Hill

This new two CD one DVD set includes live recordings from Nektar. All of this dates from 1973 and was recorded in Sweden, but it comes from at least a couple different shows. Now, some of the audio (and the video on the DVD) was professionally filmed to air on television, so it's of a higher quality than some of the rest. The thing is, this is all good. Apparently the rest came from soundboard recordings. I'm not sure if the tapes were stored well, or not because there are a few audio blemishes here and there.

As always, we only do track by track reviews of the CDs, and not the DVDs, which in this case is essentially a bonus. That said, since the majority of this stuff in studio form has been previously reviewed at MSJ, there is perhaps a bit less attention sometimes to the actual music and more the performance and recording.

Let me just say that Nektar's music is always so interesting. They encompass so many things. That was perhaps even more true in this earlier part of their career. They were a band without boundaries, really. Sure, it's prog, but it's a lot more, too. This is such a great record of these shows. I highly recommend it. I should mention that the video, an hour long concert, is filmed in black and white, but is quite good for the time period.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD1
                
introduction

This is a short spoken introduction mostly in a language other than English.

Journey To The Centre Of The Eye
After an audio artifact, this rises upward echoey and quite psychedelic. After a time it shifts to some serious space to continue. This continues to shift and evolve. Working upward toward more of a mainstream prog rock approach with a classical angle after a time. It drops back to a mellower motif for the entrance of the vocals. This cut continues to work through various sections from there. Then again, it's an epic that runs over 22-and-a-half minutes, so there is plenty of room for exploration. This has always been such a powerhouse piece, and this live performance does it justice, and then some. Full on spacey stuff takes over later and then powers out into more rocking stuff as it continues, making me think of Iron Butterfly just a little at times. The more melodic vocal movement later brings some serious magic and is punctuated by powered up portions.
Desolation Valley / Waves
I really dig the trippy echoey concepts on this. The whole thing is all Nektar classic, and this live recording really does it justice. If anything, I think it has a little more magic and punch here than in the studio setting. This is a band that really shines in live performance.
A Day In The Life Of A Preacher / Squeeze / Jimi Jam
This is quite an intriguing run of music. It's sort of all over the place, but then again, that was always a trademark of Nektar. They were never easy to pin down. They get into some pretty amazing jamming along this road.
Crying In The Dark / King Of Twilight
This powerhouse two-fer gets a killer performance. There is a bit of a tape glitch early in the ten-plus-minute run, though.
Let It Grow
I love the whole "Remember the Future" album, so this ten-plus minute excerpt is one of my favorite things here.
Odyssee
I really love this classy jam. The organ playing and bass work really stand out. It has a cool psychedelic does prog vibe. The vocals that come in over the top in various layers bring an almost psychotic edge to the piece. There is a bit of a tape artifact or glitch on this, but it's quick and minor. This segues straight into the next track.
Ron’s On
Coming out of the previous piece, killer jamming gives way to a drum solo.
Never, Never, Never
Here get another powerhouse live Nektar number. It works quite well.
CD2
            
1-2-3-4

This is a classy rocker that is perhaps a bit more direct and less exploratory than some of the band's other music. It still has some cool hooks, and there are parts of this that almost make me think of some Elvis Presley's music. Still, it's flavored with Nektar styled prog. This does work out to some smoking hot jamming further down the road.

Do You Believe In Magic?
Now, this killer tune has a real classic Nektar sound. It has a great balance between mellower and more powered up sections. There are some Beatles-esque elements to this at times. The quality of the recording has some issues, but not to the point of really detracting. The closing section is on fire.
Cast Your Fate
Coming in mellow, this has a lot of style and charm as it does so . This is another classy Nektar jam.
A Day In The Life Of A Preacher / Squeeze / Jimi Jam

Here we get a repeat from the previous set. I think the sound on this recording is better. The jamming mid-track is purely on fire, too. I definitely prefer this version to the other one, but they are both great, really.

Good Day
I really dig this one, too. It's quite a cool track, a strong performance and a good recording.
Desolation Valley / Waves
Here we get another version of the classic combo that we heard on the last disc. It seems there is a bit more of a jazz vibe early on this recording. That might be at least partly due to the better sound of the recording.
1-2-3-4
Again, I prefer this one. This thing really rocks like crazy here.
Crying In The Dark / King Of Twilight
While this is a solid recording, it does have some distortion. It's a strong performance, anyway.

 

 

 
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