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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nektar

Live in Bremen (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This new three-LP set is a live recording of Roye Albrighton's final performance with Nektar. I previously reviewed the CD version of it, and since the music is the same, I'm going use a lot of that with some changes to reflect this set for the sake of consistency. It should be noted that there were some odd liner notes issues on the original edition that have been corrected here. Also, it's worth mentioning that I think this works better as an experience on vinyl. There is something about Nektar and vinyl that just seem to go together. I should mention that while might expect a gatefold sleeve for three record set, this is just a standard sleeve, but made large enough for three records and inner-sleeves to fit. Still, this vinyl is high quality and it sounds great.

What follows is adapted from my original review of the double-CD version of the album: 

Nektar front-man Roye Albrighton passed away while this album was being prepared for release. I've read that this was actually his last live performance with the band. That makes this worth having without any further consideration. The thing is, it's a great live album. It's certainly something that Nektar fans should own. This concert was recorded in 2015, and the sound quality is very good, but perhaps not perfect. The performance, though, is nearly flawless.. Also worth noting is that I haven't gone into a lot of detail about the music here as I've already reviewed the studio versions of most of these songs, so this is more about the specific performance in most cases and less about descriptions of the pieces. That said, there is still some of that here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Side 1
           
A Tab In The Ocean

After a short bit of stage banter this rises up in all its prog rock tastiness. At almost 17 minutes in length, this is a powerhouse of epic proportions. They deliver a smoking hot live version of the piece. I'm not going to go into a lot of the specifics as I've reviewed it on the studio version of the album. Let's just say that if this was to be Roye Albrighton's final Nektar gig, it was a swansong worthy performance. There are some parts of this (for instance the jam around the seven and a half mark) that are positively on fire. I love all the peaks and valleys on this number. It has always been a killer track, and that definition is preserved here.

Side 2
           
Doctor Kool

There is a short introduction here, but then they launch out into "Doctor Kool." This is a fast paced hard rocking Nektar number that's quite well performed here. I love the hard rocking guitar solo section in the second half of this. That leads into a cool jam that turns a bit towards fusion and has some interesting keyboard soloing over the top of it.

King Of The Deep

Again, another tune that I've reviewed in studio format, this is a Nektar classic. It has the usual peaks and valleys one expects from this group. There is a lot of passion present here. This is another killer prog rocker on a disc that's really full of them. They drop it down for a cool mellower jam around the mid-way point and work back upward from there. That section has a tendency to feel a little noisy in this live take.

Side 3
                
Recycled (Excerpt)

This is an "excerpt" as "Recycled" was essentially both sides of the original studio album. However, this excerpt is over 17 minutes long and takes up a whole vinyl side. I really love this version of the classic. They manage to pull in lots of the best material and still make it flow like it was written that way.

Side 4
 
The Dream Nebula (Part 1+2)
There's a short spoken bit at the start this. This song and the next two are said to be a "three-piece" during that bit of stage talk. Actually, though, they each get a separate track. This opening piece is a great live performance. It has some trademark Nektar moves built into it. The balance between the mellower and the more rocking is great. There are hints of psychedelia among the prog rock basis.
Desolation Valley
This does come directly out of the previous number here. There are some powerful jams built into this thing. I dig the guitar based segment around the one minute mark quite a bit, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. This is classic Nektar delivered in fine fashion.
Waves
It slides into this from the previous piece. This is a fairly trippy kind of cut, but it does have some more powered up parts. It's much shorter than the bulk of things here, weighing in at about three and a half minutes.
Side 5
          
Time Machine
While this is a newer cut, it's still packed with trademark Nektar sounds. The balance between the mellower, more laid back stuff and harder rocking ones is perhaps more pronounced than on some of the other stuff. That's because this thing even reaches toward almost metallic hard rock at times.
Now
More of a balladic cut at the start, this works pretty well, but of everything here, it's the song that's the least effective. That mellower segment holds it for a couple minutes. When it powers up from there, it's a bit stronger. This is less dynamic than some of the rest, though. It just doesn't have as much Nektar magic packed into as some of the rest of the cuts do.
Cast Your Fate
The mix between harder rocking and mellower stuff on this tune is dramatic. I love some of the keyboard work on this. It's so much of a trademark Nektar cut.
Side 6
           
The Debate

This has a real bouncing kind of groove to it early. This is more mainstream rock than some of the others are, but it's still decidedly Nektar. There is a smoking hot extended instrumental jam later in the track taking it to the next number.

Man On The Moon

Coming out of the previous number this is a cool cut that has a great balance between the mellower and harder rocking stuff. I remember that this album had a bit of a hair metal kind of vibe to it (that was the era from which it came). That element isn't really present here, but this does manage to rock pretty hard. I love the keyboard solo section. There are actually some trademark Nektar elements to this tune. I love the guitar solo on the piece. That whole instrumental section is so strong. This was apparently the closing number, as there is extended audience participation included to coax the band back out for an encore.

Good Day
This comes in gradually and works out to some seriously scorching hard rock. I love the guitar soloing on the piece. As you expect from Nektar, though, it drops to a mellower segment as a contrast for the vocals. The chorus rocks out and is pretty catchy. Given that this was Albrighton's last show ever, when he sings, "I'm gonna leave you forever, good day," it takes on new meaning. That makes this so appropriate as the closing track here, even though it was obviously not planned. This is such a great song and such a great performance.
 
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