Nektar - The Other Side

Nektar  The Other Side cover
The Other Side
Esoteric Antenna
Well, Nektar used to be a band of British musicians who lived and performed in Germany, back in the day and they have always been a very important in prog rock circles, earning a top of respect, (with lots of famous people being their fans – Steve Harris and Frank Zappa among them) that didn’t quite translate to the commercial breakthrough that some of their peers achieved, back in the day. Inadvertently tensions got the best of them, they disbanded and tried out alternative lineups and they remained disbanded for quite some time after a final (for then) release in 1982. A reunion in 2000 did produce new material and live shows, but it all came to a halt when Roye Albrighton, founder, guitarist, vocalist and all around main figure of the band died. Since then a “New Nektar” with mostly German members has been making the circles and even released an album, “Megalomania” which is fair to say the least. But as of last year there’s some competition as three of the founding members of the band, Ron Howden (drums), Derek ‘Mo’ Moore (bass/vocals) along with non-performer Mick Brockett, who was however for the band’s lights and fx and was credited as a member have come together and using some later day alumni, namely guitarist Ryche Chlanda, who succeeded Albrighton, as well as another bassist from the band’s more recent past, Randy Dembo (00’s lineups), who however also plays pedals and 12 stringers here, together with an all new keyboard wiz Kendall Scott, they have resurrected the band – actually going as far as to actually record some material from back in the day that were live staples, but were never properly recorded, after giving them a few tweaks.

One could expect all kinds of things from this “concoction”, but the Nektar of 2020 is indeed sweet and intoxicating. Managing to recapture a good deal of their 70s mojo sounds effortless and soundwise, they manage to also sound quite faithful, with the production having that open ambiance and bigger sound that productions from that era used to have. Still it would be for nothing if the band had captured the form but not the essence and I am happy to report that the songs on offer are nothing sort of spectacular. Maybe not as trippy as some of their earlier efforts, but definitely spacey and easy on the ear, despite featuring some rather intricate arrangements. The chord progressions are just so imaginative and the band’s collective experience makes these songs sound effortless, even if they’re anything but.

Opener “I’m on Fire” has some feedback and hammonds fading in and out, before a driving riff turns it into a pretty spirited rocker that would have easily stood among some of the bands finest works from way back. The instrumental parts are simply breathtaking and that little lead motif that repeats a number of times, just pure genius. Lovely stuff.

The track that succeeds it, “SkyWriter” is a reworked piece from 1978 and demos for an album the band was working on, but did not materialize because of their split. It’s resurrected now and by all accounts is another great “idea”… it’s a poppier, slower jam, which has a more urgent chorus that contrast quite nicely the melodic verses. It effortlessly manages to almost reach the eight minute mark, just like its predecessor that even exceeds it, without ever being boring and tiresome. A lot of prog – especially metal – artists and bands should be paying more attention.

Well, the next song in the shy of three seconds, eighteen minute opus “Love is the Other Side”… which feels like a pastiche of different parts that however layer together to create a rather amazing tune, there’s a soft Beatlesque part – a sadder part a fantastic lead that comes along with the chorus and they are all spliced together so expertly that they sound like a single thing… the band is able to effortlessly go for a good eight or so minutes before they do leads that are not rushed and reprise a bit of their initial ideas before guitars take over for another round of solos and obviously a final chorus bringing the curtain down on this, the albums glorious centerpiece, that had little if anything to feel jealous about, if compared against any of the bands past classics.

“Drifting” is darker, more mournful and dramatic, it’s sustained ominous chords, receding to allow pretty acidic keys to take over, before they return mirroring then and sounding sombre as f… as dark as Pink Floyd, very rarely sounded. Oh it’s another track that effortlessly over nine minutes, without ever making you question, why.

Another one of the “old songs” is “Devil’s Door”, a tune the band had been playing since 74, but never ended up being recorded and properly released. The late Roy Albrighton is featured on the intro that comes from a live recording from the era and after an edgy vocal that heralds the arrival of the core of the song, a persistent, if somewhat simple riff backed by a thick bass line take over, in something that feels like a mashup of Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd… really brilliant though and authentic sounding as hell. Nice tribute to Albrighton too to have him “guest” on some capacity.

“The Light Beyond” is in essence a keyboard invention that doesn’t outstay its welcome as it’s repeated a few times with certain slight variations and embellishments. Nice ambiance.

“Look Thru Me” is a ballad, plain and simple. It might feel bittersweet, but never feels lost or misguided. It sounds pretty honest.

Last but not least, “Y Can’t I B More Like U” (with that atrocious spelling) rocks a little more, without keeling the album over in tune with the band’s past and the era where they come from, having the riff lead, but also the rest of the band following with nice improvs along the way that feel completely natural and appropriate.

So, “The Other Side” is a surprisingly solid album that came out of the blue really, with the band successfully re-emerging for a third time in a timeline that extends over five decades. It might not be able to directly compete with the bands classic 70s output, but it’s not really that far off in terms of quality and it does in no way tarnish the bands legacy or lessen their status. In fact it helps to re-establish and reinforce it as something very much happening in the 20’s just as it did in the 70s… and if that longevity, isn’t a testament to being classic, I dunno what is. I hardly think that a prog album to challenge this one’s primacy will surface in the latter part of this corona plagued year, but it will have to try double hard to do so...