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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nektar

Journey to the Centre of the Eye

Review by Gary Hill

This is a reissue of the first Nektar album with a live disc as a bonus. That live disc is one track, but it’s a long one. In fact, that one track includes the entire studio album (it is all a multi-part suite) that’s performed as one cohesive piece. This is quite psychedelic at times. It works into space rock. It also has plenty of the elements that would be considered classic Nektar going forward. It’s a great set showing a lot of what was to come from these guys.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Prelude

This instrumental opening section starts atmospheric and rises up from there. It’s psychedelic space rock weirdness that works straight into the next cut.

Astronaut’s Nightmare
Coming out of the previous number, this has a build up at the start that’s quite psychedelic. That ends and then proto-prog with psychedelia all over it creates a mellow atmospheric vibe. Distorted vocals are heard in the background early. From there, though, it gets real sung vocals and this continues forward with a sound that’s at once recognizable as Nektar, but also quite laden with psychedelic trappings. The cut shifts and changes from there. It’s an ever changing tapestry of somewhat raw psychedelic progressive rock. Then it drops down to a very mellow section to continue. More changes and alterations ensue from there, and I particularly like a riff driven segment that comes in further down the road. This thing really does have a lot of split second switches, though.
Countenance
Atmospheric tones open this and they work forward from there. This eventually evolves into a melodic jam that’s classic Nektar. Then it explodes upwards from there with a smoking hot guitar solo. This is a fairly short instrumental that’s quite cool.
The Nine Lifeless Daughters Of The Sun

Killer psychedelia meets prog opens this thing and builds out from there. This keeps evolving and a cool melodic movement rises out of the droning backdrop after a while. It builds and builds and builds in classic Nektar fashion. That section eventually crescendos and gives way to chaos to end the instrumental piece. Although, it more segues into the next one than really ends.

Warp Oversight

Here we get lots of weird sound effects and other spacey elements. After the one minute mark some real musical elements start to emerge. But they crescendo and leave the space behind again. It never really resembles any kind of song thing. Instead, it keeps climbing upward and then dropping down in different forms of tasty, spacey weirdness.

The Dream Nebula Part One

A hard rocking tone brings this one in from the spacey atmosphere of the previous cut. They work through for a short time with the chords pounding amidst space music. The cut evolves though in this extended introductions, shifting around. Then it works out to some psychedelically inspired mellow prog music for the vocal section. This is classic Nektar. The group has always been one of the bands who were best at alternating mellow and louder sections and this song is a classic example of that as sedate motifs are punctuated by a return to the hard rocking sounds. It drops away too soon, though.

The Dream Nebula Part Two

The musical concepts from the previous piece fade up as this piece starts. They take it through some pretty classic Nektar modes with both vocal performances and musical ones managing to shine.

It s All In The Mind

Here’s one that’s more of an energized hard rocking in the sound that was to become a trademark one for Nektar. It’s got plenty of shifts and turns and just plain works. Some of the riffing on this really makes me think of the Remember the Future album.

Burn Out My Eyes
This one is very pretty and very sedate. One could say it feels a bit desolate in some ways. But that makes the vocals all the more powerful. That, though, is just the early sections. This works out to some harder rocking sounds as they continue. It’s definitely classic Nektar in the progressions and sounds they build into this beast. This gets crazy later and crescendos to end it.
Void Of Vision

Melodic, balladic Nektar sounds open this. Then it fires out into a dramatic progressive rock movement for the vocals. They take us into a dramatic journey from there. The fast-paced Nektar shifts and changes return as they continue.

Pupil of the Eye

Fast paced, but melodic spacey psychedelic progressive rock is the mode here. It has multiple layers of vocals and works through some cool changes. Nektar is one of the progressive rock bands that can soar at times and groove at others and they do both in this number.

Look Inside Yourself

The psychedelic elements dominate as this starts off, but when singing about “space at time,” that seems appropriate. They work it out to some more of that prog groove element.

Death of The Mind
There’s a disjointed, but very tasty kind of riff that opens this. They build out from there. Then the vocals come over a hard rocking motif. Nektar’s trademark form of bursts of music as accents is all over this section. They also show off some great neo-classical jamming at times. As always, numerous changes ensue. The jam later in the track is incredibly powerful and so trademark of Nektar. This cut does such an awesome job of pulling the whole thing to satisfying conclusion. Although, at the end of a riff driven section, the whole thing gets twisted by effects and they end it in what feels like space.
Disc 2
Official Live Bootleg

There is just one track on the second disc. That said, it’s the same music as on the first disc. It’s just not divided into separate tracks as it is on the studio album. It’s also, as the title suggests, a live recording. It’s amazing that these guys were able to do some of this stuff live and pull it off this well. As one might guess, though, there are some differences in terms of flavoring and effects. At times this seems to rock out a bit more. I would have to say that the recording is only so good in terms of sound quality. Of course, live recording in those days wasn’t anything near as good as it is today. Still, it’s amazing to get this kind of full album performance from any band. And, to have it all preserved in a smoking hot live recording like this is great. It clearly is a great addition to the set, despite any kind of issues with sound quality. 

 
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