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Nektar - A Tab In The Ocean CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.09 | 594 ratings

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4 stars Although this album probably deserves only three stars, I am giving it a fourth both because of its interesting place in prog, and because the band's progression from Journey to Tab was so remarkable. It should be noted that Tab was released the same year as (among others) Foxtrot, Three Friends, Obscured by Clouds, and Thick as a Brick. In that regard, although it is perhaps not as "great" as any of those, it is nevertheless extremely creative, as well as providing numerous presages to what Nektar would eventually do in creating their three "masterpieces": Remember the Future, Down to Earth, and Recycled. / The somewhat nebulous concept running through the three extended suites on the album is the idea of putting a huge "tab" of LSD in the ocean. In this regard, the album was almost certainly meant to be heard under the influence of hallucinogenics, which definitely intensified the musical experience. However, even without it, the album's arrangements are deceptively simple, with lots of playing around with chromatics and the circle of fifths. / The extended title suite opens with some simple but effective ocean wave and electronic effects, moves into a nice organ figure, and then bursts into a highly theatrical "opening theme," almost like the prelude to a musical. (Stating a "theme" at the beginning of a song would later become a "signature" for the band.) After the extended introduction, there is a section ("Falling"), which is the first time we get a presage of some of the band's later work. Following this is an instrumental section featuring a repeated keyboard pattern (something that would become another "signature" of the band). We then get a beautiful example of Roye Albrighton's distinctive (and, yes, signature) arpeggiated guitar style. The piece ends with a nice recapitulation of the main theme via an organ-based outro. The second "suite" - Desolation Valley/Waves - opens with a very Pink Floyd-ish theme (I believe it may be taken almost directly from something on Atom Heart Mother, which came out the year prior), moving into a nice jazz-tinged section, including some really nice guitar and bass work. This segues into a much harder, "rock"-ier section, and back to the main theme. After another round of this, the piece moves into a quiet jam, with more arpeggiated playing that presages future Nektar works. The suite ends with a nice, peaceful jam. (The quiet jams in the song are strangely reminiscent of The Doors.) The final suite - Crying in the Dark/King of Twilight - opens with a neat wah- wah guitar figure, moving into a seriously "rock and roll" section that presages something (I'm not sure what) on Down to Earth. Then there is a wonderful jam, with the organ, guitar and bass really playing out, as well as one of Albrighton's best solos at 5:20-6:15. As "Crying" segues into "King," we get a solid rhythmic guitar figure (there is very solid rhythm/chordal guitar work throughout the album), and some very Moody Blues-ish vocal harmonies. The song cycles through three of these, plus a short, but particularly good break, and ends abruptly on the - appropriate - final word of the album - "Free." / Although there is some (possibly much) on this album that some might consider more "straightforward" rock than prog, there is no question that Nektar was using new-found prog sensibilities in a deliberate, conscious manner. And they would succeed in "pulling it all together" - spectacularly - with their next album, Remember the Future. In the meantime, A Tab in the Ocean deserves a place in your collection, both as a wonderful example of the band's progression, and as a highly creative, and arguably important, release at a fairly early juncture in prog.
maani | 4/5 |


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