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Nektar - Recycled CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.79 | 293 ratings

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4 stars It is 1975 and Nektar have once more moved their personal goalposts, subtly redefining and refining an amalgam of earlier styles. Recycled has the lightness of touch and overall quality of musicianship of Remember The Future but instead of extended disco-funk-poppiness is a return to more conventional Europeanised Prog song styles. A typical economy of arrangement is still prevalent as all passages progress quickly without ever being allowed to become stale.

This is the last of the 'classic' Nektar albums with Roye Albrighton at the helm, yet it is not his superb singing and guitar which immediately grabs the attention, for Recycled is awash with the sound of synthesizers, especially unmistakeable Moog moods provided by pioneer Larry Fast. But, though there are indeed guitar and synth leads, no instrument stands out from the crowd: the sound is one of a harmonious blend of all instruments working together as a team, including the inevitable piano and organ.

Needless to say though, it is indeed Roye Albrighton who again dominates proceedings. His mellifluous singing is now totally assured and matured, quite at ease with soaring ballads, or harmonising with The English Chorale or deliberately playing with some tricksy timing, without doubt one of Nektar's main assets. As of course is his guitar: while no longer as prominent as it once was, yet it oozes quality, his phrasing both authoritative and delicate without ever becoming overbearing or flashy.

The eleven tracks on the original album can be divided into two parts: the first part is the main concept piece - we might call it The Recycling Suite - which consists of tracks 1 - 7; the remaining four tracks constituting part 2 are stand-alone compositions which nevertheless have a thematic connection with the main concept. That concept is one that is ever more relevant today than it was 30 years ago: the effects of humankind on our environment "forcing natures' slow decay"; how "recycled energy becomes the only forms of life"; how we are "song-birds, recycling the same old tune .... till it is all used"; and how "there's not much time before we go down, down".

The 'Recycling Suite' itself is a true Prog 'epic' built upon two principal musical themes. The first is very 80s AOR, [a dead ringer for A Final Countdown], but remember this was 1975. This is Recycle/Recycle Countdown which sandwich a brilliant instrumental that sways between sound effects, fat synths and a rockist thrash. A second main theme encompasses the remainder of the suite [with intermissions of course] but is based on a somewhat underwhelming melody, though the finale - Unendless Imagination? - builds and builds to a stunning crescendo.

Sao Paulo Sunrise could probably be considered a prelude to Costa Del Sol, both returning to a predominantly upbeat disco funk style. Marvellous Moses is Prog at its best, with hypnotic rhythms, tempo changes and a seriously excellent instrumental centre section, but It's All Over is the jewel in the crown, a masterpiece of melodic Prog Rock balladry with a big drum sound, lush strings and, at last, acoustic guitars!

The gloomy message of Recycled is unremittingly bleak and full of negative imagery. Unlike Remember The Future, there is no room for hope this time despite some rousing and uplifting music. The two grand gestures - Unendless Imagination? and It's All Over - each reach towards heights of musical ecstasy yet emit a sombre tone from a delicious melancholy in Albrighton's voice. The album ends with the ominous words "it's all over"!

In 2004, Dream Nebula re-issued a remastered version of Recycled with bonus material: no less than the entire album as originally mixed by Air Studios engineer Geoff Emerick. This mix was rejected by the band who went on to add further overdubs, including the choir, ultimately producing the album as released to the public. The Geoff Emerick version is extremely interesting as it is cleaner and less cluttered, with better dynamics and less compressed bass, though some stereo placement is not to my taste. It is now by no means certain which is the better version.

At this stage in their life, Nektar had reached a plateau of inventive musicianship allied to thought provoking concepts and intelligent lyrics: the culmination of several years hard work with a stable line-up. While accruing a degree of commercial success, they never did break through into Prog's premier league despite relocating to the USA. Sadly, the end of the road wouldn't be far away. Recycled remains as the last of their 'great' albums, in my opinion not quite a classic as some might suggest, but certainly very good indeed and a worthy addition to any Prog collection.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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