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Nektar - Evolution CD (album) cover

EVOLUTION

Nektar

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.38 | 67 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars How can a bunch of oldies make such a good racket as this? Thirty years and more after the band's Prog heyday and Albrighton and his merry boys have turned in such a strong album that if points were awarded for inventiveness this would score very highly indeed. I have seldom heard a modern album from an old band that displays such a willingness to experiment and innovate. Superficially, Evolution is heavy rocking AOR with a great deal of bombast and leaning towards metal in a couple of places, but dig deeper and you will find an almost endless supply of little touches and embellishments that show the band's creative juices are still very much flowing. Albrighton dominates the show - I am no great fan of his singing [its OK], but his guitar work is flawless and exceedingly powerful, utterly dominating most phases of the music.

Not all in the garden smells of roses though. This music exists in either of two states: loud and bombastic, or gentle and moody. There is virtually no inbetween, and often the transition between them can be quite abrupt, instead of using dynamics to build crescendos. Old Mother Earth is a good example that starts off as a soppy ballad accompanied by piano for a couple of verses, then suddenly the band burst in and turn in into a hard rock number. Later, an atmospheric instrumental suddenly ends in the same way. Similarly, the excellent Always is sung to acoustic guitar before a drum roll brings the band in for a guitar solo, while After The Fall sets up a mellow moody ambience and then ruins it with sudden bomb-bursts of high volume stadium rock.

Another serious flaw concerns songwriting, specifically an ability to construct a memorable melody - several excellent tracks are marred by poor melody lines, and in a couple of cases lyrics that are unnaturally shoe-horned into an unsuitable setting. Take away some of the instrumental gloss and you are left with a bunch of very ordinary songs. Camouflage To White and Child Of Mine both suffer from this syndrome. One further gripe is the over-repetition of vocal lines at the end of songs like Phazed By The Storm and Dancin' Into The Void.

Despite some yukky lyrics, Child Of Mine is an early stand-out, piano and string-pads setting a spacey mood that is under-stated and very effective. Phazed By The Storm is a progressive track containing some superb guitar work, but Always is even better with more invention in a slightly more conventional setting - the guitar solo is again very good, and there is an odd little acoustic guitar motif near the end that catches the attention. Dancin' In The Void features a Moody Blues style recited poem and a brilliant breakdown section with some inventive percussive acoustic guitar but the effect is spoiled - instead of letting the mood build, they go crash bang wallop back to the main theme which is then repeated several times.

The album tends to tail off a little at the end as the final two tracks are less satisfactory [The Debate is ruined by an insistant clattering snare], but overall Evolution is a surprisingly strong album, powerful and aggressive yet also subtle and moody. It is a typically modern album, with up-to-date production techniques and values but the musicianship still shines through. I have lived with it for half a year now and still find it refreshing and exciting, despite its many faults, so at present would offer a guarded recommendation to fans of artists like Pendragon or Marillion.

Joolz | 3/5 |

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