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Nektar Down To Earth album cover
3.41 | 152 ratings | 16 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Astral Man (3:07)
2. Nelly The Elephant (5:02)
3. Early Morning Clown (3:21)
4. That's Life (6:49)
5. Fidgety Queen (4:04)
6. Oh Willy (4:00)
7. Little Boy (3:03)
8. Show Me The Way (5:55)
9. Finale (1:36)

Total Time: 36:57

Bonus Tracks on 2005 remaster:
10. Astral Man (2:59) *
11. Nelly The Elephant (4:47) *
12. Early Morning Clown (3:23) *
13. That's Life (6:44) *
14. Oh Willy (4:08) *
15. Show Me The Way (5:57) *
16. "Robert Calvert out-takes" (2:07)

* Original Chipping Norton mixes

Total Time: 67:02


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Roy Albrighton / guitar, lead vocals
- Allan "Taff" Freeman / keyboards, backing vocals
- Derek "Mo" Moore / bass, backing vocals
- Ron Howden / drums, percussion

- Stephen Wick / tuba (1)
- Phil Brown / bass tuba (1)
- Butch Hudson / 1st trumpet (2,5,6,9)
- Ron Carthy / 2nd trumpet (2,5,6,9)
- Steve Gregory / tenor sax (2,5,6,9)
- Chris Mercer / baritone & tenor saxes (2,5,6,9)
- Chris Pyne / trombone (2,5,6,9)
- Chipping Norton Mandies Choir / chorus vocals (2,9)
- P.P Arnold / backing vocals (3,4,7)
- Kenneth Cole / backing vocals (3,4,7)
- Bob Calvert / voice - ringmaster (1,2,4,5)
- Dieter Dierks / effects

Releases information

Artwork: Pierre Tubbs with Bryce Attewell (photo)

LP Bellaphon ‎- BLPS 19190Q (1974, Germany)

CD Bellaphon - 289-09-006 (1987, Germany)
CD Dream Nebula - DNECD1210 (2005, UK) Remastered with 7 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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NEKTAR Down To Earth ratings distribution

(152 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

NEKTAR Down To Earth reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by maani
4 stars Ostensibly based on a circus theme, Down to Earth is more "song-y" than Remember the Future or Recycled. Yet even here Nektar shows just how brilliant they are at capturing the essence of prog-rock without the slightest bombast or pretension. Astral Man, Nelly the Elephant, Early Morning Clown and Fidgety Queen are stand-outs here. A beautiful "concept," flawlessly handled.
Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars DOWN TO EARTH is the second of Nektar's three essential albums, and, like its title would suggest, is less psychedelic and science-fictional in sound and subject matter than both its predecessor (Remember the Future) and its successor (Recycled). Though this is classic 70s progressive rock, the emphasis is decidedly and delightfully upon the ROCK. Furthermore, rather than dealing with an enlightening alien contact, or a dark future of genetic engineering and ecological disaster (hmmm, sounds familiar), our setting this time out is a circus, complete with (an English-speaking) German ringmaster.

The evening gets off to a flying start with the entry of "Astral Man," a rocking, and catchy tune about a high-wire man. Then things slow down a little -- but gain in power -- and the whole tent reverberates as "Nelly the Elephant" thunders in (complete with brass fanfare!), an "extraordinary exhibition" of good-humoured versatility by the band. Next we take a look at a sadly beautiful "Early Morning Clown," and the keyboards and acoustic guitars shine in the dawn, as "warm rays" fall on the dew-speckled leaves. That's life, one might conclude, and indeed "That's Life" ends "side" one. Things get deeper on this great and longer track, as guitarist Albrighton, cranking out funky, infectious riffs, reflects upon life in the vocals, while stalwart bassman Mo Moore provides a masterfully solid prog underpinning with his Rickenbacker (the same bass that gave Chris Squire his trademark sound on the classic Yes albums). "Side two," -- or act two, if you will -- opens with the frantic "Fidgety Queen." Albrighton really excels on the slide on this rocker, but whereas Yes's Steve Howe oftimes uses slide when things slow down and get "prettier" (as on "To be Over"), Albrighton uses his "tubular" finger to fly! The following track, "Oh Willy" is another up-tempo number where the rhythm section of Moore and drummer Ron Howden more than earn their keep, while in a quieter middle-part, Albrighton lays down some very tasty and dreamy licks, only to have the crisp drums and bass urge him to run with them once more. We then take a hushed and melancholy look at one of the younger members of the circus troupe, a "Little Boy," before Albrighton, ably assisted by "Taff" Freeman (keys) and the rest of the band, enters again with his slide to get powerful closer "Show Me the Way" off to a rousing start. Albrighton, always good, but never particularly outstanding or distinguished as a singer, really manages to inject some passion into his vocals here! Just when you think the show has ended, however, the band fades back up for a short "Finale" repeat of the "Nelly" theme, thereby neatly bookending the proceedings. With that, the show really is over, and some thirty-seven highly-pleasurable minutes have flown by beneath the "big top," bringing you once more "Down to Earth."

I was fortunate enough to listen to this superb and uplifting disc today (for the eleventy-first time!) while driving down the highway in a large, powerful -- and borrowed -- car with a large and powerful stereo. With Albrighton speeding along on the slide, it was hard not to do some speeding and sliding on the winter roads myself! This disc is a must for Nektar fans, and as good an intro as any for the uninitiated. Highly recommended!

Review by loserboy
4 stars "Down To Earth" was NEKTAR's 5th release and in my opinion is one of thier finest albums of all time. "Down To Earth" is a concept album based around the highs and lows of life in belonging to a cosmic circus. Lovers of Hawkwind will be pleased to know that Mr. Robert Calvert is the Ringmaster throughout the album and brings a very theatrical element into this album. AS you would expect this album is filled with the classic NEKTAR symphonic FLOYD-like twists with just enough German KrautRock influences to keep you amazed. One of the key differences on "Down To Earth" for NEKTAR was the use of Circus like atmospheres and sound effects in their instrumentation (tuba, trumpets, trombone and barritone sax). Several of NEKTAR's most beloved tunes came from this album "Astral Man", "That's Life" and "Early Morning Clown". Highly recommended prog rock!
Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Oh dear! For me, this was a step too far. Nektar had quickly moved away from the brilliant psychedelic space meanderings of their debut album to a bouncy mid-Atlantic pop-Prog hybrid with light and airy Production values. The effect often reminds me of Bedside Manners era Greenslade, no more so than on Down To Earth which is awash with mundane melodies, sparse and almost staccato guitar/piano riffs, and busy rock-lite and rock-n-roll rhythms lacking any sort of power. The generic style worked fine on siblings Remember The Future and Recyled - they were crammed with hooks and memorable tunes that are in a minority here, but I admit my preference is for the heavier and more psychedelic style of Nektar's first two albums.

Down To Earth tackles the down-to-earth subject of a circus, approaching it from the viewpoint of a number of different performers. I find few great insights lyrically, though a number of clichés are explored with feeling and intelligence. I am not against humour in music, but it is hard to take this album seriously when you have celebrated Hawkwind associate Robert Calvert as loony ring-meister in a cod-German accent. Generally, the album comes across as a bit of fun, more like a modern take on music-hall or a comic-rock-operetta.

It isn't all bad though. Nelly The Elephant may have a jokey kids' title, but is actually a brilliant instrumental with a bass-riff setting up an Eloy-like groove with brass embellishment before turning into a short space-jam. It was this riff that led to the album concept because the band recognised that it sounds like a herd of elephants ambling trunk-to-tail across the Serengeti plains. The melancholic Early Morning Clown is another highlight, exploring the cliché of the private turmoil of clowns in a tune based on a well-known Yes song. The homage to Yes is initially unsettling, but is very well done and becomes quite natural in time. The arrangement is especially good, with vocals performed in massed-harmony.

The rest of the album is something of a disappointment. Fidgety Queen is an excellent heavy rocker in classic 1970s style, but the remainder fail to ignite any spark. That's Life features a cut-and-paste bitty Prog arrangement, though it gains a point for a blast of Mellotron, while gorgeous slide guitar cannot save the lightweight up-tempo rocker Show Me The Way from some aimless noodling. Little Boy has acoustic guitars and PP Arnold backing vocals, but is otherwise a simple reflective ballad with an AOR chorus.

Down To Earth is a pleasant album with some nice ideas and a couple of stand-out tracks but overall its charms are musically shallow and comparatively superficial - good but not outstanding. I would recommend investigating Recycled and/or Remember The Future first - if you like them you may find you also like this, but don't bet on it!

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Eclectic

Nektar's fifth album represents something a transition for the band. Although it is another concept album (based on a circus theme), the album consists of nine separate tracks. There are no extended epics or side long numbers, indeed the longest track clocks in at just over 6 minutes.

The other immediately apparent difference is the addition of a brass section, a female backing vocalist (PP Arnold whose backing band become the Nice) and a "choir". The brass section provide a really meaty basis on which tracks such as "Nelly the elephant" and "Fidgety queen" are built. The sound of such songs is noticeably different, this being akin to a cross between King Crimson's "Schizoid man" and a Chicago Transit Authority blast of jazz rock.

The opening "Astral man" has a deceptively simple descending funky blues rhythm. Robert Calvert provides the "Ringmaster" voice on this and a handful of other tracks, his album credit saying that he appears courtesy of "Inter-city rail". "Early morning clown" is one of Nektar's all too rare atmospheric ballads, while the following "That's life" is a more prosaic piece of 70's rock.

"Oh Willy" is a rather ordinary up tempo rock song, while "Little boy" is a soft acoustic pop ballad featuring some fine backing vocals by PP Arnold. Arnold then duet's on the sensitively constructed "Show me the way", a prog epic in under 6 minutes.

The fact that the tracks are unrelated, and that the concept is portrayed through individual portraits rather than a continuous story tends to mean that the album does not flow in the way to which we have become accustomed with Nektar. Each individual track is complete in itself and stands alone as such. To some extent this that the album does not feelprogressive in the way of "Remember the future" or "Journey to the centre of the eye". The music is an eclectic mix of the inspired and the functional but dull, making the album as a whole a bit of a mixed bag. While it is always enjoyable, I would recommend any of the first four albums before "Down to earth".

The sleeve illustration is a rather uninspired portrait of the rear end of a bus, with the band dressed as circus performers. The inner sleeve however has a wonderful gatefold photo of what appears to be the band and their families in full circus dress in a big top tent.

Review by lor68
4 stars 'Down To Earth' is an original mix of such an intelligent German "Space Rock" with the melodic "unplugged" touch you can recognize within the works of the early Genesis... a melodic bass guitar - as well as the jazz-oriented drum set - enrich the sound, which is particular accessible and soft. The horn section regarding the keyboards is interesting, but the guitar driven tunes are the most inspiring part of the whole album, even though (talking about their melodic pop approach) the influence of Beatles is evident the end in my opinion "Down to Earth" is not the best album by Nektar, despite of giving us the right feelin' about their personal music imprinting; and such imprinting is probably better visible than their best albums, like for instance "Remember the Future" , "A Tab in the Ocean" and "Recycled"... but probably, especially if you don't like the psichedelic approach of their most famous albums as indicated above, you will choose the present one...make your own choice as usual or erase an half star at least from the final score!!
Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

This is again a concept album about life in a circus; but there is nothing conceptual musically and hardly anything prog on this album. You have 9 separated tracks that have nothing in common except the 1'34'' 'FINALE.

This is a classic ROCK album with some good straight guitar sounding and some prog touches thrown here and there; the most proggish song is the second one NELLY THE ELEPHANT that reminds of an energetic PINK FLOYD, the rythm section just sounds the same , even the guitar solo. This is also my favorite track as the rythm is infectious and the addition of a brass section really brings some grandeur to this somg.

The melodies on this album are some of the best NEKTAR would come up during their carreer; EARLY MORNING ELEPHANT is a nicel acoustic song with a simple short, but beautiful guitar solo. The same goes for the delicate LITTLE BOY. The rocker FIDGETY QUEEN will become of their live shows staple; i don't think they never go on stage without playing , even now!

The music has been stripped down compared to earlier recordings, no heavy and complicated arangements like on the following album RECYCLED, there is room for the music to breathe. Let's keep it simple was the motto of the band, i guess, when they entered the studio back then. The sound throughout the album is fresh and lively, good rockers and gentle ballads mixed with a prog sauce, everything to made everybody happy! indeed, they succeed as this album did quite well!

Don't get me wrong! there is nothing out of this world either on DOWN TO EARTH; No new ground has been broken, but that's an album that is always a pleasure to listen to. A good rock album with a prog touch!!

I don't know if this a 3 or 4 stars album as i would like to give 3.5 stars; but let's be nice as i have been harsh with some of their other releases.


Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars So, another "concept" album from "Nektar". We are definitely brought down to earth with this album. Actually, Nektar already deviated from their psychedelic and spacey mood of their first two albums. And that's a shame IMO.

A good rock song to start, a weak "Nelly Elephant" featuring some "circus" annoucement of the animal (but that's the "concept" : a circus stuff...). I really don't like that one. We'll get some acoustic psychedelia with "Early Morning Clown". Simple, almost childish as Floyd could be in their early days (in the studio).

The album has little great songs to offer. Hundreds of bands can deliver such a piece of music. Not bad but not great either. I quite dislike the vocals on "That's Life". Mixing some German with English. It sounds indeed as the one of a master of ceremony presenting a show. The intro of "Fidgety Queen" is exactly on par : weird, grotesque and almost decadent. Brass is a bit too invading for my taste.

Is this psychedelic / space rock ? Hell, no. Nothing to do with it. You'd better stick to bands like "Eloy" for this.

Some of the songs are even soul / funky oriented like "Oh, Willy" but the funky mood of their previous release "Remember The Future" is also to be noticed on other songs. I do not like this AT ALL.

While "Little Boy" is a candid acoustic ballad (maybe one of the best piece available on this rather average album), "Nektar" offers a flat rock number with "Show Me The Way". Poor.

Nektar released two very good album in the early years of their career. I'm afraid that no great albums were produced afterwards.

Two stars.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The melodic approach pursued on the Remember the Future album left a strong footprint on Nektar's musical stance: only they decided to get down to Earth and make their Down toEarth album not digging deeper into the predecessor's symphonic trend but leaning closer to a sort of moderately complex melodic rock. The final result leaves nektar sticking pretty much to the R'n'B-inspired cadences and nurture them with a Caravan-like vibe: this makes the jazzy element bring a fresh dynamics into the band's stylistic evolution, but it also makes them toy with a spectrum that they're not entirely familiar with, so yo ucan tell that most of the compositions are left with arrangements and instrumental ensamblages not totally fulfilled, not bringing enough substance to the final form. So... this is the album that broke the potential bridge between Remember and Recycled (more natural acetate brothers). This is also an ambitious album, a concept-album revolving around the idea of the world as a Universal circus. This explains the overtly playful mood of the opener 'Astral Man' and the pompous announcements by the Master of Ceremonies Bob Calvert. It also explains the plain naivety of 'Oh Willy', so full of Beatlesque psychedelic ornaments, and the theatrical colors of 'Nelly the Elephant'. The album's highlights have to be 'That's Life' and 'Show Me The Way'. I am acquainted with the live renditions that fuse both tracks into a terrific exposure of overblown progressive sounds: these studio versions are not so incendiary but they reflect both tracks' melodic approach pretty well. 'That's Life' includes some Latin-jazz textures in the frantic instrumental sections, leading to cleverly sustained climaxes; 'Show me the Way' is the most Caravanesque song in the album, and not unlike the other aforesaid track, it comprises clever tempo shifts that don't sound too contrasting. 'Fidgety Queen' is a hard rocker, attempting to be as catchy and punchy as 'Cryin' in the Dark' or the 'Let It Grow' portion from Remember the Future: this time the studio version does fall noticeably short in comparison to the more substantial live versions. Tracks 3 and 7 are nothing special, really: I like to imagine that 'Early Morning Clown' had the potential of a memorable prog power ballad, but what I get is a vulgar slow song, that's all. And that's all I have left to say about this Nektar album, a good one all things considered, but a downslide when you regard the albums that preceded it and succeded it, respectively. Maybe this band went too down-to-Earth... anyway, let me finish this review by praising 'That's Life' and 'Show Me the Way' again.
Review by kenethlevine
2 stars NEKTAR was not quite willing to abandon the successful formula of "Remember the Future", but they also wanted to guide their own evolution, so "Down to Earth" is a transitional album between the expansive space prog of their earlier works and the more straightforward rock that would follow.

The tracks are united by a circus theme, and they are well sequenced, so even though the styles may appear disparate, the whole work flows nearly as well as "Remember", with more breadth in the playing and instrumentation than customary. Some of the individual parts are strong - the first 3 songs are the best, but the rest are hit and miss within and between.

NEKTAR merits respect for their willingness to take risks, but they could be a tier one group if they lavished enough love on their offspring. It's all well and good to let their tunes grow and flourish on their own, but a little more guidance might help them achieve a degree of brilliance more readily found in many of their peers. 2.5 stars rounded down to earth.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
3 stars Down to Earth was actually a disappointment because of the fact that the four previous Nektar albums I owned were concept albums--excellent, flowing concept albums--and this one comes across feeling very disjointed--as if a bunch of songs were thrown together. Were Nektar selling out? trying to go pop/radio friendly? The opening song ("Astral Man" (3:05) (6/10) sure seemed to indicate this. The quirky second song, "Nelly the Elephant" (5:02) (9/10) was more encouraging --especially as that awesome bass line, keyboard & rhythm guitar support and horns took over from the Ringmaster--and then Roye's awesome guitar solo. I felt hopeful: the band I loved and respected so was still pushing boundaries. But then things degrade from there. Other than 5. "Fidgety Queen" (4:04) (8/10) and 8. "Show Me the Way" (5:56) (8/10), my original suspicions proved more accurate: radio friendly pop music was more the rule here than spacey psychedelic progressive rock.
Review by stefro
3 stars Somewhat undervalued by prog fans and often mistaken for a German act due to their popularity in that part of Europe, Nektar have nevertheless enjoyed a fairly successful career since the release of their 1971 debut, the dense psychedelic concept piece 'Journey To The Centre To The Eye'. Since then, the British outfit have slowly developed from an early-Pink Floyd style acid-rock group into purveyors of fully-fledged progressive rock, as evidence on the excellent sophomore effort 'A Tab In The Ocean', the 'live-in-the-studio' double album ''...Sounds Like This' and 1973's fan favourite 'Remember The Future', all the while building up a loyal following throughout Europe and North America. Like many of their colleagues, they produced their best work during the early-to-mid part of the 1970s, before pursuing a more commercial direction as the musical times began to change. Released in 1974, 'Down To Earth' - another concept album-of-sorts - can be counted as the last essential Nektar release before American success blunted their once highly cosmic edge. Featuring Hawkwind vocalist Robert Calvert as an eccentric ringmaster introducing many of the tracks, the album revolves around a highly-original circus theme whilst also employing a hard-rock approach that wouldn't again be utilised until the group's 21st century material saw them, like many others, returning to their roots as progressive rock started to rise in popularity again. However, unlike it's predecessors, 'Down To Earth' is fairly brief, featuring a selection of memorable, slightly quirky(as befits the them) but ever-so-slightly lightweight songs, a style that would also grace follow-up release 'Recycled' and also appear in a softer, gooier guise on 1977's sentimental 'Magic Is A Child'. Simply put, 'Down To Earth' was Nektar's first step on that tricky commercial road many popular progressive rock groups would tread as the synthesized 1980's loomed ahead. Thankfully, however, there are still some excellent Nektar nuggets to be found here, with the psych-tinged rock of 'Nelly The Elephant' backed up by some wonderful keyboard-guitar interplay courtesy of Roye Albrighton and Alan Freeman on the intense mini-epic closer 'Show Me The Way'. Although this is very much a streamlined version of Nektar, 'Down To Earth' is still recommended to those who enjoy the group's earlier recordings, though the cosmic ambience of the first two albums has been replaced by a more anthemic rock sound. Still, there is much satisfaction to be gleamed from experiencing the group's skilful mixture of complex themes and dynamic musicianship, making 'Down To Earth' the group's last real entry into the progressive rock canon. Recommended.


Latest members reviews

4 stars "Down To Earth" is for "Remember The Future" what "A Passion Play" should/could be for "Thick as a Brick" (Jethro Tull albums if somehow you don't know already). A darker album, more eccentric, with separated songs instead of a continuous suite (Ian Anderson, you should do that on "A Passion Play ... (read more)

Report this review (#1596962) | Posted by BigDaddyAEL1964 | Friday, August 12, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars When I was younger, I hated this album. I didn't like the commercial approach they were doing, with all those horns, female backup vocals (including Northern Soul singer P.P.. Arnold, a singer progheads know for The Nice backing her up before going their own way) and that stupid circus concept. Y ... (read more)

Report this review (#1363215) | Posted by Progfan97402 | Thursday, February 5, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars NO argument here with the album's title. Nektar did simplify or strip down their sound. The songwriting was still nowhere better than average. But you can still tell it's Nektar. The guitar is more upfront, you still have echoes of early Yes, Some Uriah Heep riffing, but nothing that makes most o ... (read more)

Report this review (#118880) | Posted by | Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The circus theme is outstanding.I think Early Morning Clown is as good as Nektar gets and Nelly the Elephant is a fun tune.A must have for one of the most underratted British/German bands of the 70s here in the states. ... (read more)

Report this review (#19095) | Posted by James Hill | Wednesday, November 26, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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