In my experience chatting with fellow prog fans, one name that rarely seems to pop up is Nektar. Now, I’m not entirely sure why they never quite reached the popularity of their early 70’s counterparts, but after giving 1973’s Remember the Future a few close listens, I am impressed with what this band had to offer. I’ve stated previously that 1973 was the year for prog and this, the band’s fourth offering, seems to reinforce this claim. Over its two tracks (filling both sides of the original vinyl) and nearly 36 minute runtime, Nektar’s fourth effort creates an immersive and fun listening experience that takes the listener on a unique journey.
Formed in 1969 in Hamburg, Germany (but comprised entirely of English members), Nektar started life as a psychedelic rock band, releasing a string of concept albums between 1971, including Journey to the Centre of the Eye (1971), A Tab in the Ocean (1972), and the double … Sounds Like This (1973), with the latter two getting a release in the United States on the Passport label. However, on their followup, Remember the Future, a concept album about a blind boy who communicates with an alien known as Bluebird, Nektar embraced a melodic sound, giving them a mass appeal in the United States and earning them number 19 in the US charts and their first American tour supporting a pre Roxy and Elsewhere era Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
Opening with some spacey sounds and what sounds like plucked guitars, the album doesn’t take long to get started when the listener is propelled into full-on prog-funk mode for the first few minutes. Through its duration, the record seems to shift from spacey, laid back, softer sections, to moments when the band charges into pounding hard rock mode, making for a dramatic and edge-of-your-seat listening experience. The record is marked by songs strung together that segue seamlessly from one to the next, heavy guitar riffs, and memorable melodies. In fact, as the radio edits on Disc 2 prove, these songs could’ve stood on their own as individual pieces with catchy rock hooks that stick in your head for days after listening, but together, the record feels like a coherent journey with a beginning, middle and an end.
With reissues being a recent trend, a proper reissue of Remember the Future was quite overdue in celebration of its 40th Anniversary in 2013, particularly since the 1990’s CD on Bellaphon records was heavily criticized for its use of a rejected LP mix and the 2002 CD on Bacillus is astronomically overpriced. Because of this, I’d only previously owned a used copy of Remember the Future on LP, so I was happy to receive this on CD so I could really dig into and dissect this progressive rock classic the way it was meant to be. As a reissue, the packaging is an excellent double digipak design with all of the original LP art restored and a crisp reproduction of the cover, as well as some photos of the band and an advert for the band’s first American tour. Also included is a small booklet, which reproduces the band photo from the LP’s gatefold and all of the lyrics, along with a short, but informative essay about the recording of the album and the tour, complete with quotes from band members.
As a remaster, the sound is fairly clear, with bassist Derek ‘Mo’ Moore thumping along, giving the record the perfect amount of bottom end. Ron Howden’s drums have a fair amount of punch. Vocalist / guitarist Roye Albrighton’s expressive voice has excellent presence in the mix, as do all of the background vocals, while Albrighton’s guitars are at the front of the mix. The organ, provided by Allan “Taff” Freeman, seems to sit in the texture nicely and come to the foreground when necessary. I’d say, on the whole, this is a well-balanced mix and the sound quality is quite good, though I’ve not owned this on any other format than vinyl for comparison.
Along with the original, remastered album, this reissue comes with a second, nearly hour-long disc with some radio edits of a couple of sections and ‘The Boston Tapes’ – purportedly the earliest recordings the band ever made. The edits on the second disc definitely cater to the hard rock crowd, but are still fun to listen to liberated from the album, though curiously, actually sound sonically superior to the record. As for The 1970 Boston Tapes, I’m not entirely sure why they were included on this reissue, but are still worthy pieces of early 70’s rock / psych music, though would perhaps be better suited on a reissue of the debut album. I think I’d have personally preferred a live rendition of Remember the Future if there is one available, but as I am only a casual fan at this point, these tapes might better suit someone who is a diehard fan of the band.
For their fourth release, Nektar constructed a record with memorable songs and excellent vocal harmonies, that certainly rocks out when it needs to, with impressive wah-wah’d guitar solos and heavy rock-organ vamps. At nearly 36 minutes, Remember the Future doesn’t waste much time and remains intriguing, exciting, and engaging throughout its duration. I would, however, liked to have heard some of the improvised sections expanded on, as I’m sure was done live, but that is only a minor quibble about an otherwise fine record. Though in many ways a product of its time, it’s still very fun to listen to and from an era when music was made to crank up loud, put on headphones, and lay your head back and dream…
You can purchase your own copy here: