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Nektar - Down To Earth CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.46 | 170 ratings

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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!

Joolz | 3/5 |


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