Because of its German origin—the band got its start in Hamburg, Germany although all of its original members were from England—Nektar is sometimes lumped into the Krautrock genre. But the group’s sound has more in common with early-1970s Pink Floyd: an ambitious space rock that steers clear of the knotty flourishes that characterize progressive rock. Nektar sometimes makes use of repetition—a hallmark of Krautrock—but often as not, the group’s compositions fit together into a larger, cohesive whole.
Highlights of Nektar’s catalog—fifteen studio albums and at least a dozen live sets—are many, but for longtime fans, the group’s peak came with its run of early-1970s albums. The band’s debut, 1971’s “Journey to the Centre of the Eye,” combined a science-fiction vibe with the energy of Hawkwind. The album lists thirteen tracks, but in truth, it’s a seamless, flowing work. The debut showcases the songwriting and instrumental chops of the group, most notably lead singer and guitarist Roye Albrighton and the textured keyboard work of Allan “Taff” Freeman.
“A Tab in the Ocean” from 1972 continued Nektar’s creative streak, and the album featured another side-length epic. More than a decade later, heavy metal icons Iron Maiden tipped their hat to the group with a cover of that album’s “King of Twilight.” And a 2011 expanded reissue demonstrated that Nektar had ideas to burn by including a disc’s worth of unreleased material.
Those albums weren’t initially available outside of Germany, which changed with the double LP “…Sounds Like This.” While that album contains a pair of long-form tracks (“A Day in the Life of a Preacher” and “Odyssee”), Nektar focused more on shorter, concise standalone tracks.
That was a momentary aberration. Later that year, the group released “Remember the Future,” hailed as Nektar’s creative high-water mark, featuring a single track spread across the LP’s two sides. Still, 1974’s “Down to Earth” was a return to individual songs, which also hold together in a semi-conceptual way.
As new wave grew in popularity, Nektar—who had never managed to break into the American market—found itself on the outside. By late 1978, the group had ceased operations. After a brief reunion in the early eighties, nothing would be heard from Nektar until the new century.
Although the re-formed Nektar—featuring both Albrighton and Freeman from its glory days—found some success with albums like the highly regarded “Evolution” from 2004, widespread success remained elusive. Thoughtful reissues of the band’s early material, plus engaging new music that continued the spirit and character of those records, has earned Nektar a new core following.
For a period in 2013, longtime Yes bassist Billy Sherwood was on board as a member of Nektar. Sherwood is the musical center of “Time Machine,” the final album to feature founder Albrighton, who died in 2016. Today the band continues with founding rhythm section Derek “Mo” Moore (bass) and Ron Howden (drums) leading the group. Mick Brockett—credited from Nektar’s earliest days with “special effects” (a role not unlike that held by Peter Sinfield in early King Crimson) remains on board alongside bassist Randy Dembo (Nektar has two bassists), keyboardist Kendall Scott and guitarist Ryche Chlanda.
Drawing upon material written in the 1970s when Chlanda was first briefly part of the band, Nektar went into the studio to record eight new songs. Released in 2020 as “The Other Side,” this Nektar album with Chlanda back in the fold as a full-time member features an extended centerpiece track, “Love Is / The Other Side,” a work that conjures the classic Nektar vibe for modern-day audiences.
March 1, 7pm, Reggies, 2105 South State, (312)949-0120;$25.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. His more than 2,500 interviews, essays, and reviews reflect Bill’s keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill’s work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues, and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s final album. His first book, “Reinventing Pink Floyd,” is due from Rowman & Littlefield in February 2018.