NEKTAR — Sounds Like This (review)

NEKTAR — Sounds Like This album cover Album · 1973 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
Nektar had already released two distinctive albums, the space rock / psychedelic concept piece "Journey to the Centre of the Eye" and the heavy psych / proto-metal / prog near masterpiece "A Tab in the Ocean". Their success in their adopted country of Germany was growing and opportunity came for them to reach out to an audience in their native land of Great Britain. With material already in place for what was to become their breakthrough album in the U.S., "Remember the Future", Nektar went ahead to record this intermediate album in order to first launch themselves into the U.K.

The plan was simple: record live in the studio and release a double disc of material. And this is exactly what they did, playing in studio as they would live. However, in the course of their creative growth, this album comes across as a giant leap backwards. The songs barely give any hint of what the band was capable of with regards to carefully crafted longer compositions or short but tightly-connected conceptually related songs. This album was more like a hail to the good old days of fun guitar rock.

Perhaps Nektar saw this as their last chance to record some of their "old" favourites that had never been committed to vinyl. Songs like "New Day Dawning", "Do You Believe in Magic", and "Good Day" had already been recorded on what were called "The Boston Tapes" back in 1970 (later to be released on the bonus disc for "Remember the Future" on the Purple Pyramid reissue of that album). Back in those days, the band was pretty much just another guitar-based rock band with an organist in the line-up. The songs on this, their third album, are more or less in the same mould, despite three tracks being over 12 minutes and two of those coming in three parts.

With this in mind, you can expect exactly what you'll get: a double disc of rock songs with some good melodies and some parts showcasing the guitarist's abilities, some enjoyable heavy guitar workouts and some rather lengthy jam sessions. This album resembles "A Tab in the Ocean" only in sound (Nektar "Sounds Like This" is an appropriate title in so far as "sound" is concerned); the guitar and keyboard settings are more or less the same, though very different on "Remember the Future".

This is not to say that a fan of early 70's heavy guitar / organ rock will be disappointed. In particular, "A Day in the Life of a Preacher" and "Oddysee" exhibit some heavy rock jamming that fits in with contemporary Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. "Cast Your Fate" and "Do You Believe in Magic" also have their heavy moments. But for the most part you have to think of these longer tracks as four to five-minute songs filled with a live jam session. Notably, "1-2-3-4" is just a short song, which can be heard as just that on the radio edit on the Purple Pyramid bonus disc, but gets an additional 10 minutes of jamming, featuring solos on guitar, organ, and bass on the album. Yes, there's a drum solo coming, too; it's on "Oddysee".

The recording quality of the album suffers a little in my opinion because of the live-in-studio approach (that's "live" as in rhymes with "five"). The band wanted to capture that live feeling and I think they did and rather well at times, but I am not much of a fan of live recordings. This album is not mixed cleanly. There are no overdubs or efforts to make it sound like a studio recording. It's live with no audience except whoever was working in the studio at the time. I admit, this might make it more appealing to some. The Purple Pyramid bonus disc includes a studio radio version of "Do You Believe in Magic" and for me, this version is much more enjoyable, even though the album version includes a heavy guitar solo section completely separate from the actual song. The sound of the radio version is polished and cleaner compared to the live-in-studio version.

This album is said to be Nektar's heaviest and I have to agree based on what I have heard ("Tab", "Remember" and "Recycled"). I think it's because of the energy they put into their live set and the extended guitar workouts that they sound heavier than usual on this particular album. What fails to impress me, however, is that these songs are often allowed to carry on as a live performance where, if you are present at the show, it might be enjoyable to listen to an extra few minutes of instrumental exercises. But as a studio band, Nektar are very capable of putting together cohesive, multi-part songs that don't feel unnecessarily extended and even short but concise numbers when it suits the continuity of the album. I personally would have appreciated more a single disc of well-recorded and mixed studio tracks, selecting the best of the lot represented here. But that's just me.

With regards to proto-metal, I have heard more convincing albums and artists in that genre. I don't think Nektar were ever trying to be anything other that what they wanted to be. Yes, there are some very sweet pounds and stomps with blazing guitar that fit the proto-metal mould rather nicely. However, the rock n' roll band is still there behind it all. A decent enough album after a few listens but as a proto-metal album it's not quite worth the praise. I'll give it two and a half stars though fans of this period of heavy rock might want to give it more.
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