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Nektar - ...Sounds Like This: "An excellent work of excavation..."

Expanded and remastered edition of Nektar’s transitional third.

Nektar: ...Sounds Like This cover art
(Image: © Esoteric)

In late 1972, Hamburg-based Brits Nektar were building a profile in the psychedelic world, as their first two albums flailed between proggy concepts and routine blues wig-outs. Their third, …Sounds Like This, was to be their first release in the UK. So they had the idea, which presumably seemed like a good one at the time, to capture the essence of their live sound by recording a set in front of friends in a German studio.

The results weren’t satisfactory, so they reconvened a few months later for overdubs and re-records. Inevitably, this escalated until some tracks were dropped entirely and new ones replaced them. So when  …Sounds Like This was released in June 1973, it was something of a mish-mash, falling between two stools. It’s dominated by shorter but heavier rock songs, with the longer escapades such as 1-2-3-4 and A Day In The Life Of A Preacher misfiring as prog, with Roye Albrighton’s guitars too prominent, too strenuous.

An excellent work of excavation has now retrieved an hour-plus of missing sessions and jams from the blueprint, giving us this extended insight into what the album might have been. There are some loose, ropey knockabouts, best described as negligible, but also the revelations that are Sunshine Down On The City and It’s All In Your Mind. Between them, they constitute over 25 minutes of Nektar in a much more creative, catalytic mood than on the generally so-so original album. Furthermore, they’re heard playing drafts of material that eventually appeared on the greatly superior subsequent album, their 1974 masterpiece Remember The Future, their defining work.

For those who love that record, this is both disorientating and illuminating. It’s showing you the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, spoiling the illusion of effortless perfection. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to learn how some of the patches which made up that quilt were kneaded and tweaked until they sat right. This release, then, remembers a flawed, formative record which enabled a brighter future.

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Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.