Nektar has always had the ability to provide music with hooks – those melodies that stay in your mind long after the CD has stopped spinning. And while Evolution has many wonderful qualities, those hooks just may be the strongest component of this new-for-2004 record.
Take a few listens to Evolution. You may think it sounds like rather linear rock at first blush. But it only takes one or two more listens to appreciate that all the progressive elements are there, along with very strong musicianship. Roye Albrighton's stamp is all over this music – from the vocals, through the lyrics to the guitar-driven instrumentation. Taff Freeman's keyboards also take a lead role here, and his elegant piano work plays a central role in many tracks.
Roye has described this as a concept album – we might be more inclined to call it strongly themed – not that there's much difference. The lyrics are somewhat esoteric, but songs work together to describe the evolution of man, focusing on our present status – and the fact that the next steps in our evolution may be determined by how we treat the planet. See the prose of "The Debate", or the spoken voice-over on "Dancin´ Into The Void".
Track 2, "Old Mother Earth", has graceful two minute passage in the middle – with the orchestral sounds of a Mellotron backing up a nicely played acoustic-styled guitar piece. It is a relaxing, positive sound, and may be the high point of the album. A well managed tempo change quickly brings you back into the world of hard-edged rock, though, and you quickly gain an appreciation of the band's musicianship. "Child Of Mine" is a slow, heartfelt ballad about the gentle joy experienced by young parents holding their baby in their arms. And in the context of the album, it has a double meaning – referring, as Albrighton put it, "to Mother Nature cradling the Earth in her hands". It is a soft, appealing ballad which will find instant appeal. "Phazed By The Storm" is a 9½ minute mini-epic that flows along like a stream of consciousness – through tempo shifts and style changes, solos and hard rocking sections and choruses and voice overlays, eventually fading out on a soft minor key.
Evolution will please old Nektar fans. It is a return to form yet at the same time the music is modern and the theme relevant. But more important, it will probably introduce the band to a batch of newer, younger fans who will appreciate the depth to this music, the excellent musicianship, the hidden complexities and above all, those melodic hooks that will keep these songs in your mind for days at a time.