You’re not gonna find a more progressive cult band than Nektar. Never having seen this German-based band back in the day (they formed in 1969 and played throughout the 70s), my friends and I had the pleasure, privilege and once-in-a-lifetime chance (or so we thought) to see them in 2002, catching the original lineup, complete with Larry ‘freaking’ Fast. Since then, Nektar has released new music, played shows, lost and added members and have just released Fortyfied, a live two-CD package recorded during their 2008 tour to celebrate 40 years together.
Fortyfied begins with the band’s entire second album, A Tab In The Ocean. The chunky title tracks showcases original drummer Ron Howden. “Cryin’ In The Dark” featuring some blistering playing from the new guys — Klaus Henatsch on organ and bassist Peter Pichl. “King Of Twighlight.” “Waves” and the popular (among Nektar fans) “Desolation Valley,” include Roye Albrighton’s wailing guitar. Hats off to the band for performing the whole “Tab” right out of the gate!
“Dream Nebula,” one of the band’s more progressive tunes, is also here, highlighted by great keys and guitar pushing along through perfectly realized peaks and valleys, faithful to the studio version on the band’s first album with just enough of that live thang to make this the best tune so far. It’s here and “Desolation Alley” that we get to really hear Albrighton sing, and though his voice has seen better days, there’s still a lot of emotion in the old guy’s pipes.
A Nektar show wouldn’t be complete without a reading of the Remember The Future album. A portion of the title track from the 1973 album (their first real break in the States when it reached Number 20 on the charts) clocks in at just under 20 minutes and really showcases the band’s sound — light and dark shadings, at times bopping guitar to vocals then heavy stomping or organ and those snapping, crazy moments of break-out speed from Howden. There’s also a perfect middle section that floats right along with Albrighton’s precision leads.
The second CD begins with two from 1973’s Sounds Like This album (yes, 1973 was a busy year for Nektar) — “Where Are You Now” and “A Day In The Life Of A Preacher.” There’s some heavy guitar, less prog sensibilities, even moments when it sounds like the Doobie Brothers. At other points, you could be channeling early Frampton. But this is about as light and airy as this band ever really gets.
Peter Pichl is showcased on “Mr H,” along with Albrighton’s extended solo. We are definitely in classic Nektar land when “Recycled, Part 1” pops up from Recycled, arguably one of the all-time greatest progressive rock albums ever. This is a decent version, maybe with a little too much of Albrighton’s loud guitar (and I do miss Derek "Mo" Moore’s original bass playing). Still, it is dramatic and a centerpiece of Fortyfied. “The Debate,” not one of the best tunes here, and a quiet (at times) “Man In The Moon,” from the 1980 album of the same name, finish the set off.