Monday, December 12, 2016

Nektar - 1977 - Magic Is A Child

Magic Is A Child

01. Away From Asgard (5:30)
02. Magic Is A Child (4:06)
03. Eerie Lackawanna (3:29)
04. Midnite Lite (4:27)
05. Love To Share (keep Your Worries Behind You (4:07)
06. Train From Nowhere (4:12)
07. Listen (6:02)
08. On The Run (the Trucker) (4:41)
09. Spread Your Wings (4:40)

Bonus tracks on 2005 remaster:
10. Away From Asgard (Original Demo) (6:18)
11. On The Run (Alternate Mix) (4:43)
12. Train From Nowhere (Alternate Version) (4:12)
13. Midnight Lite (Live) (5:07)

- Dave Nelson / guitars, vocals
- Alan "Taff" Freeman / keyboards, synth, vocals
- Derek "Mo" Moore / basses, vocals
- Ron Howden / drums, percussion, vocals

- Robert Fripp ("Walt Nektroid") / guitar (6,12)
- Larry Fast / synthesizer
- Julien Barber, Kermit Moore, Michael Commins & Anthony Posk / string quartet
- Stephan Galfas / string arranger

 Magic is a child, or, to be a bit more precise, magic is a floating Brooke Shields with glowing feet by a waterfall. Nektar were trying to hold on to the magic without Roye Albrighton, and Dave Nelson seemed game for the challenge. The shifting away from the band's early psychedelic freakouts continued dramatically here, but there's no mistake that this album is still very much prog, and one I consider more entertaining than a lot of other progressive groups' efforts around this time.
The album starts off on an upbeat note; a jaunty and fun ride away from Asgard and towards the land of somewhat poppish yet very adventurous prog rock. Within its 5:30 frame there is enough material for 3 songs due to its various ideas and licks compacted into a not so epic runtime. This makes the song busy, yet a ton of fun. The music is played reasonably tight, which underscores how far they've strayed from the ultra space rock of their early days.

Other aspects distinguish this effort from their early days (and space rock in general), those being the growing influence of the southern boogie bands at the time and a straight 70's rock plus an AOR touch to a decent portion of the songs. It's a strange blend, and certain songs work better than others as a result, but when it works, it COOKS. Train from Nowhere cooks like a fresh buttocks on sauna coals. The best track on the album, it pinballs its way between heavy jazzy prog rock and Steve Miller style boogie deftly with some memorable licks and one killer little guitar solo. It's the kind of song you could play in some southern country bar without angering the locals, although they'd probably think someone spiked their mugs of Budweiser with some "funny stuff".

A couple of songs don't work out so well: Eerie Lackawanna isn't so bad due to the funky guitar playing, but it does sound like The Doobie Brothers playing naked Twister with Lou Rawls in late 70's easy listening mode. Then there's Love To Share with it's cribbing of some riffs right out of The Beatle's He Said She Said as a homage, sounding considerably goofy as a result despite the coolness of the riff itself.

Those looking solely for the unabashed tripped-out rock of early Nektar might at least dig Listen, which definitely goes down easy with a few bong hits, although don't expect to journey into the center of your own eyeballs. Spread Your Wings is another fun number, basically a straight up rock song with a bit of complexity thrown in for good measure, although the musical embellishments might not be immediately apparent since the focus would most likely begin with the cock rock lyrics. LOOK OUT LADIES, NEKTAR'S IN TOWN!

Is it a great album? Not really, but it has plenty of stellar moments and is a hell of a good time if you don't throw this on expecting a rehash of their early 70s music. Prog music for those who drink cheap beer, in which quantity matters more than quality. Keep on chuggin'.

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