Nektar - Recycled

Nektar – Recycled [5CD Remastered Boxset]

In the past, I’ve been critical of Nektar’s merits and made anything I actually liked by the group seem like some sort of a guilty pleasure. The snide remarks stop here. Loosely hanging my expectations on the albums’ ProgArchives ranking, I had not much hope for this album as it was ranked lower than the two classic albums I already owned by them. Instead, Recycled blew me away and quickly became my favourite Nektar album, prompting me to listen to it obsessively.

Recycled is a concept album with an environmental message, but fortunately it lacks any preachy moralisations that could turn the proceedings into a drag. Instead, what unfolds feels more like a futuristic adventure. Side One begins strongly with a powerful theme that gives way to a quiet verse. The verse in turn gives way to a loud chorus section. I’m here for the contrast. An instrumental – Cybernetic Consumption – follows, demonstrating that the band has a more sophisticated grasp of keyboard technology than they had on the relatively primitive A Tab in the Ocean and Remember the Future. The aggressive chords suddenly give way to the hopeful main theme and then switch back; it’s not a subtle change of pace but it’s utterly compelling.

While Recycled (Part One) is split into seven parts on this CD – more on that later – it really feels more like two tracks, as two major themes take up the separate halves of this continuous piece. The second part emphasises the adventure aspect with a galloping rhythm, evoking a Western. Prog tinges are added, such as a brief hi-hat clash on the offbeat after every line in the verse; it’s these fun little details that keep me utterly hooked.

Recycled (Part Two) only consists of four parts, and it took me a while to realise that the first and second parts are very closely related: Costa del Sol reprises most of the themes employed in São Paulo Sunrise, albeit in a different order. So closely related are they that they are listed as just one track on each of the live recordings included with this set. Currently, I’m most fascinated with this part of the album, which blends South American themes, prog rock and a touch of jazz.

A guitar solo gives way to a straightforward beat that begins Marvellous Moses, the longest individual section of the album at 6½ minutes. After brushes with Neal Morse’s solo output, I’ve always been wary of explicit biblical references, but this track was so good it had me, an atheist, singing “Moses did it!” in the middle of a crowded street. It helps that the lyrics specify “I’ve never met a man like Moses with so much time,” which suggests that the character in the story is another miracle worker like Moses, but not actually Moses.

I was a little disappointed at how quickly I figured Marvellous Moses out, with lots of repeated sections and a relatively simple instrumental. At 2:20, the instrumental kicks in with a new aggressive theme that feels like it’s going to kick the song up a gear, but just as it gets interesting, the band switch to a completely different theme. I’m reminded of the unsubtle gear shifts in Cybernetic Consumption on Side One, but this time it’s far less compelling and a little disappointing when I can readily imagine a better version of the song than the band put out. Still, it doesn’t ruin the track for me, and I especially like how the band keep in 4/4 time during the chorus but have the emphasis placed a quaver before each bar to keep the listeners on their toes.

The album ends with It’s All Over, a more languorous elegy to close the album. I do appreciate that this quieter section lends some more contrast to the album that has felt pretty high energy throughout, but truthfully I haven’t been able to get into it as much because it’s simply less exciting than the other parts. However, it does feel like a fitting conclusion, with a couple of full-band moments to keep things interesting.

As with Remember the Future, Esoteric Recodings have blown this up to a five-disc set with plenty of extras to keep punters entertained. Disc Two contains the Geoff Emerick mix of the album. I was confused when I heard this because, a) I didn’t know who Geoff Emerick was, and b) I thought it sounded much worse than Disc One. I initially believed Emerick to be someone who had done a new remix for this album and wondered why he had made it sound so much emptier than the released version. The liner notes informed me that he was the engineer at AIR Studios who had previously worked with the Beatles and provided an initial mix of Recycled that the band weren’t pleased with, but is presented here for curious fans to hear in its entirety. I really love hearing demos and alternate mixes because they let you enjoy your favourite tracks in a subtly different way.

The last three CDs consist of two separate live recordings from the band’s North American tour of 1976. The setlist for each is utterly impeccable, as we get to hear Recycled played in its entirety in both concerts, as well as vast swathes of Remember the Future and A Tab in the Ocean. The latter track has the beginning chopped off, which is unfortunate, but one can hear the anthemic main theme in its full glory in the outro. The sound quality is a vast improvement from the Remember the Future live tracks, and the Long Island concert in particular sounds almost as good as an official live album.

The CD booklet presents a plethora of band photos alongside informative essays by Mark Powell and band members “Mo” Moore and Mick Brockett. Also included are scans of the original lyrics, including a special font for Automaton Horrorscope and Helmut Wenske’s delightful psychedelic artwork. It’s a fitting package for such an exceptional album.

I would warn listeners about downloading this album, however. The MP3s I was sent had minuscule but noticeable gaps between each track, which really detracted from my listening experience when trying to enjoy a continuous suite of music. At first, I thought this must be a fault with my media player, but when I opened the songs in Audacity, I could actually see a gap of 0.04 seconds between each part of the suite. This issue plagues the live tracks too. It’s a testament to my love for the music that I set to work closing these gaps and saving the music in two parts so I could enjoy it as it was meant to be heard. It would be a tragedy if the CDs were to also have this issue. This could all have been avoided if they just presented the album as Recycled (Part One) and Recycled (Part Two), as they did with Remember the Future. It’s nonsensical that they decided to split up the album this way when it is clearly meant to be enjoyed as a suite.

Returning to the music, however, Recycled is one of the most engaging albums I’ve discovered in the last few years. Rarely have I felt so compelled to listen to an album over and over again. Each time I do, I discover new facets of this long-form opus that fascinate me and make each listen feel fresh and invigorating. I’m reminded of how I would play Close to the Edge over and over again back in 2009 when I discovered it until I completely wore it out. While Nektar don’t have all the technical chops and innovation of some of their peers, they can certainly pen a fantastic prog suite.

Disc One: Recycled – 2024 Remaster

01. Recycle (2:46)
02. Cybernetic Consumption (2:11)
03. Recycle Countdown (1:52)
04. Automaton Horrorscope (3:03)
05. Recycling (1:51)
06. Flight to Reality (1:19)
07. Unendless Imagination? (4:38)
08. São Paulo Sunrise (3:05)
09. Costa del Sol (4:03)
10. Marvellous Moses (6:35)
11. It’s All Over (5:28)
~ Bonus Tracks:
12. Flight to Reality (single version) (3:34)
13. It’s All Over (single version) (3:48)

Time – 44:10

Disc Two: Recycled – Original Geoff Emerick mix 1975 (2024 Remaster)
01. Recycle (2:50)
02. Cybernetic Consumption (2:11)
03. Recycle Countdown (1:52)
04. Automaton Horrorscope (3:04)
05. Recycling (1:51)
06. Flight to Reality (1:23)
07. Unendless Imagination? (4:43)
08. São Paulo Sunrise (3:05)
09. Costa del Sol (4:03)
10. Marvellous Moses (6:36)
11. It’s All Over (5:25)

Time – 37:04

Disc Three: Live at Massey Hall, Toronto – 26th May 1976
01. São Paulo Sunrise (6:33)
02. Marvellous Moses (5:36)
03. It’s All Over (5:25)
04. Patch (4:35)
05. Listen (6:02)
06. Smile (10:18)
07. Recycled (15:07)
08. 1-2-3-4 (15:51)
09. Let it Grow (8:48)

Time – 78:09

Disc Four: Live at Calderone Concert Hall, Long Island, USA – 24th July 1976
01. A Tab in the Ocean (13:19)
02. Remember the Future (Part One) (16:03)
03. São Paulo Sunrise (6:53)
04. Marvellous Moses (5:53)
05. It’s All Over (5:26)

Time – 47:31

Disc Five: Live at Calderone Concert Hall, Long Island, USA – 24th July 1976
01. Patch (2:01)
02. Listen (8:06)
03. Smile / Lonely Roads (8:59)
04. Recycled (19:08)
05. Let it Grow (6:53)

Time – 45:05

Total Time – 4:11:58

Roye Albrighton – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Allan “Taff” Freeman – Keyboards, Vocals
Ron Howden – Drums, Percussion
Derek “Mo” Moore – Bass, Vocals
Mick Brockett – Visual Environment
~ With:
Larry “Synergy” Fast – Orchestral Moog Arrangements (discs 1 & 2), synthesisers (discs 3-5)
The English Chorale conducted by Robert Howes – Choir

Record Label: Esoteric Recordings / Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: ECLEC 52867
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 29th March 2024 (Originally October 1975)

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