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Nektar: A Spoonful Of Time

Four years have passed since the last Nektar studio effort (other than countless reissues of reissues) The Book Of Days, an album that received muted praise. So it would be more than fair to suggest that the arrival of the cover album project A Spoonful Of Time has been eagerly awaited. The track listing intrigues for two reasons. Firstly because the songs chosen are surprisingly non-progressive and secondly they are surprisingly mainstream. Neither necessarily are a bad thing, in fact to hear these tracks Nektarfied should in itself be half the pleasure. Songs like the classic Blind Faith number "Can't Find My Way Home", the smooth AOR-jazz of Toto's "Africa" and the Springsteen written, but Manfred Mann's Earth Band made famous "Blinded By The Light" cry out to be given a shot of prog and appear on the surface inspired choices by their sheer unexpectedness.

That however would be if these songs and any of the eleven other tracks presented on A Spoonful Of Time weren't played with such a straight bat that they sound very little like Nektar at all and decidedly unprogressive. Again neither of these things are in isolation disasters, after all there's nothing wrong with a band stepping out and doing something different, especially with a project likes a covers album. What is then required is striking, vibrant, lively, vital versions of songs that you know and love (or not as the case may be), however ASOT doesn't hit the mark on that count either.

In all honesty, the perfunctory covers laid out here come across like the kind of hotch-potched together recordings you could hear in any bar, restaurant, or lift, with the overly languid approach neither inspiring or capturing the imagination. Not even an all-star cast including Mark Kelly (Marillion), Patrick Moraz (Yes) , Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Geoff Downes and Steve Howe (both Yes and Asia), Ginger Baker (Cream), Rod Argent (Argent), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion), Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth) or Ian Paice (Deep Purple), raises the temperature, or tempo for that matter and when you factor in Billy Sherwood (Yes - again) also having a hand in 10 of the songs, the lack of life really is a hard one to fathom.

Whether it be the Rush hit incorrectly titled here as "Spirit Of THE Radio", the Floyd standard "Wish You Were Here", or even the unmistakable intro of Alan Parsons Project "Sirius", few of the arrangements get up to speed, or offer a new take on an old friend, leaving you simply feeling more than a little underwhelmed. The slower numbers like "I'm Not In Love" by 10CC or the usually fragile, beautiful "Old Man" from Neil Young, all have the poise sucked from them, instead becoming simply straight ahead plods.

Singer Roye Albrighton gives his, as ever, relaxed vocal performance, keyboard player Klaus Henatsch tries his best to add colour and a few diversions while Ron Howden keeps it simple on the tracks where he takes control of the drum sticks. While it would be nice to have a little more energy from the trio from time to time, that was seldom their style anyway. However the problem stems from the unambitious arrangements, where the odd keyboard swoosh, or flute and sax break is confused with something ear catching. Now that may all sound harsh, but when the most complimentary things I kind find to say about this album are that Bobby Kimball proves he still has the pipes to nail "Africa" by Toto, that the version of "Riders Of The Storm" improves on the original by virtue of not being by The Doors - in my view the most over rated band, well ever - and that The O'Jays "For The Love Of Money" is no less boring than anything else on offer here, well that's not saying much at all really.

Hopefully we get a Nektar album of all new music soon to prove what a powerhouse of a band they certainly are. Just not here.... Fair to suggest I won't be taking another sup from A Spoonful Of Time anytime soon.

Track Listing
1. Sirius (Alan Parsons Project)
2. Spirit Of The Radio (Rush)
3. Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller Band)
4. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
5. For The Love Of Money (The O'Jays)
6. Can't Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
7. 2000 Light Years From Home (The Rolling Stones)
8. Riders Of The Storm (The Doors)
9. Blinded By The Light (Manfred Mann's Earth Band)
10. Out Of The Blue (ELO)
11. Old Man (Neil Young)
12. Dream Weaver (Gary Wright)
13. I'm Not In Love (10CC)
14. Africa (Toto)

Added: November 15th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Official Nektar Website
Hits: 3206
Language: english

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Nektar: A Spoonful Of Time
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-11-15 14:31:20
My Score:

I've been a fan of Nektar for quite some time, and one of the great things about this legendary band is that throughout their long career they've always kept their fans on their toes, and never really stayed in one musical spot for too long before branching out into something different. From psychedelic space rock, to prog, to hard rock, to melodic AOR, to symphonic rock, this band has pretty much done it all. Which is why the prospect of hearing their take on the worn out 'covers album' concept was kind of intriguing. Now that A Spoonful of Time is here, I can say the results are at times fun, and at others quite lackluster.

First, I have to give Roye Albrighton & Co. a lot of credit for coming up with a song selection that is 95% not what I would have expected. I totally did not see Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle", Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home", 10cc's "I'm Not In Love", or Toto's "Africa" coming at all. The Rush classic "Spirit of Radio" also is a surprise, and there are also nice renditions of songs by The Rolling Stones, The Doors ("Riders On the Storm" is one of the highlights here), Gary Wright, Neil Young, and Manfred Mann's Earth Band/Bruce Springsteen as well. Did you catch my remark 'nice' ? That's the main problem here-many of these renditions are 'nice' and quite 'safe' by even Nektar's standards. I was waiting for some hard rock muscle, or prog experimentation in spots, but there's little if any. Many of these versions are too similar to the original songs, and I kept waiting for the band to add their own personality to them, and it rarely happens.

There are a host of guest musicians included here on A Spoonful of Time, but none truly make much of an impact. Steve Howe adds some nice acoustic guitar picking to the Blind Faith classic, and Rod Argent's tasty keyboards lend a great element to the already mentioned "Riders on the Storm", which, along with the rousing cover of "Blinded By the Light" are probably the two most effective tracks here. "I'm Not in Love" is also well done, though perhaps too similar to the original, and "Africa" succeeds thanks to the great vocal performance of former Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball.

A great song selection combined with some decent, if not bland performances, makes for a somewhat fun yet ultimately casual listening experience here on A Spoonful of Time. If you can't get enough of all these 'covers' recordings, than this is perhaps one of the better ones, but if you, like me, have long tired of these types of things, then proceed with caution and wait for Nektar's next original studio release.

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