Nektar - The Prodigal Son

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Bellaphon
Catalog Number: 9729520
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:57:00

Hail, fellow Nektarines, the moment we've been waiting for is finally here - Nektar has returned! Well, most of them, anyway. Three of the original four band members - Roye Albrighton, Taff Freeman, and Ray Hardwick - reunited to record The Prodigal Son, the album that had a lot of Remember The Future-era progheads (myself included) hoping to be pleasantly reminded of those days to come. Alas, this is not the future we were expecting to recall....

Not looking back, Nektar has Recycled their sound and have moved into the 21st century as a straight-ahead hard rock unit. Eschewing Nektar's progressive-psychedelic past, Roye Albrighton has crafted a fine set of grinding rock tinged with more than a bit of funk and blues. The complex arrangements and the synthesizers are all but gone, replaced by a standard quartet of guitars, bass, organ and piano, and drums. Korg synths are put to good use, mostly for atmosphere and effects that nicely compliment - and occasionally double - the guitars. The songs roll along in straightforward, earthy grooves that grab the listener by the gut. The playing is first rate, with Albrighton and Freeman taking some exciting solos and drummer Hardwick providing a sturdy foundation for his bandmates to build on. The production is superb; the sound is crystal clear, making it easy to hear every note and nuance within the sonic structure.

Written entirely by Albrighton, The Prodigal Son is a subtle concept album, inspired by Albrighton's own life as a rocker, family man, and transplant recipient. A brief narrative, "Day 9," provides the conceptual reference for The Prodigal Son, recounting a man's death experience, including those moments when his "life passed before (his) eyes". It is that time of revisitation which provides the basis for most of the songs.

"Terminus/Oh My" and "Day 9" bookend the album, opening with the title character's crisis moment when he realizes he is dying and closing with his death. Everything in between has a surreal quality, arcane and almost indecipherable to this listener, but obviously very personal to the singer. "I Can't Help You" seems to be a two-edged sword, juxtaposing the shortcomings of both singer and God in helping those who ask them for help, driven home by funky bass, ringing guitars, and Albrighton's vocals. "The Drinking Man's Wine" is a plaintive ballad that effectively evokes the loneliness of being on the road. The singer seemingly takes on multiple roles; the man doing the travel, the woman waiting at home, both wanting to be sure of their love, and possibly of the presence of God to reassure them. "Shangri-La" is a sweet, grungy blues built around slide guitar, finger-picked dobro and a big arm-in-arm, pub sing-along chorus. "Salt And Vinegar And Rhythm And Blues" again gets downright funky; heavy bottom is provided by Albrighton's bass, while his guitars and Freeman's Hammond organ provide a thick, earthy wall of sound and tasty licks that ride nicely on Hardwick's straight up drumming.

"The Prodigal Son" is the closest thing I can relate to Nektar's halcyon days, with Taff Freeman's synthesizers providing an ethereal pillow for Roye Albrighton's vocals. The title track seems out of place among its rockier cousins, and fades quietly away, never registering as more than a bit of keyboard-driven fluff. "Day 9" revives snippets of "The Drinking Man's Wine" and "Terminus", then fades away on a deep, quiet synthesizer drone, illustrating the "Son('s)" passing and leaving us to wonder what awaits him wherever it is that he's gone....

Bottom line? I really like The Prodigal Son. Enough, in fact, that I'm not the least bit bothered that we didn't get another chance to Remember The Future. Instead, I celebrate Nektar's rocking 21st century vision and look forward to the next tasty sip they have to offer.

Terminus/Oh My (9:09) / Now (6:13) / I Can't Help You (4:50) / The Drinking Man's Wine (5:53) / Shangri-La (5:32) / Salt And Vinegar And Rhythm and Blues (6:18) / The Prodigal Son (6:43) / Be Tonight (4:00) / Day 9 (5:19)

Roye Albrighton - all guitars and vocals
Ray Hardwick - drums & percussion
Taff Freeman - keyboards

Journey To The Centre Of The Eye (1971/2004)
A Tab In The Ocean (1972/2004)
Sounds Like This
Remember The Future (1973/2004)
Sunday Night At London Roundhouse (1974)
Down To Earth (1974/2005)
Recycled (1975)
Magic Is A Child (1977/2005)
Live In New York (1977, rec. 1974)
More Live Nektar in New York (1978)
Thru The Ears
Man in the Moon (1980/2002*)
Prodigal Son (2001)
Sunday Night At London Roundhouse (expanded) (2002/2005)
Unidentified Flying Abstract - Live At Chipping Norton 1974 (2002)
Greatest Hits Live (2002)
Evolution (2004/2008)
Live In New York 1974 (2004)
Nektar 2004 Tour Live (2005)
Door To The Future (2005)
Sounds Like This (released but later withdrawn) (2006)
Book Of Days (2008)
Fortyfied (2009)
A Tab In The Ocean (Deluxe Edition) (2011)
Remember The Future (Deluxe Edition) (2011)
Retrospektive 1969-1980

Nektar Live (2002) (DVD)
Pure (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 21st 2002
Reviewer: David Cisco

Artist website:
Hits: 690
Language: english


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