Album Reviews

Issue 2024-039

Nektar — Recycled (2024 Remastered & Expanded)

1975 / 2024
44:03, 37:00, 78:04, 47:30, 45:04
Nektar - Recycled (2024 Remastered & Expanded)
Disc 1, Official Mix, 2024 Remaster: Recycle (2:46), Cybernetic Consumption (2:10), Recycle Countdown (1:51), Automaton Horroscope (3:02), Recycling (1:50), Flight To Reality (1:19), Unendless Imagination (4:38), Sao Paulo Sunrise (3:04), Costa Del Sol (4:02), Marvellous Moses (6:34), It's All Over (5:27), Flight To Reality (Single Version) (3:33), It's All Over (Single Version) (3:47)
Disc 2, Geoff Emerick Mix, 2024 Remaster: Recycle (2:50), Cybernetic Consumption (2:11), Recycle Countdown (1:52), Automaton Horroscope (3:03), Recycling (1:51), Flight To Reality (1:22), Unendless Imagination (4:43), São Paulo Sunrise (3:05), Costa Del Sol (4:03), Marvellous Moses (6:35), It's All Over (5:25)
Disc 3, Live at Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, 26 May 1976: Sao Paulo Sunrise / Costa Del Sol (6:32), Marvellous Moses (5:35), It's All Over (5:23), Patch (4:34), Listen (6:01), Smile / Lonely Roads (10:17), Recycled (15:06), 1-2-3-4 (15:50), Let It Grow (8:46)
Disc 4 + 5, Live at Calderone Concert Hall, Long Island, USA, 24 July 1976: A Tab In The Ocean (13:17), Remember The Future, Pt. 1 (16:02), São Paulo Sunrise / Costa Del Sol (6:52), Marvellous Moses (5:51), It's All Over (5:25), Patch (2:00), Listen (8:05), Smile / Lonely Roads (8:58), Recycled (19:07), Let It Grow (6:51)
Jerry van Kooten

Rating this a 10 was a no-brainer, I could fill that in before writing, before even hearing this latest reissue. Recycled has been in my top favourite albums ever since I heard it for the first time, which was I think in 1984 (I was 13). It touches my favourite areas of progressive, blues-based heavy music, and has stayed with me during all the shifts in my musical taste. There are not a lot of albums that have done so, hence the 10. It has been a 10 for more 40 years now and I doubt that will change. Of course, the bonus material on a release like this has to weigh in as well. And it's still a 10. So, there you go.

I don't think there is a need to describe the music on the main album itself. It is an important album in the history of prog, by a big name, who touched several sub-genres, and it is easily available in all kinds of formats, both vinyl and digital, and try-before-you-buy on any streaming service.

So, instead of reviewing the original album, let me focus on this reissue, and why this is an important reissue in itself.

Since Bellaphon reissued this album on CD for the first time (between 1987 and 1990 — sources are inconsistent) it was the only one for several years. Then Eclectic began their series of high-quality reissues of many albums and in 2004 they reissued Recycled properly, in the Dream Nebula imprint. Excellently remastered, and with the Geoff Emerick Mix as a bonus.

Then things got hazy with Roye's contact with Purple Pyramid, Cleopatra, Belle Antique and WHD, and too many reissues following in a short time. There is an article in the works in which we will dive into the differences between the reissues of many Nektar albums, and Recycled will of course one of them.

Now Esoteric, the follow-up to Eclectic and part of Cherry Red, have released a 5CD box, which will probably and hopefully be the definitive reissue.

Disc 1 contains the original album, the released mix that most people know, in remastered form. Superficially there is not a big difference. That was to be expected, since the 2004 version was already very good. I heard details there that I had not heard before.

There is a difference in remaster, but it's hard to pinpoint what it is, and you won't hear it easily. I see slightly more contrast between loud and soft parts and slightly less audio compressing, making the 2004 version sound a tiny bit louder but the 2024 version having a better balance. But like I said, the difference is very small.

One peculiar thing is that the 2024 version runs a fraction faster. For example, Marvellous Moses is 0.9 seconds shorter on the 2024 version. Unnoticeable of course, but I found it remarkable.

This disc contains two bonus tracks, namely single versions of Flight To Reality and It's All Over. For a box to be complete, I like the inclusion of different versions. And in this case it's a bit special, since Flight To Reality seems much longer than the original album version, although that is because it contains part of Unendless Imagination. It's All Over simply fades out. No different versions in the single versions, just edits.

Disc 2 has the Geoff Emerick Mix that was also released on the 2004 version, but this one has also been remastered. The difference is minimal, again. But it does seem the 2024 version sounds a bit more full, has a bit more body. The original mix was a bit thin and interesting to hear but not something I would listen to very often. This new version is a slight improvement. Sound analysis shows the 2004 version is a little "cleaner", meaning there is more sound (audio and noise, that is), as if noise compression was used. That could be the reason for the 2024 version sounding a bit fuller.

When Geoff Emerick did the album's final mix in July 1975 after Nektar finished recordings at Air Studios, the band was not fully satisfied with the sound. After talking to Bellaphon they were allowed to spend some more money and among other things hired the choir. What a difference this slightly different arrangement can make. Knowing the original album so well and then hear this mix makes it a different experience. It is not a bad album of course, but the extra layers and different mix on the final released version make it the magnificent album it is.

The last three discs contain two live recordings. While I have more than 100 Nektar live shows in my collection, these 26 May 1976 and 24 July 1976 were not among them. That is three discs, three hours full of previously unheard versions. I did have a few shows with the full Recycled Part 2 but not many. I remember hearing this live for the first time, and it's still wonderful. It is a good reminder of how good that second side of the record is, including the often overlooked São Paulo Sunrise and Costa Del Sol parts. A pity it was not played more often.

The quality of the 26 May 1976 show is very good. Must be a soundboard although probably direct-to-stereo instead of the multitracks. All the instruments have a good place in the mix, including Larry Fast's work, which is lovely. But at times I think they would have mixed some parts slightly differently if they had the multitracks. One of the keyboards (Freeman or Fast) is a bit louder than the other, and the guitar is a bit low in the mix. But this overall quality and setlist is just too amazing to let that be a problem.

Albrighton's voice is strained here and there, even at the beginning. Was it the end of the tour, did he have a cold?

Patch is a song that was not recorded or released but played live several times. A great progressive piece in under 5 minutes. Listen would be recorded for the Magic Is A Child album without Albrighton, and it shows the blues-rock background of the band's sound. Nice solo by Larry Fast here.

Smile (Smile / Lonely Roads on the other disc but both are the same amount of music) is half of RTF2. As in Listen, the soft, emotional, bluesy parts are beautifully played, with Fast adding a layer that is unheard outside of this tour. Having two more versions is simply wonderful. 1-2-3-4 is played faster than usual, and with Fast, the jamming is even more out there than on other tours.

The 24 July 1976 recording has roughly the same quality. Most of the setlist is the same, but while the Toronto show has 1-2-3-4, the Long Island show has both A Tab In The Ocean and Remember The Future, Part 1. The first minute of Tab is missing, and Patch is missing the first 2 minutes. The time difference of Patch and Listen between the two shows is also due to a different track index. I think Listen was just part of Patch but got a separate track index because it was released later (on Magic Is A Child).

The mix here is also in favour of Larry Fast's synths. Mo's vocals (especially on Tab) are a little softer than Roye's, whose voice sounds better than on the other show.

While the setlist is roughly the same, I listened to these shows in succession without skipping a thing. If you like Nektar live, this is simply mandatory material.

It is wonderful to hear some good recordings of what Larry Fast added to the sound. He joins in even during the jamming. It makes the music more symphonic prog, something the band reached themselves with Recycled. I saw the band with Larry Fast in London 2003 but was in a position in the audience that his playing didn't stand out as much as we can hear now.

Was this written from the heart of a fan? You bet. Sometimes it is just hard to switch that off. Whichever reissue you might have of Recycled, this one still comes highly recommended, I guess unless you just want the original album and don't care about live recordings. I call this the definitive edition. A new edition was needed since the other one was no longer available, but please don't let any more reissues come. This is it. Any next release cannot beat this one.

Patchwork Cacophony — Hourglass

Patchwork Cacophony - Hourglass
Wake Up (1:53), Carpe Diem (10:49), Perspective I (1:14), Blind Faith (10:05), My Home Is Tomorrow (8:22), Perspective (1:20), Castaway (10:58), Wake Up (Reprise) (2:10)
Sergey Nikulichev

OK, I am not sure if you'll love this one, but I am (rather) sure that you'll like it.

DPRP has a decade-long history of recommending Ben Bell's music to listeners, and who am I to disrupt the tradition after all? Taking a quick backwards glance, his first solo album dates back to 2014 and was favorably reviewed by Andrew, and the sophomore release, with the project renamed to Patchwork Cacophony by Patrick (again with the recommended status).

Ten years have passed since the debut, and it's time to re-assess Ben's place on prog scene. From 2019 onwards he's not only a solo artist, but also a full-time keyboard player for Gandalf's Fist, a very fine UK prog orchestra (in the unlikely case you don't know) and the lesser known project Broken Parachutes. On his third album, Ben makes a step away from the “clockwork” tradition of Fist, preferring to measure his solo time using an hourglass, as the album title suggests (sorry, I was simply unable to resist the metaphor!). I also cannot help noticing that the cover artwork echoes his debut color palette, so here lies a second hint on what to expect from the music. What is truly misleading is the project name Patchwork Cacophony — an obvious choice for an avant-garde orchestra from the Cuneiform label, but not really revealing Ben's approach.

And now, to the contents. Hourglass consists of four long songs tied to each other with short interludes. (Reviewers often skip interludes, but I should confess that I am quite fond of Perspective II, a small and simple, yet effective gem.) I deliberately avoid the word “epics” here, being convinced that “long song” is a more precise definition. These songs are dynamic, quite upbeat and melodic, and above all very well thought of in terms of composition. What is the most obvious comparison? Right, Transatlantic. And while Ben, of course, on his own is not as multi-talented as the supergroup's combined skills, he does a fine job on all the instruments, including guitar and rhythm section. Another comparisons coming to my mind are Happy The Man and Kansas, from whom Patchwork Cacophony borrows the melodic phrasing with very light touches of jazzy rhythms. And, of course, there are Gandalf's Fist's influences in terms of storytelling and love for insertion of rock pieces to the symphonic tapestry of their sound. Indeed, the CD's middle section is filled with two honest rockers Blind Faith and My Home Is Tomorrow — something rarely coming from a keyboard player's release.

Harmonically the album is also quite interesting. Not too many prog projects have this fondness of major harmonies (and if they do, the result is usually closer to Yes), and Patchwork Cacophony does its best to employ the brighter, more optimistic sound, characteristic to traditional rock, Christian rock and to some extent even gospel. The more melancholic, neo-prog-tinged parts are also scattered across the record, but not the same measure. I love the solo guitar work, reminiscent of Chris Fry's licks in Magenta. Actually, the more I listen to Hourglass, the more parallels I find between this project and Robert Reed's Cyan / Magenta tradition, only without Christina's vocals, naturally.

Filled with ideas, carefully arranged, Hourglass is a labour of love from a very competent multi-instrumentalist. Patchwork Cacophony does not care to be neither modern nor copying from the prog-rock classics and has a high value of a professional musician's individual vision.

This album has: bombastic main themes, melodic solos, tightly patched musical pieces. This album does not have: a pop hit, counterpoint singing, cacophony of sounds.

Robert Schroeder — D.MO Vol. 5

Robert Schroeder - D.MO Vol. 5
Radio Active (7:54), Lovely Guitar (6:32), Smooth Relax (5:11), Moments Of Love (5:45), Session-1 with Daniel (3:46), Session-2 with Daniel (5:28), Between Day And Night (7:43), Harmony of Emotion (6:30), Optional Space (9:33)
Jan Buddenberg

With a career that since his discovery by Klaus Schulze in 1978 amounts to 45 solo albums, 25 of which released on Lambert Ringlage's Spheric Music label from 2005 onward, I think it's safe to say that the name of the prolifically active Robert Schroeder needs no further introduction for EM enthusiasts. Never short of inspiration, Schroeder now presents the fifth volume in his archive series, which for reasons of not quite fitting his planned albums, gathers unreleased material from his earliest composing years up to the 1990's.

After various sessions, I'm not entirely convinced that the abbreviation of "demo" into "D.MO" really captures the essence of this collection. Simply because many, if not all, of these compositions far outshine the demo stages and showcase exactly the same excellent sonic fidelity and far developed multi-layered ideas and arrangements that Schroeder usually provides his listeners with. So to me a "from the vaults" or "Chronicles" qualification feels somewhat better befitting. Although I have to admit to be unfamiliar with the four previous D.MO albums so this volume may well be the exception to the "demo rule".

While the year of origin is not disclosed, there are a few compositions that evidently resonate with a feel and vibe of the 80s. Harmony Of Emotion for instance manages to do this by mixing elegant harmonious pop flavours with a touch of Enigma, while Radio Active's upbeat jungle of rhythms together with its spaciously fizzing ambience warmed by energetic synth flows brings a relaxing image of Jean Michel Jarre to mind. Third example is Between Day And Night, which includes the involvement of guitarist Gerdi Rudolf, and flows from melodic oriental brightness into gamely cinematic inspired melodies that brings Axel F and the imaginative nightlife adventures of two famous Italian plumbers to life.

Interestingly the album offers three additional compositions featuring guitar. Performed by Schroeder this in the appeasing Lovely Guitar leads to "what it says on the tin" guitar parts floating on top of a tranquil bed of exotic melodies. In the Berliner Schüle-style compositions Session-1 with Daniel and Session-2 with Daniel (not excelling in title inspiration), the symbiosis of Daniel Deutschle's guitar parts with the beautiful rhythmic and harmonious melodies of Schroeder gives way to dreamy movements that delightfully show some P'Cock/P'Faun sound. Bring on session three to twenty-three please...

Amidst these finer moments Smooth Relax pleasantly calms the senses with soothing synth flows and smoothness in worldly rhythms, which the mellow Moments Of Love calms even further with admirable easy going jazz impressions highlighted by beautiful wordless vocal chords. Optional Space finally rounds off the album with transporting meditative melodies that meticulously transforms from artwork corresponding colourful brightness onto a warmly candlelight lit coda of romantic melodies.

Despite not having a thematic storyline like many of Schroeder's recent albums, the engaging D.MO Vol. 5 overall feels nicely coherent. This together with the entertaining nature of the album, Schroeder's solid songwriting, and the wide variety of electronic music styles on offer makes it all a fine album worth exploring for fans of Schroeder and those who show a general interest in EM music.

Spirits Burning & Michael Moorcock — The End Of All Songs - Part I

Spirits Burning & Michael Moorcock - The End Of All Songs - Part I
The End Of Every Song (4:26), Try And Try Again (5:27), Child Of The Moon (3:38), Paleozoic Eons (3:56), Guild Of Temporal Adventurers (6:32), You Have Learned (To Love The End Of Time) (1:25), All Is Well (4:10), Paradise Wings In Flight (2:45), Your Message Of Doom (4:07), It Is Everything (5:50), Building A Bad Scene (5:15), Sanctuary (The Cities Sleep) (5:00), Chances Our (3:35), The Price We Pay (4:02), Second Thoughts (3:08), Don‘t Concern Yourself With The End Of The World (5:36), Each Vehicle Has Two Eyes (5:39)
Armin Rößler

Elric of Melniboné is one of the most iconic characters in fantasy literature. An atypical, tragic hero who suffers from albinism, who broods, who is dependent on drugs and his sword Lightbringer, and who is yet an incarnation of the so-called Eternal Hero, which runs as a common thread through Michael Moorcock's work. The British writer, born in 1939, is one of the most important authors of the so-called New Wave, which brought a breath of fresh air to science fiction and fantasy in the 1960s. Moorcock has published more than fifty novels and numerous short stories, for which he has also won many prizes, from the Nebula to the World Fantasy Award. He has also always had a close connection to music. He has often collaborated with the British space rock band Hawkwind. One example is the album The Chronicle Of The Black Sword (1985), which deals with the adventures of the aforementioned Elric of Melniboné. Moorcock has also written lyrics for the US hard rock band Blue Öyster Cult, among others, and has been associated with the music collective Spirits Burning around composer Don Falcone for several years.

The joint albums An Alien Heat (2018) and 2020's The Hollow Lands, which are based on the first two novels in Moorcock's trilogy The Dancers At The End Of Time (published as books between 1972 and 1976), were released under the Spirits Burning & Michael Moorcock banner. The End Of All Songs is now the musical version of the third and final novel. The addition of "Part I“ indicates that the journey is not yet at an end. The novels, which are supplemented by several short stories (in Elric At The End Of Time, 1981, the most famous incarnation of the Eternal Hero naturally also makes an appearance), tell a story typical of the science fiction of the seventies and of Moorcock, with a wild mixture of powerful immortals in a distant future, time travel and other science fiction ingredients, set in a multiverse of seemingly endless co-existing realities. As a non-science fiction fan you probably don't need to understand this – and the musical realization is much more down to earth anyway.

Don Falcone sets the tone musically, playing various keyboard instruments as well as contributing bass, percussion and vocals. Michael Moorcock can be heard on the harmonica and also on vocals (or spoken passages). The two are supported by no less than thirty-three musicians and singers, including Albert Bouchard (Blue Öyster Cult), Alan Davey (Hawkwind) and Chas Cronk (The Strawbs), as well as (former) members of Tangerine Dream, Gong or Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come.

For this number of participants, the album sounds surprisingly coherent. Falcone obviously holds the reins firmly in hand and sets a clear direction. In fact, the label space-rock only fits to a limited extent. On The End Of All Songs - Part I, you will look in vain for sprawling jams, eclectic guitar solos and spacey keyboard passages. Instead, the pieces are comparatively compact, song and above all lyric-oriented. If you are familiar with Moorcock's work, it is a real pleasure to follow the lyrics.

On the other hand, if you expect major musical surprises, you may be a little disappointed. Much of it sounds pleasant and relaxed, but what is missing are melodies that are not only catchy but also memorable. You will also search in vain for expressive vocals unless Fabienne Shine (Shakin' Street) grabs the microphone, as in It Is Everything. Welcome splashes of colour, which are also provided by the violin of Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven). More of that, please. In general: more courage. The story may be a corset that also restricts the music — a glance at the CD booklet, which prints the lyrics so tiny that they can only be read by eagle eyes, shows just how much — but Moorcock is actually an author who virtually encourages wild rides without any barriers. Perhaps there is still something missing.

Does that sound negative? It's not meant to be. The End Of All Songs - Part I is an album that is easy to listen to and makes you curious about the hopefully forthcoming sequel, but also about the two predecessors created in the collaboration between Falcone and Moorcock. The fact that the album is adorned with a work by Rodney Matthews (responsible for many Magnum covers, among others) also speaks in its favour. And beyond that, there is a whole body of music to discover in the work of Don Falcone and Spirits Burning. The list of "crew members" involved in the twenty or so albums released since 1999 includes, in addition to those already mentioned, other intriguing names such as David Jackson, Judge Smith, Graham Smith and Nic Potter (all with a Van der Graaf Generator past), the recently deceased Ron Howden (Nektar), Theo Travis (Soft Machine Legacy, among others) and Billy Sherwood (Yes). Name-dropping? No, it sounds as exciting as an adventure with Elric von Melniboné.

Album Reviews