A Spoonful Of Time

Nektar

Cleopatra Records, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/19/2012

Apparently, my desk has become a clearinghouse for covers albums this week. Today’s offering is the new one by prog-rock fourth-stringers Nektar, who built up a cult following in Germany, England and among four people in America in 1973.

Somehow, the trio (augmented by Yes-man Billy Sherwood on bass and keyboards, at times) was able to rope an all-star list of prog-rock stars who were big 30 years ago to appear on this disc. Fans of that era of music will be delighted to see Yes alums Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz, Ginger Baker of Cream, Geoff Downes, Ian Paice of Deep Purple, King Crimson alums David Cross and Mel Collins, and even Rod Argent make an appearance.

All 14 tracks are covers of classic rock radio staples, but not “progressive rock” staples. Songs by Steve Miller, the O’Jays, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Neil Young sit next to Rush, Toto, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Manfred Mann, and “Dream Weaver.” This creates an album with no cohesion; it’s simply a jam session with a bunch of musicians playing the music they love.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

An inherent danger in covering songs so well known is the lack of originality, something that renders “Wish You Were Here” and “Fly Like An Eagle” unnecessary because nothing new is brought to the table. Others, like the plodding “Riders On The Storm,” “Sirius” and “Spirit Of The Radio” (sic), don’t go out of their way enough to better the originals; when a song makes you want to listen to something else, that song hasn’t done its job. Same goes for “Blinded By The Light,” although Ginger Baker’s appearance on drums lends the tune more gravity than the original.

As I’ve said on other reviews of this type, a cover has to take the original in a new direction but keep the original’s spirit to be truly successful. The Motown track “For The Love Of Money” does such a thing and is a true highlight, nearly eight minutes of funky jamming with some excellent sax work (Nik Turner of Hawkwind). The Stones’ “2,000 Light Years From Home” is a solid take on a forgotten tune, as is Roxy Music’s “Out Of The Blue.”

There are no serious missteps – Roye Albrighton is too good a singer and guitarist to let that happen – and only the cover of “Africa” is a goofy choice; thankfully, it is tacked on to the end, where you can skip it after the lush six minute “I’m Not In Love” finishes (an odd choice for Rick Wakeman’s appearance, but he does a fine job all the same). Points deducted for the terrible cover art and overall cheesiness of the CD packaging, though.

Your tolerance for this disc depends on how much you love these songs or guest artists, or if you are one of the people who have followed Nektar all these years. A Spoonful Of Time ends up being engaging, occasionally interesting, and ultimately unnecessary.

Rating: B-

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© 2012 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Cleopatra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.