Hard to believe I'm the first to take a reviewers' crack at this GREAT reissue, but I'm glad to get things rolling. I do NOT own this CD, but as an LP era geezer I can say with authority that this is prog/metal thunder at its BEST and well worth your attention.
"Live in the studio" is the gimmick here, plus double-LP (meaning there IS some "filler", which reduces my rating by one star), however the monumental highs on this recording more than offset the weaker moments.
Nektar struck it big intitially in Germany, although I believe they were all Englishmen, certainly guitarist/vocalist Roye Albrighton. At the height of the progressive rock era (early 1970's) Nektar won acclaim not only for their ambitious early concept albums (Tab in the Ocean, Remember the Future) but also for their spectacular live shows, featuring both the band's unique hard-rockin' flavor of progressive rock, plus the frenzied psychedelic light shows of Mick Brockett (listed as a band member on the early LP's) that accompanied their performances.
Returning to this recording 30 years later, the things that have stuck, and inspire me to recommend this recording now, are the stellar opening tracks; two heavyweight knockout punches from a band fully in their particular groove and eager to take on the world. "Good Day", track #1, remains to my ears one of their premier songs, and surely an unheralded gem of the progressive era. DYNAMICS is what this track is all about; few other comparatively short songs I know of span the delicacy and monstrous fury this track combines with such panache. Let me start my hero-worship of frontman/guitarist Roye Albrighton here for the amazing chops he exhibits, opening with an arresting key of E chord sequence crawling down the neck of his Les Paul as the band ramps up behind him, climaxing in a fury of frenzied riffing leading up to the opening verse/chorus setting the stage for the showcase to come. Lyrically I would guess that this track (indeed, the entire record) was simply written "on the fly" as Roye worked out the lyrics in rehearsal; nothing particularly insightful is being communicated here, although Albrighton's voice (and his bandmate's harmonic vocal accompaniment) is EXCELLENT throughout the recording.
Nektar's unique light/heavy approach rolls directly into the next track, "New Day Dawning", opening with great restraint before taking flight with Roye's aggressive leads and Taff Freeman's surging Hammond organ. This track in particular blew me away as a teenager (and still shivers me now) with the seizure-inducing INTENSITY mobilized in the climax of this track (following the cute "quote" from the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" tossed into the boiling musical stew just for the fun of it). MANY bands have aspired to the suspension of time and space exploded here, but to my ears this section still stands as an astronomical musical singularity of insane energy. This throbbing instrumental supernova fully inflamed is the ULTIMATE gold standard for heavy metal firepower to my ears, and I suspect that seeing them perform this live (at full volume, with the light show) drove some already chemically-enhanced patrons barking mad. Those were the days!
Two additional standout tracks deserve mention: lead track side 2, "1-2-3-4" and the later "A Day in the Life of a Preacher" are both sweaty workouts, each a humming dynamo of crackling alternating current. I would be remiss if I didn't also commend the bare-wire traditional rockin' side one closer, "Whatcha Gonna Do" that surely incited riots when played live.
I was fortunate to be able to see a reunited Nektar live in Sept. 2004 in Chicago, on a double bill with Caravan (another VASTLY underappreciated English '70's prog band). While I will admit it was mostly Caravan I came to see (and they were BEYOND GREAT), Nektar took the stage with monstrous authority and blew the doors off the place for the next two hours. While I'd always admired the skill of Roye Albrighton as a guitarist (and it's on ample display on "Sounds Like This") I never appreciated fully before seeing him live just how ferociously he could SHRED that guitar. His relative obscurity is certainly NOT a reflection of his passion or skill, that's for sure!
"Sounds Like This" is an EXCELLENT introduction to this fantastic band, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to metal or prog fans interested in checking out this mostly-forgotten contender from the progressive rock era. "Tab in the Ocean" and "Remember the Future" are totally worthy alternates, but if you want the full fury of this muscular quartet looking to rip your head off, here it is. Nektar-Sounds Like This!