Cosmic Cowboy 2019
Swimming forth, progressive rock futurologists make an unlikely return.
Roye Albrighton’s passing in 2016 could have signaled the end of the band he founded back in 1969, with "Time Machine" sealing their place in eternity, yet the ensemble’s 50th anniversary seemed too good an opportunity to miss and let the legend lie still – especially in the wake of his son’s attempt to secure an alternative future for the collective – so three members of the original line-up resurrected its concept and came up with a new album. The record’s inaugural single, “SkyWriter” can surprise fans not only with the song’s soulfulness but also with the veterans’ enviable vitality, not with a somewhat different sound they offer here: after all, late ’70s saw Albrighton leave the fold, and while singing guitarist Ryche Chlanda wasn’t featured on the “Magic Is A Child” LP, he had amassed enough material before Roye returned for “The Other Side” – that’s the title of 2020’s offering – to be based on such an old cache.
Of course, those pieces got updated, as vividly illustrated by B-side, “Devil’s Door”: featuring the late leader’s intro woven into the fresh cut, this number will be familiar to bootleg collectors as a regular part of the band’s 1974 repertoire, yet there’s invigorated funk that drives it away from standard art-rock, as the group stalwarts Ron Howden’s drums and Derek Moore’s bass spicing it up with explosive buzz, while newcomer Kendall Scott’s ivories expand the scope into cosmic reaches. At the same time, the slightly shorter “SkyWriter” would draw on whiter shade of prog, and the heightened sense of time permeating its solemn, piano-rippled flow before organ chimes in is a great testament to NEKTAR’s abillity to embrace adversity and secure a new lease of life where lesser mortals surrender. The single representing a bigger set of ideas may be the best slice of optimism any old ensemble could deliver.