Remember the Future: 50th Anniversary Edition by Nektar

Release date: November 24, 2023
Label: Esoteric Recordings

“Take a trip back in time
Life evolving growing higher
Not just space that bluebird sees
In the sea a new domain.”

The opening lines from the Shaft-like intro with that funky wah-wah guitar riff takes us into another universe where a young boy who is blind meets another strange figure from outer space. An alien named bluebird who feels the boy’s presence and makes mental contact with the young man, as he tells bluebird stories between the past and future in different forms.

There’s no denying that Nektar’s fourth studio album Remember the Future which was originally released on the German pressing of Bellaphon’s Bacilus Records on November 23rd, 1973, got the band recognition. Not just in Europe, but in the States where it rose to number 19 in the Billboard charts. Let’s not forget, though they were championed by Frank Zappa, who chose Nektar to tour in France, Switzerland, and Germany.

For them to be championed by Zappa, that’s basically a stamp of approval to show how much they were admired by The Grand Wazoo himself. Remember the Future had been reissued many times. From Eclectic Discs, followed by Cleopatra Records’ subsidiary label Purple Pyramid, and now landing home to the Cherry Red label, Esoteric Recordings.

This 4-CD / 1 Blu-Ray set consists of the original stereo mix, a new 2023 mix done by Ben Wiseman, and a live recording on January 28th, 1974 at Stadthalle in Muenster, Germany, and a blu-ray set which contains the original mix, 2023 mix, 5.1 mix, and quadraphonic mix, and visual content featuring a promo film in 1973 and two appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test from July 10th to October 23rd the same year.

Recorded at Chipping Norton Studio in Oxfordshire in August of 1973, Remember the Future was like an imaginary movie inside your head. You feel as if Nektar had written this an animated rock opera, being brought to life in all of its true beauty, detailing the chemistry between the boy and bluebird. It has an amazing message, but the music itself, makes you want to dig out your old comics from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, or Vertigo, and imagine the story being brought to life in illustrated form instead.

 

Roye Albrighton, Allan “Taff” Freeman, Derek “Mo” Moore, and Ron Howden were true masters of telling this one continuous piece of music brought to life. There’s the sadness, revelations, melodic forms, nods to a Beatle-sque approach, militant textures, early Floydian sounds, and bringing everything in full. Albrighton’s leading textures has a bluesy-sque form that gives us detail on what is about to happen next as he breaks through his shining crystal ball by unveiling his true power as hits those frets to give the band a chance to come right in. When listening to the 2023 mix, it sounded much more clearer and crisper from what the original 1973 mix had back then.

It increases the instruments to bring the members in front and give it the proper way it deserves. The live recording at the Stadthalle in 1974 at the time the band were promoting the album, were on fire at that venue. Not only they performed the first part of ‘Remember the Future’ but tracks from Sounds Like This, A Tab in the Ocean, and material from their fifth studio album Down to Earth released in October the same year.

There are some amazing center points throughout the show. Take for example, an excerpt from ‘Odysse’ at the Stadthalle. Taff and Mo are doing this Thelonious Monk-like groove with a spaced-out soul bebop arrangement as they take a trip back into the late ‘50s, early ‘60s before Roye lays down some of that bluesy groove with a swinging feel, but with a metallic approach.

The whistles from the German crowd shows how much appreciation Nektar is loved as they take them through the spaced-out light-speed on the joyful adventure, ‘Show Me the Way’, Taff channeling his Bo Hansson motif throughout the 19-minute jam on ‘A Day in the Life of a Preacher’ whilst making the train go at mid-ramming speed for Roye to pull all of the punching riffs so that Derek’s bass can go upwards and down to reach the finish line.

But then they go back to the blues once more and then into some of Sabbath’s territory for a brief moment from their Master of Reality-era and its back to the Train once more. Now, you can hear excerpts from ‘Crying in the Dark’ from a Tab in the Ocean from the 3rd disc as they take audiences with some cowbell momentum from Ron Howden.

I’ll admit the recording is rough at first, but when Roye pours his heart into his playing, he knows the action is there. Using the wah-wah pedal, he nails those textures to reach the pounding bass drum Howden does before going into the climatic battle with the ‘King of Twilight’ which Iron Maiden covered as a B-side to the single ‘Aces High’.

Remember the Future is one of those albums that stays with you for a long time. It’s quite the exercise that is needed once you give the under-rated gem, a huge amount of credit it deserves. I’m crossing my fingers for Esoteric alongside both Remember the Future and Sounds Like This, but tackling Journey to the Centre of the Eye, A Tab in the Ocean, Down to Earth, and Magic is a Child. Because the adventure has only just begun.

“The laws of nature are to heal the wounds of man
Use them right and they will help you if they can
Wrongly used and you’ll only harm yourself
Then it’s too late to come to me for help
Don’t walk away give it a chance
Let it grow.”

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