What do you do when one of your favorite bands tackles an album of covers which go way outside their scope and comfort zone? Well, you hope and pray that the stuff inside the album is as good as the cool cover art on the outside.
Fortunately such is the case on a new set of covers by Europe's Nektar, which features guest appearances on almost every track by the likes of Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Rod Argent, Ian Paice, Edgar Froese and many others. "A Spoonful of Time" holds together remarkably well and plays like listening to FM radio during the early 80s, only its being played and sung by Roye Albrighton of Nektar. Afer ppening with an Alan Parson instrumental ("Sirius"), the band respectfully tackles Rush's "Spirit of the Radio" revealing a solid rock tune beneath that is really kinda fun (sorry Rush fans, I know I'm committing blasphemy writing this).
Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" gives way to the first big hurdle that Nektar pulls off: Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here -- and the reason it works is that they don't cover it exactly, picking up the pace fairly early on and jamming out on the tune. Its real nice when it takes off. What's great about the notion of Roye covering Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd is that in many ways they are peers in the realm of tasteful guitar playing -- Roye solos with abandon but doesn't mimic Gilmour's style or phrasing. He takes it other places and, well, it smokes!
Other songs that took me by surprise due to their really interesting approaches include The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" and Neil Young's "Old Man." The latter in particular takes the song places this life long Neil Young fan never imagined. Roye's solo on the Manfred Man arrangement of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light" is a wah-wah paradise basking in the light of the sun.
The album isn't perfect: the cover of Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" with Steve Howe of Yes on lead guitar is something of a letdown.... it could have gone some nice places! But, perhaps Steve didn't want to be too obvious doing an amazing classical styled acoustic guitar solo that he could have probably pulled off in his sleep. Instead we have very tasteful -- if pedestrian -- fills that support the song nicely but doesn't really take it anyplace special.The Rolling Stones' "2000 Light Years From Home" lifts off but never quite reaches the depths of outer space they probably hoped to reach.The sound on "A Spoonful of Time" is uniformly quite good. Some of the mixes might have been a little tighter but the album works by paying attention to capturing a feel and performance. Overall the album sounds great with nice fat mid range, crisp highs and distinctive bass.