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Why Do You Need To See Nektar’s Sounds Like Swiss DVD?

Mark Smotroff gets a step closer to “the little prog rock band that could”…

Nektar recently issued a wonderful live recording from its archives which fans will no doubt want to snap up. But, perhaps even some casual and curious fans of progressive music may find this of interest. 

Sounds Like Swiss is a fine two-CD plus DVD package which delivers on several fronts.  First and foremost, it gives us the only known long-form live recordings on video of the band in its early ascension to prog rock legend. Recorded in Switzerland in 1973, the group was just together a few years and were already showing bold signs of grandeur and even more greatness to come around the corner (they had not yet recorded Remember The Future).  

Sounds Like Swiss finds the original band largely performing material from their Sounds Like This album as well as their early masterwork, A Tab In The Ocean

The live concerts on Sounds Like Swiss hail from Pavilion des Sports in Lausanne May 5th, 1973) and the Palladium in Geneva (recorded February 14, 1973 but broadcast on the Swiss TSR TV show Kaleidospop on March 24, 1973). 

The Lausanne show (on the first CD and part of the second) is a stereo soundboard that sounds fine for the period. The sound quality for the Geneva performance (on the 48 kHz DVD and one of the 44.1 kHz CDs) is generally excellent for a mono soundboard mix of the period. So, don’t go into this expecting the fidelity of The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East! Sounds Like Swiss is a warts ’n all scenario so sometimes the levels might get a little hot, especially on the vocals. That should not dissuade you from buying this if you are fan of the band. They were performing live without a net!

For those of us who never got to see the Nektar live back in the day, this video is a revelation, even in its early and sometimes gritty black and white video-scopic glory. 

Here we get to see the young four-piece rock band embracing progressive epic song structures. You can still feel that they were a scrappy rock ’n roll band at their core but they had bigger vistas to pursue. 

Indeed, I’ve long referred to Nektar as “the little prog rock band that could” … and they did!  But they did it with very basic instrumentation while their peers in Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis were expanding with lush layers of guitars and synthesizers and dynamic stage craft.  Nektar pulled it off live with only their stage skills, some bravado and the visual support of their fifth member, Mick Brockett who we finally get to see working his magic on the psychedelic light show projections beamed on the band and the screen behind the stage.

We also get to see what a tight unit they were becoming and what incredible players they were.  We are very lucky that the camera persons working at the TV studio in Switzerland were clearly music fans so they spend a fair amount of time allowing us to see the Hammond Organ wizardry of keyboardist Alan “Taff” Freeman and Derek “Mo” Moore’s ripping bass — guitar geeks:  be sure check out the Les Paul Triumph bass he’s playing there! Ron Howdon’s fluid jazzy grooves and of course Roye Albrighton’s soaring lead guitars are all in full flower here.  Watch Roye’s hands folks… there was a reason Hendrix wanted to jam with Roye back in the day!

Oh, what Nektar might have been had they had the budgets and better management to take their work to the next level… 

Well, they got real close!  And, they kept going! Even after they imploded in the late 1970s, guitarist and main songwriter Roye Albrighton brought Nektar back in a new incarnation of the band for the 00s, along the way delivering a couple of terrific new recordings.  I have reviewed a number of Nektar’s releases over the years so click on any of these highlighted titles to learn about Book Of Days, A Spoonful Of Time and Time Machine. If you are exploring on the streaming services, do be sure to listen to Remember The Future, A Tab In The Ocean, Down To Earth, Recycled and Evolution as all of them are really great albums

I am thankful that we have a lot of great archival Nektar material to enjoy. This new Sounds Like Swiss collection is a great addition to that catalog and an essential for fans of the band.

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