Back in 1974, Nektar left a promising sonic door open in Detroit.
The British progressive rock band shared a pulsating new track, “Devil’s Door,” during a show at The Michigan Palace.
“That’s where we wrote it. We had a couple of days in the theater. We were able to jam and play, and we did a lot of that. Then, we played it for the first time at the Palace theater,” said Derek “Mo” Moore, Nektar’s bassist, vocalist and co-founder.
Nektar only played “Devil’s Door” a few more times live that year before stashing it away. The soaring track remained hidden in the band’s vault for nearly 45 years before including it on their majestic new album, “The Other Side,” which dropped in January via Esoteric Antenna.
The eight-minute gem features the band’s late original frontman and co-founder Roye Albrighton on guitar and vocals at the track’s intro. Recorded live by then-sound engineer Vinny Schmid via a soundboard in Detroit, “Devil’s Door” beautifully blends Albrighton’s vibrant guitar and enthusiastic “yeah, yeah, yeahs” with Nektar’s stunning new version of the track. Sadly, Schmid passed away six years ago while Albrigton died in 2016.
“We were able to get the two of them on the album. It just felt right, it was so clear when we played that into the headphones, and then the band came in, and Roye stayed with us for a little while with his parts,” Moore said.
“Then, we dropped the original band and brought up the new band. It just felt great. I called Roye’s wife, and I said, ‘I know I don’t have to ask you for permission, but I’d like your blessing. Is it OK for us to use Roye?’ She was thrilled, and I sent her a copy of it right away. She was blown away.”
Metro Detroit audiences will be blown away Tuesday when Nektar reopens “Devil’s Door” live at The Token Lounge in Westland as part of a current 36-date North American tour. The long-awaited track will be featured as part of the band’s three hour-plus set amidst a stunning video and lights show by visual artist and co-founder Mick Brockett.
“We’re changing the sets every night, especially when we did four days in New York, and we did two days in Baltimore. We try to do a lot of the old classics like ‘Remember the Future,’ ‘A Tab in the Ocean,’ and ‘Recycled,’ and we do a variation of that, and then we intersperse them with the new album, ‘The Other Side,’” Moore said.
The Other Side
Moore teamed up with Brockett and guitarist-vocalist Ryche Chlanda to write lyrics for “The Other Side” and recorded the album’s eight tracks with co-founder Ron Howden (drums, vocals) as well as Kendall Scott (keys) and Randy Dembo (bass, 12-string guitar).
Nektar reunited in late 2018 to start recording “The Other Side” at Shorefire Recording in Long Branch, N.J. For nearly six months, the band revisited some 40-year-old demos and merged them with new tracks for their latest album, which also commemorates their 50th anniversary.
The album’s blazing eight-minute opener, “I’m On Fire,” originally started as a poem Moore wrote for his soon-to-be wife, Nicki, in 1978. The track features deep extended guitars, driving bass, pounding drums and mesmerizing piano that still burns with passion more than 40 years later as Moore sings – “You’re fine, be mine, hard line, sweet wine/Too late, can’t wait, tonight you’re mine.”
“I really like that song now. I like the middle part with Kendall’s solo. Everything fit just perfect, and we got the live feel down for the basic (track). Then, we added some guitars, and we added the solos, and the piano came right before we started doing it,” Moore said.
“We were jamming in the studio, and Kendall put on this piano part, and I said, ‘That’s gotta be in,’ and we added that to it. It was growing right up until we recorded it, including while we were recording it. I just love it. We’re using that mainly for an encore right now.”
The album’s most iconic track, “Love Is/The Other Side,” an 18-minute, two-part moving sonic experience, beautifully encapsulates an overarching theme of past and present influences guiding Nektar’s five-decade journey in the U.K., Germany and the U.S.
For “Love Is,” echoing intergalactic synths vibrate back and forth amidst gorgeous acoustic strums, pounding drums and galloping bass as Chlanda and Moore harmoniously sing – “Love is part of living, love is part of forgiving.” Those harmonies quickly revert to the track’s opening synths, which seamlessly transition listeners to another sonic dimension known as “The Other Side.”
Different “prog-tastic” instrumental sections take listeners to “The Other Side” as Chlanda beckons – “Come inside, take a ride/Play the songs, sing along/Dreaming dreams, space no time/Searching now, distant life.” Honestly, it’s sonic adventure that should continue in perpetuity.
“‘The Other Side’ is so strong that we’ve opened with it a couple of times, and we’ve never done that before, but the piece of music is so strong that it allows us to do that,” Moore said. “I think the new band is very similar to the old band in that it’s a jam band. We jam a lot, which is really good. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it did, but with the jamming that we do now, I feel the band is super strong.”
Nektar’s 50-year Legacy
Nektar’s strong origins date back to 1969 when Moore formed the band with Albrighton, Howden, Brockett, Allan “Taff” Freeman and special effects artist Keith Walters in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout the 1970s, Nektar released a series of acclaimed albums, including “A Tab in the Ocean” (1972) and “Remember the Future” (1973), while scoring chart success in Germany and later in the U.S.
By 1976, the band relocated to New York and later New Jersey, where they continue to reside today. Two years later, the band added Chlanda, but soon called it quits by 1982 after several lineup changes, including Albrighton, Moore and Brockett. In 2000, Nektar reunited and performed as various versions until the current formation of Moore, Howden, Brockett, Chlanda, Dembo and Scott in late 2018.
“I honestly didn’t think I would be doing it. I actually put the band together for Ron because he wanted a band again. As I was putting it together, I realized I really liked it. Then, when we started digging back, the first session was me and Ryche and Ron, and we clicked right away. It was like being transported back to 1978,” Moore said.
“We started playing stuff, it was great, and we added Randy Dembo on bass, and then we added Kendall Scott on keyboards. We had the basic six people in the band, and then we started to bring in pieces back from 1978 and presented them to the band, and we learned that fast, and we integrated it with a new piece. The first thing we did was ‘The Other Side.’”
With the current lineup in place, Nektar will continue to tour the U.S. through June and amass a wealth of live audio and video recordings for future releases. They also will perform at several prog music festivals, including one on the west coast.
“We’re focused on touring and getting the word out. Then, probably by the early fall, we’ll probably go to Europe. We’re also planning to go to Mexico, and we’re planning on going to Asia and Japan. We’re just going to blanket everywhere,” Moore said.
7 p.m. Tuesday
The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland