Down to Earth

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Depending on who you ask, this is either Nektar's greatest or worst album. As Albrighton explained later, it was the band's attempt to re-invent itself as someone else -- like the Magical Mystery Tour. Old fans were appalled; but as the first album to get much airplay in the U.S., it brought in new fans who found it by far their most accessible work. Its progressive and funk elements are set around a demented circus theme, with the songs introduced by a loony Teutonic ringmaster. "That's Life," powered by chattering drums and a positively orgasmic Rickenbacker bass sound, is a standout of progressive rock showmanship. Delicate pieces like "Little Boy" and "Early Morning Clown" -- where Albrighton uses rotating Leslie speakers to great effect -- alternate with pub rockers like "Fidgety Queen" and the lumbering funk of "Nelly the Elephant." For new fans, this album is the place to start; and if they're willing to take it on its own terms, old fans might find a place in their heart for it too.

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