Progressive rock is one of the most misunderstood and maligned styles of popular music. Its sound has been defined by a few of the most popular artists of its brief early-'70s heyday, including Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Genesis. This has not only caused prog-rock to become a love-it-or-hate-it subgenre, but also overshadowed the contributions of many less commercially successful groups who created their own distinctive sounds. Nektar, formed in Germany by four Englishmen, is one such band. Although Nektar achieved some American success during the mid-'70s, the band sees a significant portion of its discography released in the United States for the first time on The Dream Nebula. The material from Nektar's earliest albums are the highlights of the collection. On tracks like "Astronaut's Nightmare" and "Warp Oversight/The Dream Nebula," the band conjures up images of floating through outer space. On the former, the chunky guitar chords, doom-laden organ, and phased vocals suggest a cold and lonely trip through vast cosmos, while the latter's funkier bassline evokes a more pleasant jaunt through space. "It's All In My Mind" features some fine guitar work and dynamics. Although Nektar's controls aren't set for the heart of the sun, the band is traveling in a harder-rocking parallel universe to Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd.
"Do You Believe In Magic" signaled a change in direction for the band. This attempt at a hit single featured crisper production as well as cloying lyrics and banal chorus. Although that song stands out as the weakest track, Nektar subsequently deemphasized the abstract, spacy elements that initially made its music distinctive. It is unfortunate that The Dream Nebula is weighted down with mediocre material. At its peak, Nektar was capable of powerful music that ranks among the best progressive rock.