Label – Harvest
Produced by Ian McLintock
Many Rock fans from the 70s regard singer/guitarist Bill Nelson as an unsung virtuoso. His skills are undeniable, with a speed and dexterity of fret board work that leaves this reviewer frankly, staggered. The major difficulty he and his band Be Bop Deluxe would endure throughout their career was one of identity, or rather changing identities. Never fixed to one genre of music, they would flit from glam rock, to Bowie like cock rock, to heavy rock, and at times even jazz rock. Their 1974 debut “Axe Victim” is a perfect example of a band attempting to find a niche, and one only has to look at both the front and back cover to realize there’s a struggle to clearly identify themselves. A skull and electric guitar adorn the front cover, whilst the back cover shows the band as a bunch of high heeled heavily made up Ziggy clones. In fact one can tell that Bowie is such an influence that at least two songs from the album, “Axe Victim” and “Third Floor Heaven” could have been mistaken for the mythical “Spiders From Mars” outtakes.
It’s a shame that some of the influences are so transparent, because amongst the clones and experiments, there really are some top rock songs. “Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus” is superb early English experimental rock; dreamy, fresh and superbly performed with a killer hook. “Rocket Cathedrals”, “Jets At Dawn”, and “No Trains To Heaven” also work well. Just to express how much Be Bop Deluxe is a vehicle for Nelson’s talents, the Lead guitar and vocal tracks seem to be recorded at least a few decibels louder than the backing, and that’s perfectly acceptable for his instrumental work, but his voice can sound thin and wearing after repeated listening. There are certain tracks where the fashion for long solos’ and over indulgence deter the listener and this is highlighted by “Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape” which could have been a more memorable experience without the 2 minute solo.
Nelson would sack his band after the release of “Axe Victim”, restart with a new band and go on to record his best 2 albums of Be Bop Deluxe’s career. This is a fine debut, but without the heavy influences it could have been so much better.
A1 Axe Victim
A2 Love Is Swift Arrows
A3 Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus
A4 Third Floor Heaven
A5 Night Creatures
B1 Rocket Cathedrals
B2 Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
B3 Jets at Dawn
B4 No Trains to Heaven
B5 Darkness (L’immoraliste)
Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus