Guitarist/leader Bill Nelson has always had his head in a space that's defined by the 1950s World's Fair idea of the future - a world of monorails and strange machines. This is particularly evident here, with Nelson's affection for Japan competing for space with paeans to electrical communication. At times charming and even romantic, at other times outré, Drastic Plastic marked the end of the band and hinted at Nelson's musical experiments to come.
An epic 100 CD chronological documentation of the history of jazz music from 1898 to 1959, housed in four boxed sets. Each box contains 25 slipcase CDs, a booklet (up to 186 pages) and an index. The booklets contain extensive notes (Eng/Fr) with recording dates and line-ups. 31 hours of music in each box, totalling 1677 tracks Each track has been restored and mastered from original sources.
Recorded live in New York, this explosive set of jazz, funk, and rock material was without question ahead of its time. Michael and Randy's use of electronically altered saxophone and trumpet sounds is amazing.
Originally released on white vinyl as a double set in which one disc was an LP while the other was a 12" EP, Live! In the Air Age is an impressive testament to one of prog rock's more interesting results. Bandleader Bill Nelson is better known for his solo work of the '80s and on, but prior to that he was a burgeoning guitar hero with a blazing style and a talented bunch of players backing him up.
Bebop is the thing on this excellent outing as altoist Charles McPherson and pianist Barry Harris do their interpretations of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. With trumpeter Carmell Jones, bassist Nelson Boyd and drummer Al "Tootie" Heath completing the quintet, the band romps through such bop classics as "Hot House," "Nostalgia," "Wail" and "Si Si" along with an original blues and "Embraceable You." A previously unissued "If I Love You" is added to the CD reissue. McPherson and Jones make for a potent frontline on these spirited performances, easily recommended to fans of straightahead jazz.
Things had changed for Be Bop Deluxe by the time of the group's fourth album. The band that turned up in glam rock regalia on its 1974 debut, Axe Victim, was in suit and tie on the cover of Modern Music in 1976. Inside, the band's transformation into a sophisticated pop group seemed complete. Arrangements were still ornate, but the songs were dominated by their highly imagistic lyrics, and as often as not, Nelson was borrowing ideas from the Beatles. It didn't quite work, despite pleasant numbers such as "Orphans of Babylon" and "Kiss of Light," perhaps because a true pop sensibility requires a gift for simplicity that Nelson has never exhibited. The album charted high in England and made the Top 100 in the U.S., but it was Be Bop's peak, not its breakthrough.
Adding keyboard player Andrew Clark to make Be Bop Deluxe a quartet, Bill Nelson finally found a balance between his virtuosic guitar playing and the demands of pop songwriting. The arrangements were still busy, but the humor of Nelson's music was on display as never before, and the songs frequently were catchy. For the first time, it began to seem that the group had a future beyond serving as a foundation for Nelson's splashy guitar work, as Be Bop Deluxe charted in the U.S. and the U.K. and even scored a Top 25 British hit with "Ships in the Night.
The original version of Futurama was a little weak on songwriting content, though long on virtuoso music passages. This expanded reissue is a partial improvement, though not because it addresses those problems; rather, it's just got more of something different, in this case the more commercial (and quite beautiful) single version of "Between the Worlds," plus a scintillating live version of "Maid in Heaven," and the achingly lyrical "Speed of the Wind" – the latter shows off the more reflective side of this band and progressive rock in general, of a piece with King Crimson's "Book of Saturday," and emphasizing their gentler approach to singing and playing. The sound throughout is excellent, and the annotation is reasonably thorough as well.
When Be Bop Deluxe's first album was released during the glam rock wave in 1974 and the band (then comprised of Bill Nelson and Ian Parkin on guitars, Robert Bryan on bass, and Nicholas Chatterton-Dew on drums) turned up on the back of the record cover in heavy makeup, it was viewed as being in the David Bowie mold, which certainly took in Nelson's thin but confident tenor vocals and the uptempo rock approach, and even ballads like "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" that sounded a lot like Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide."