Be-Bop Deluxe's Axe Victim box set is lavish and charmingly overblown

Lavish reissue for Bill Nelson and Be-Bop Deluxe's ambitious art-glam debut Axe Victim

Be-Bop Deluxe: Axe Victim box set
(Image: © Esoteric)

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A schizoid sprawl of glammed-up histrionics, prog, blues and rustic folk-rock rumination, Bill Nelson’s 1974 debut under his Be-Bop Deluxe alias was a bold but unfocused opening statement. Ziggy-era Bowie plainly looms large over swashbuckling numbers like the menacingly camp title track and Third Floor Heaven, while Darkness (L’Immoraliste) is a gloriously pretentious blast of orchestral prog. 

This lavish multi-format reissue features a full duplicate copy of the album, newly remastered in 5.1 surround-sound stereo, adding pleasing depth and shine to several tracks including a sumptuously extended 10-minute version of sci-fi social-realist epic Jets At Dawn. The limited-edition four-disc box set also includes two John Peel sessions from 1973 and 1974, one previously unreleased. 

Prefixed by Peel’s own wry introductions, the lost tracks are mostly non-essential footnotes, anodyne boogie-rockers and wistfully strummed ballads. 

More engaging are Nelson’s Decca Records demos, also making their public debut, which include a spangled, lusty take on Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape. That track returns in agreeably crisp acoustic form in the second Peel session, alongside the lovely, crystalline folk-pop reverie 15th Of July

Irked by the Bowie comparisons, Nelson dissolved and reconfigured Be-Bop Deluxe soon afterwards. But nowadays Axe Victim’s glam elements denote charmingly overblown 1970s art-rock attitude rather than impudent mimicry.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.