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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)

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.