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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I first discovered Be Bop Deluxe through their Sunburst Finish album, which I think is a really excellent example of 70's glam rock. I was intrigued, so I decided to give Axe Victim a try, but found myself a bit disappointed by it.

Nelson's guitar playing is certainly impressive and has a very unique style, but with the exception of the final track, No Trains To Heaven, the songs lack hooks, and I find them difficult to remember even a few minutes after having heard them.

This album sounds like a band in its infancy, struggling to find a voice and establish its identity, a feat which they would accomplish admirably later in their career. I would recommend starting with one of the later albums and only giving this a go if you really love what you hear.

Report this review (#112050)
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "We hoped you'd lend an ear, you hoped we'd dress like tarts"

"Axe victim" was the first album recorded in the name of Be Bop Deluxe, who were in reality a band in name only. The story of Be Bop Deluxe is actually the story of vocalist and guitarist Bill Nelson. This would be proved to be the case immediately after this 1974 release, the line up which made it being completely disbanded.

The first challenge here is to decipher the conflicting messages of the sleeve. On the front we have a rather gruesome skull bodied guitar image, on the back and inside we have a make up covered quartet of glam rockers. It appears Nelson and the boys wanted to make quality music while appealing to followers of the current pop trends, hence the lyric quoted above, taken from the opening title track. That song has a Mott the Hoople like feel from around the time of their interaction with David Bowie. Nelson takes little time to display his guitar prowess, but stays short of indulging in any long virtuoso solos.

"Love is swift arrows" is heavily pop based in a Talking Heads or Cockney Rebel sort of way, the slightly distorted and heavily accented vocals being backed by a predominantly acoustic arrangement. Nelson adds a fine lead guitar solo which Wishbone Ash would have been proud of though. The song segues into "Jet silver and the dolls of Venus", a Bowie-esque flight of space fantasy. There is a distinctly retro-pop feel here which is pleasant but far from demanding.

"Third floor heaven" is another Bowie like androgynous tale of perversion which moves closer to punk territories. Side one closes with "Night creatures" where Nelson's apparent fascination with glam cross dressing is now bordering on obsession. Here he tries even harder to sound like Bowie, the song sounding like an out-take from "Ziggy Stardust".

"Rocket cathedrals" is the only song on the album not written by Bill Nelson, bassist Rob Bryan stepping forward to sing lead vocal on his own song. The most upbeat song on the album, this straightforward rock number is actually the best pointer towards future BBD albums such as "Sunburst finish". Nelson slows things down for "Adventures in a Yorkshire landscape", a nicely descriptive picture of a rural setting.

At over 7 minutes, "Jets at dawn" is the longest track on the album. It is essentially a melodic pop ballad with pleasant harmonies and a fine vocal performance by Nelson. The centre point though is one of Nelson's superb guitar solos. It really is a pity that on this album his guitar talents are not exploited further as his playing is superb both technically and tonally.

Another reasonably long track, "No trains to heaven" follows. The song is somewhat less impressive than its predecessor though, being a rather disjointed Wishbone Ash like workout. The album closes with "Darkness (L'immoraliste)" an unusually dark song with angelic choir voices and an orchestral arrangement.

In all, a decent first album which features a good diversity of songs. The Bowie similarities can be distracting, but there is no doubting Bill Nelson's excellence on guitar.

Report this review (#135572)
Posted Friday, August 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Axe Victim" is the debut full-length studio album by UK rock act Be Bop Deluxe. The album was released through Harvest Records in June 1974. Be Bop Deluxe was formed by lead vocalist/guitarist William Nelson in 1972 and this first incarcation of the band was dissolved by Nelson after the tour supporting "Axe Victim". Nelson would form a new lineup before recording the sophomore studio album.

Stylistically the material on the ten tracks, 43:20 minutes long album is a 60s UK blues rock influenced rock style with nods towards contemporary glam rock. Im hearing a lot of David Bowie influences throughout the album, and Nelson has a voice and vocal style which is arguably in that ballpark. The greatest asset of "Axe Victim" other than the vocals and the well playing rhythm section, is without a doubt the varied and creative guitar playing (both rhythm and lead). Nelson is the star of this album and hes audibly a very gifted guitarist.

The songwriting is decent and the songs are relatively memorable and definitely enjoyable while they play, but its not an album you remember much from after it has ended. Its all packed in an organic, powerful, and detailed sound production (courtesy of producer Ian McLintock) and upon conclusion "Axe Victim" is a pretty strong debut album from Be Bop Deluxe. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#158591)
Posted Monday, January 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars It has been quite a while that I didn't listen to Be Bop Deluxe and it waswith real pleasure that I re- discovered this debut album which can be seen as a mix between 10 CC (Axe Victim) and Bowie during Love Is Swift Arrows (and a few other songs as well). These tracks are a great mix of some decadence and glam. Two very good songs.

The album is a pleasant journey through these mid seventies sounds and it combines straight pop-rock (Jet Silver And The Dolls) and mostly glam. When you listen to Third Floor Heaven, it is undeniable that Ziggy Stardust is not far away. But it is such a pleasure to listen to this track. I wonder why.

The middle part of the album is less catchy; songs are too conventional. It picks up again thanks to a very good guitar work during Adventures In A Yorksh. This part sounds almost as a Santana one (I'm not kidding). Great job from William Nelson.

The long Jets As Dawn is a little tired until the final and great guitar part again. This time, it is really close to some of the best moments of Rock & Roll Animal (from dear old Lou), one of the best live album of all time in which guitars have a significant role.

William Nelson plays the crooner during the closing Darkness which is a fine way to end this good debut album. Nothing prog at all, but a good rock album. From the three bonus tracks available on the last CD issue, there are three live tracks featured (all recorded in 1977): while the bluesy Piece Of Mine is dispensable both Mill Street Junction and the excellent Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape are worth a listen. On the latter, the guitar play is really phenomenal.

Their leader (Nelson) will sack all the band members after this debut (sounds familar, remember what happened to The Spiders From The Mars...

Seven out of ten for this good debut album. Three stars.

Report this review (#183652)
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars In my ongoing effort to familiarize myself with a wider assortment of prog and prog-related entities, especially the ones I missed along my plodding way through the decades, I have come (via no particular method) to Be-Bop Deluxe. All I've ever known about them was surface deep due to seeing their album covers in the record store but I never went the next step by purchasing their wares and putting needle to vinyl groove. Recently I gave their debut disc, "Axe Victim," a few spins and I can't say that I expected what I heard or that I had any preconceived notion about what I expected to hear from them in the first place. What I certainly didn't anticipate was how dated the material would be and how thin the production would turn out.

They begin with the album's namesake song and right off the bat the influence David Bowie exerted on them is quite evident but they do stop short of outright plagiarism. Glam rock was all the rage at the time so I can't say I was shocked by it. Band mastermind Bill Nelson's heavy, blues-oriented guitar playing is dominant but he does add a progressive slant to most of his tunes' structures as evidenced on this particular number by his incorporating frequent tempo changes. "Love is Swift Arrows" is a perky little ditty but the drums are very dry and flat, giving the track a minimalist texture that I don't find attractive. In a way it's kind of a throwback to the freewheeling let's-run-through-the-song-a-few-times-and-then-turn-on-the-tape-machine-to-see-what-happens Hippie music that abounded on the west coast in the late 60s. It abruptly segues into "Jet Silver and the Dolls," a Ziggy Stardust knockoff that sports an uncomfortably loose motif. There's a distinct "art rock" vibe emanating from their attitude in that they don't seem to be all that concerned with finesse or tightness. Next is "Third Floor Heaven" and by now I sense that they're cultivating a palpable 70s "underground chic" countenance in delivering their product. I don't mind that per se but one big drawback is a lack of variety in the instruments they utilize and, for that matter, the overall repetitious tone of the proceedings. "Night Creatures" follows and, as if they heard my gripe, this one has a modicum of depth that broadens the song's scope appreciably. It's not what I'd call a great number but it's the best of the bunch so far. Bassist Robert Bryan not only contributes the sole non-Nelson composition with "Rocket Cathedrals" but sings it, as well. For this one they toss in an odd opening sequence but it leads to yet another Bowie-ish rocker that's predictably predictable. I guess you could say they know what they like and they like what they know.

"Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" is a slower paced semi-ballad and I can't tell if Bill is just being British or trendily androgynous in his vocalization but his style is assuredly "affected" for better or for worse. Unfortunately he sticks with the same guitar rig settings cut after cut and it begins to grow tiresome. "Jets at Dawn" features some obligatory birds chirping and dogs barking with a plane taking off overhead and then they slip into more of the same post-psychedelic mishmash that characterizes their craft and is making them come off like a one-trick pony. The guitar-heavy jam that commands the middle-to-finish portion may have been designed to be non-conformist but it lacks true focus. "No Trains to Heaven" is next and it seems they're committed to staying in their comfort zone even if the tunes are starting to be indistinguishable from one to another. It's as if they had aspirations to be the English incarnation of Grand Funk Railroad. "Darkness (L'Immoraliste)" follows and I was very glad to hear a piano and a string section in the mix for a change. It projects an overly dramatic mien but at least it gives the impression that they were willing to stretch their horizons ever so slightly. The last three tracks are live recordings from 1977 when the band toured with a revamped lineup. On "Piece of Mine" Andrew Clark's electric piano helps to fill out their ambient presence greatly. Listening to this tune I get the feeling they would've been right at home performing on a flatbed truck in a San Francisco park during the summer of love. That they have an instantly identifiable aura is not in question but too often on songs like "Mill Street Junction" the composition and arrangement is nothing more than a vehicle for Nelson to play a guitar lead. However, their in-concert rendition of "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" is excellent. Clark's piano lays down a jazzy foundation and the onstage atmosphere they establish is much more enjoyable compared to what their studio work emitted. This is the finest cut on the record because Bill's guitar solo is passionate and highly moving while Andrew's electric piano ride is cool and classy.

Due to its amateurish nature I was all ready to give this album a high one-star rating but the three bonus tracks that were included on this reissued CD made me think that they were on their way to creating something much better. "Axe Victim" came out in '74 and afterwards Nelson completely overhauled the personnel before the next go-round in the studio so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and up my rating accordingly for showing potential. While I don't consider this disc anything special whatsoever I'll grade them on the curve and hope I'm pleasantly surprised by what came after. 2 stars.

Report this review (#1108034)
Posted Sunday, January 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Axe Victim (1974), Bill Nelson's first album with Be-Bop Deluxe, uneasily mixes glam posturing with the beatific, late-psychedelic Romanticism of Nelson's charming solo debut, Northern Dream (1973). It has dumb songs and terrific songs, and it's a lot of fun, though it seems achingly affected, a sort of arch put-on designed to make Nelson's art rock more sellable.

Side 1 leans into the luridness of glam, with the usual reflexive cynicism about rock stardom (think Ziggy Stardust) and some lyrical nastiness that seems, in hindsight, affected and shallow. Thankfully, Side 2 uncorks Nelson's wide- eyed lyricism with the lovely "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape," a hypnotic paean to his native region: a downtempo ballad in strumming 6/8 that mostly amounts to a gorgeous solo. There's also the draggy, bittersweet postwar reverie, "Jets at Dawn," another navel-gazing ballad and beautiful guitar workout. The climax is "No Trains to Heaven," a longwinded, anthemic rocker that swipes at religious dogma (there's no martyrs and no kings, because the kingdom lies within) before dissolving into a flurry of, again, solos. It's epic boogie: overegged, overwrought, and crude by the standards of later Be-Bop. I've always liked it.

The playing throughout the album is virtuosic and flashy, at least from Nelson, who seems determined to earn a guitar hero badge through sheer overkill. The rest of the band is serviceable. The mood, meanwhile, seesaws between hard-bitten, swaggering decadence and a dreamy, contemplative vibe that honestly seems more like the real Nelson. A tuneful single, "Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus," strives to patch those two moods together. Its title may be stenciled from Ziggy, but its vibe is more rapturous than decadent; it's less like Bowie's louche rock 'n' roll anthem and more like a dispatch from some vintage SF mag of the Raygun Gothic era (the music comes out across the heavens, to a listener robed in space). Hinting at the retrofuturism that has since become Nelson's trademark, "Jet Silver" may be the only number here that is fast, catchy, but also personal.

Of the nastier numbers, the album's title track and opener is best. In true glam fashion, "Axe Victim" casts a cold eye on its own rockstar heroics and on rock fandom: You came to watch the band / To see us play our parts / We hoped you'd lend an ear / You'd hoped we'd dress like tarts. This sort of biting-the-hand-that-feeds will show up in later Be-Bop numbers too, like "Stage Whispers" and "Fair Exchange," and may be the one thing about glam that really spoke to Nelson: unease about the whole damn business. The song grinds gears awkwardly between verse and chorus, charging in but then downshifting at the refrain, all to make room for Nelson's skirling guitar fills. The final solo is a corker, the sort of thing that aspiring guitarists study. Quite a way to start an album. The remainder of Side 1, barring "Jet Silver," is not so good; as I've said, Side 2 is really where it's at.

I do enjoy listening to the whole album at a stretch, but I think I've already named all the songs that are good. The rest are a bit duff. "Third Floor Heaven," a leering song about sex work, is propulsive and riffy in a Mick Ronson sort of way, yet also mean-spirited and crass. "Love Is Swift Arrows" is better, yet still one I tend to forget. Fast, tangled, and prolix, it's a hint of better, tighter rockers to come. The trifling "Rocket Cathedral," the only number written by anyone other than Nelson, is frantic and boasts an arpeggiating guitar bit that Nelson would soon put to better use in "Maid in Heaven." Two songs stand out as especially overripe: "Night Creatures," another flirtation with decadence, evokes a shadowy glam demimonde, but it's no patch on "Walk on the Wild Side." It screams Hunky Dory, but with more cheese. Cheesier still is the final track, "Darkness (L'immoraliste)," a rank ballad that nods to Andre Gide. This one is gussied up with strings and choir in an earnest, artsy way. Perhaps Nelson thought that it would end the album with a big, sincere statement (his love of darkness, we're told, is no fashionable disguise, i.e. no mere glam pose). It's absurd, but I love its pompousness. That is, I don't think it's good, but I wouldn't want the album to be without it. Actually, that applies to most everything here.

On balance, Axe Victim sounds like the work of a self-conscious young genius trying to exercise his guitar, build a band, and at the same time ride the coattails of an already shopworn fad. Be-Bop's wannabe glam was Nelson's ticket into the mainstream, but my guess is that he was less interested in the rock 'n' roll throwback appeal of glam at its dirtiest and more interested in soaring, Romantic art song (though with an air of glamor and sexiness). His interest in literary Decadence was genuine enough, but he couldn't pull off sleaze convincingly, and was a bit shy of the shamelessness needed to sell a glam persona. Nelson, as I understand him, was ambitious and fussy and needed a better, sharper band to support his obsessive sound painting. Hence the sacking of this early lineup after this one album and the recruiting of a whole new Be-Bop.

Be-Bop Mark 2 turned out to be much better. Still, Axe Victim is about one half of an excellent album, and, for me, remains fun to listen to today. I think I prefer Nelson's Northern Dream, for all its naivete and clumsiness, but Axe Victim was a fair bid for stardom and a grand first stunt.

Report this review (#2991255)
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2024 | Review Permalink

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