Be-Bop Deluxe: Axe Victim (1974)

Be-Bop Deluxe (or Be Bop Deluxe; at some point they dropped the hyphen) were a 70s glam/prog band, and while I won't claim to be a huge fan, I discovered them a few years ago and enjoy them quite a bit.  I find a collection of album highlights is sufficient, though 1974's debut Axe Victim is probably the one I like most on the whole.

The most obvious aspect of the band on first listen is the eerie similarity between frontman Bill Nelson's vocals and those of a certain Mr. Bowie.  The comparison is all the more unavoidable given that most of the album apes Bowie's early 70s style, Ziggy-like glam rock coupled with the more meandering prog and hard rock leanings of The Man Who Sold The World.  But derivative or not, it doesn't mean it isn't an interesting listen, and several of songs make for a nice mix alongside Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Cockney Rebel (the other clear parallel).

The highlight here is "Third Floor Heaven," a short, punchy single that, seriously, may as well be a Ziggy Stardust outtake; but Bowie affectations aside, it's a great song in its own right, one surprisingly overlooked by the classic rock canon.  "Love Is Swift Arrows" is another catchy, concise tune (despite Nelson's references to "rock and roll Superman" inviting the Bowie comparisons he supposedly spurned).  "Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus" is more operatic, the band's own "All The Young Dudes." "Rocket Cathedrals" is fun and poppy, an upbeat guitar romp a little lighter than some of the album's more portentous tunes while hewing to the whole sci fi vibe.  And the opening title track is pretty good, a little more ponderous, hinting at their future, more expansive prog leanings but still tuneful.

Nelson apparently grew annoyed with the Bowie comparisons, broke up the band, and reformed it with new players, recording several albums which were less glam and more prog/experimental, while still managing a few catchier, pop-friendly numbers per album. ("Maid in Heaven" from the 1975 follow-up Futurama may be the easiest intro to the band.)

My biggest gripe with the band is that the original CDs sounded a little murky, detracting from the music.  Cherry Red Records has been on a reissue tear, re-releasing the albums with both remastered sound (hewing to the original mixes with a bit more clarity) as well as alternative versions that more dramatically upgrade the mixes, making them much more dynamic and contemporary sounding (I greatly prefer the new versions).  Alas, they haven't gotten to Axe Victim yet, and some of the packages are costly (they include lots of bonus live material which will only be of interest to diehards), but most are streaming on Spotify.

Here's a "Third Floor Heaven" audio rip:
...and a video for "Jet Silver":