August 18, 2015

Bill Nelson - Getting The Holy Ghost Across, 1986

Bill Nelson's body of work is daunting, to say the least. In addition to his 139 releases, his work as a founding member of the legendary Be Bop Deluxe, collaborations with David Sylvian, Harold Budd, Masami Tsuchiya, and many others, his name is constantly popping up in liner notes and album credits. Over the course of 44 years, he's made a name for himself as one of the UK's most singular and prolific musicians. Picking an album of his to share was tough, especially since I haven't spent time with most of them.

Getting the Holy Ghost Across has a confusing history: it was released in the UK on several different formats with many different track listings ranging from 10 to 18 tracks. Its subsequent US release was clouded by concern over "occult symbolism," so the title was changed to On A Blue Wing, the album cover was changed, and a good deal of the music was cut altogether. (These fears weren't completely unfounded, as Nelson had a longstanding interest in Occultism and Gnosticism.) That being said, Getting the Holy Ghost Across (posted here with the track listing from the original cassette release) isn't all that esoteric: a lot of it is terribly catchy jangling new wave, replete with towering synth hooks and restless, occasionally tropical percussion. Vocally, Nelson is up there with Andy McCluskey, Dave Gahan, Tears For Fears, and Other Famous British Guys, which is to say, many of these tracks coulda woulda shoulda been radio hits. Flanked by gorgeous ambient tracks like "Suvasini" and "Pansophia," Bill Nelson wants you to remember that he's still a weirdo genius, and that even though you'll be too busy bobbing your heads to think about the lyrical content, this is still a theological concept record. No complaints here!

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