Notes from the edge – be-bop deluxe drastic plastic

Following their recent remasters series of Be Bop Deluxe studio albums, Esoteric finish their series off with this epic remaster of the bands final studio album 1978’s Drastic Plastic.

Released in a definitive edition 6 Disc boxed set containing two DVDs (one of which is the album remixed into stunning 5.1 sound & one disc of archive footage from the album recording sessions in the south of France and a complete BBC TV Sight and Sound concert) plus 4 discs which include the original stereo mix, the new stereo re-mix, a whole disc of unreleased demos and the live audios of both the Sight and Sound concert and 4 John Peel sessions from 1978.

Also reissued on vinyl and a 2CD expanded set which includes the new and original mix, single A&B sides, plus additional tracks recorded for a planned EP, so you can choose how much you want to immerse yourself in the album.

With plenty here for fans of the band, this final release in the album series renders the previous Be-Bop Deluxe Live at the BBC 3 Disc set redundant, and in its 6-disc box, complete with contemporaneous tour brochures, publicity photos and incredibly in-depth sleeve notes by Bill Nelson, can join the other boxes on the shelf.

As ever, with archive releases like this, Esoteric have again gone all out, and there’s no let up in quality of either the material or the packaging, and the price of the limited edition 6-disc box is worth it alone for the 5.1 mix which really brings the album to life, and the additional disc of Bill Nelsons demos which are a fascinating insight into how the album was created and developed.

The sleeve notes, which are reproduced in full in the booklet for the two-disc edition, are illuminating and show that Bill, as ever the restless innovator was wanting to move further afield from the work he was doing with Be-Bop Deluxe (and I hope that next in the series of Bill Nelson related remasters Esoteric have Red Noise firmly in their sights) and that is also reflected in the sound on Drastic Plastic.

Decamped to the South of France, in a region synonymous with Jean Cocteau, who Bill was heavily influenced by (again the videos in the boxed set show the band at work and at play and are a wonderful document of the period) and with Bills interest in the band waning, they actually pulled together what, in my opinion, is the finest album of their career produced by Bill and John Leckie.

The quartet of Nelson (guitar/vocals) Charlie Tumahai (bass and backing vocals) Andy Clarke (keyboards and synthesizers) and Simon Fox (drums and loops) had been together for four years, during which time they’d recorded Futurama, Sunburst Finish (which saw Clarke joint he band) and Modern Music and by the time they’d recorded Drastic Plastic, they were operating as a tight musical unit, having honed their skills in both the studio and live arena, and Bill was getting restless wanting to move forward in a new sound and style.

This is reflected in the music that the quartet made, taking the move away from their prog sounds of earlier albums, and moving firmly towards a more synth dominated new wave sound.

With a stylish Hipgnosis cover, and a clever photo of the band on the back cover, with their heads replaced by TV’s broadcasting pictures of their heads (which Bill had wanted as the cover) this signified the move into a different direction that had been hinted at by Modern Music, and which would come to fruition on the Red Noise album.

Having agreed with management that this would be the final Be-Bop Deluxe album, Bills sleeve notes explain the reasoning behind his decision in great eloquence, it sounds like he decided to bow out on a high, and the material here is as strong and inventive as anything that the band had recorded.

From the opener Electrical Language right through to the closing Islands of the Dead, this is album where its creator has his eyes on the future, and the sound of Panic in the World, Surreal estate and Love in Flames all showcase the different aspects of the band and where Bills creative vision was headed.

The new stereo mix teases out sounds that modern technology can tweak far better than previous mixes, and enhance the dynamic of the record, whilst the pinnacle of the boxed set is the 5.1 mix.

With the dynamic range and power that 5.1 mixes allow, it really feels like you’re in the room with the band, and it allows the album to envelope you and you find yourself immersed in the power of tracks like Vision of Endless Hopes or the brilliant Islands of the Dead.

With additional studio tracks, B-sides and live material, this really does close this chapter of Bills career, and is a fantastic archive box, as well curated as those mammoth King Crimson boxes, and the inclusion of the sublime 5.1 mix is nothing less that this album deserves.

My only little niggle with boxes of this nature is that the 5.1 mix isn’t included in the two-disc edition, or available as a stand-alone disc, but that’s my only (minor) complaint.

Packaged and remastered for every budget, however you buy it, this is a definitive audio mix of Drastic Plastic, and ensures its legacy continues to endure.

Drastic Plastic and all the other Be-Bop Deluxe remasters are available from:

You searched for be bop deluxe – Cherry Red Records

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