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Bill Nelson

My Secret Studio (Vol. 1)

Review by Gary Hill
This collection is literally made up of studio sketches. Bill Nelson spent a period of several years working on song ideas for a band he was looking to assemble. The band never happened, but he eventually went through the tapes and chose these songs to release. When I say that these are studio sketches, that's because Nelson calls them that. To the real world, these are finished songs. There is a lot of great stuff here. Nelson's sound is hard to categorize, but it's the kind of thing you'd get it if you combined 80s music with the music of King Crimson during that period along with some psychedelia and David Bowie. Whatever you call it, this four disc set has some great stuff.
 
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc: 1 Buddah Head

                 
My Philosophy

This starts with a dramatic, textural approach. It forces out from there into some fast paced, hard rocking stuff with a real modern prog element at play. This has an 80s music edge to it.

Killing My Desires
The start of this reminds me of the psychedelia of Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle." The cut shifts to more of a David Bowie goes proggy texture. It's a catchy and effective piece of music. The second coming of the tune (after a drop down toward a false ending) is a reprise that's even more proggy.
Buddha Head
The title track of the first disc comes in electronic and trippy. Space rock seems to blend with world music at times here. Yet there is an accessible, 80s styled texture here, too.
The Way
Merge an 80s King Crimson sound with some of the more pop oriented music of that time period. There is a bit of a David Bowie edge to some of the vocals. I suppose Brian Eno would be a valid reference in some ways, too.
Big River
Jazz, 80s music and David Bowie seem to collide here. Yet, there is a trippy kind of drugged out vibe to this, too.
Karma Kisses
This isn't a huge change. It brings an electronic 80s edge to a rocking, rather psychedelic texture. Again there are things that make me think of Bowie.
We Will Rise
The opening on this makes me think of the psychedelic era of The Beatles. As it works out, this has a great blending of the 80s textures with a psychedelic prog element. There are hints of Bowie here, too.
Signs and Signals
While there are some instrumental things that bring a bit of a King Crimson like texture, overall this is more like INXS merged with David Bowie. The instrumental bits really shine, though. In fact, the instrumental section later is particularly King Crimson-like.
Lotus in the Stream
David Bowie merges with an electronic prog meets psychedelic sound here. This is one of the cooler cuts of the disc.
Enlightenment
The Bowie meets prog thing is the order of business here. The guitar really shines all over the arrangement of this cut.
Eternally
This is more directly related to 80s music, but there are still some proggy elements over the top of it. It's solid and the among the most straightforward and accessible cuts of the disc.
Duality
This is much more of a pure prog thing. Yet, the hooks still land in 80s pop rock territory. Still, the guitar that dances over the top of this is both on fire and particularly prog rock oriented.
Perfect World
There is no big change here. That said, there is some particularly pretty guitar work here, lending a mellower texture to it. Beyond that the same prog meets 80s rock and Bowie concept is heard here. This just gets an infusion of acoustic guitar soloing.
The Heart Has Its Reasons
This is very much a trippy, slow moving number. It's quite electronic and dark.
Sun Will Rise
There are no big changes here. It's a fast paced cut that's sort of what you would expect. That said, it's a compelling tune.
The Big Illumination
A more energized rocker, this is a bit more bombastic. It has some great guitar sounds.
Life As We Know It
This cut is a killer, tastefully off-kilter prog rocker that's so cool.
Disc: 2 Electricity Made Us Angels
                 

 

Begin to Burn

A mellower kind of electronic sound stars this, but it works out to more rocking stuff from there. I love the hard edge and the prog elements that are heard over the top of this.

Heavens Happy Hemisphere
Mellower and more dreamy, this is another classy tune.
God in Her Eyes
Harder edged, sounds like King Crimson and Djam Karet are both incorporated into this rocker, but it's more like David Bowie in a lot of ways.
Float Away
I dig the trippy kind of vibe to this song. It has a bit of a jazzy edge to it, too. I like the mix of those sounds with 80s music on this thing.
Big Blue Day
I dig the energy on this piece. It's not a huge change, though. There is some cool guitar built into it for sure.
Sweet Is the Mystery
This has a great psychedelic element including some backwards tracking as it comes into being. It works to a cool slow moving number from there. This is part psychedelia and part 80s music with a prog edge to it.
If Wishes Were Horses
There is is more backwards tracking at the beginning of this cut. It grows outward with a cool psychedelic edge. It's dreamy and reflective.
Fair Winds and Flying Boats
This cut is more of a fun, bouncy number. The guitar work on it brings both some psychedelia and prog. There are some decidedly prog changes, too.
Ocean Over Blue
The guitar soloing on this is particularly tasty. The cut has a real 80s music kind of vibe to it.
River of Love
There is a cool rhythmic groove to this cut. The guitar brings a bit of a jazzy edge at times. The vocals have a David Bowie feel to them. This is an intriguing cut that manages to stand out among all the competition.
This Is Destiny

I love the guitar that dances all over the top of this. It's a triumphant sounding rocker that works so well.

Wonders Never Cease
This cut is not bad. It's just not a standout. It's more of the same, really. It's kind of dreamy sort of slow moving Bowie like number.
Nothing Yet
There is almost a Pink Floyd vibe to this one. Still, it's similar to some of the rest at the same time. That, in itself, brings a new air to this set. It's a standout piece.
God Thundered By

I love the guitar soloing on this one. There is a bit of a Pink Floyd like element here, too.

She Sends Me
This is a short and rather dreamy bit of electronic based music.
Disc: 3 Deep Dream Decoder
                  

 

Things to Come

Trippy ambient sounds open this. As it shifts toward more rocking territory it rises up to psychedelic territory. The song proper is essentially a space rock meets psychedelic and prog number. This is one of my favorites from the whole set. It's just so classy.

God Bless Me
Although this is more 80s based, I love the killer guitar on this thing. It makes me think of a psychedelic rock version of 1980s King Crimson.
Rise...(Above These Things)
The guitar brings some prog to the table here as it creates melodies and crunch all over this number. Beyond that, the song feels like a cross between 80s music and David Bowie.
Snowing Outside
There is some backwards tracked stuff on this piece. The music lands closer to psychedelic rock, but there are still 80s pop rock elements at play here.
It's All True
Perhaps more purely 80s based, I love the energy and vibe on this one. It's a fun tune. The guitar still brings some prog to it.
A Head Full of Lights and a Hat Full of Haloes
Backwards tracking and other elements create a tapestry that's part prog rock and part psychedelic. This has some hints of things like Hawkwind at times. It's a cool tune and one of the highlights of the set.
The Girls I've Loved
A bit jazzy, this is mid-tempo and rather moody. It's somewhat electronic and all cool.
Amazing Things
Tastefully odd, this is energetic and rather fun. There are hints of Robert Calvert in some ways. It's strangely electronic.
Deep Dream Decoder
This is a dynamic and diverse cut. It comes in with a more straightforward rock based sound. Mid-track it gets some jazzy kind of space rock infused. Then it drops to trippy music from there. There really is a dreamy quality to it as it works its way forward. It moves to more psychedelic rock for a bit, but then drops back to mellower dreamy stuff after that. That segment eventually takes it to the end.
Dissolve

Mid-tempo 80s rock inspired music that's more or less mellower space rock is the idea here. There are some Bowie elements here, and this does rock a bit more later.

Year 44 (The Birthday Song)
The guitar that soars above this at the start is purely proggy. The cut works from there more 80s based stuff but has some crunch at points and almost symphonic elements at other times. There is a psychedelic edge to it.
Wing and a Prayer
There is almost a funky groove to this piece. Yet the 80s sounds along with some rather spacey prog are also included in the mix.
Dreamnoise and Angel
Space rock, quirky King Crimson and David Bowie all seem to merge on this thing.
Tired Eyes
I love the guitar that paints the outer edges of this piece. This number is another standout track. It has a lot of psychedelia merged with more modern things. I can make out some of that 80s King Crimson reference point, too. All in all, this is rather dreamy and very effective.
Golden Girl
This is quite percussive. The vocals make me think of Bowie. The music, though, is stranger and yet catchy. The guitar is expressive and potent.
The Spark
A bit on the noisier side, the Bowie element is pretty strong here. In some ways this reminds me of Bowie's band Tin Machine.
Disc: 4 Jukebox for Jet Boy
                      

She's So Extreme

Driving and oddly catchy, there is both jazz and hard-edged prog laced all over this. It's another standout.

On a Train I Never Boarded
I can hear a lot of 80s King Crimson in the mix here. Yet there is also plenty of those David Bowie and 80s pop rock sounds in this.
Sail Away
The percussion is really busy here. This is an energetic number that's quite cool.
Only Dreaming
Now, this is a strange one. It has a real reggae, island kind of vibe to it. The sound is old school in terms of almost world music. Yet there are bits here that included progressive rock and other things.
Swing with the Rhythm Boys
This rocker has a lot of electronic and atmospheric stuff over the top. The break mid-track is purely prog rock.
The King and Queen of Now or Never
Some backwards tracked stuff brings this in with some serious psychedelia. The cut works forward from there a more song-based element. Yet the icing on the cake still brings more of that psychedelia to bear.
Hold on to Your Heart
A mellower, mid-tempo piece, the prog on this is definite, but the piece is more pop oriented in a lot of ways.
Turn Me Over

There is a lot of King Crimson in this rocker. It is a tastefully strange rocker.

Run Away
This is very strange and very cool. There are things here that make me think of Rabin era Yes, but this is also much stranger. It has a lot of trappings of the kind of stuff that's a big part of modern prog. As odd as this is, it works really well.
It's Always Maybe
There is more of that Rabin sound here along with some funk and Bowie and more.
Dream Up, Billy
A higher energy proggy rocker, this has some killer stuff. There are things here that make me think of Pink Floyd, but other sounds that hint at Rabin Yes. There are Bowie elements, too.
All You Need to Know
Energized, prog meets space rock and more on this catchy rocker.
Warm and Wonderful
With some backwards tracking over the top, this is a catchy rocker.
A Thing About That
There is a lot of psychedelic rock built into this. It's a classy tune.
No Fool for You
A hard rocking number, this is catchy and very cool. It's one of the most mainstream things here.
Living for Today
I love the guitar that works its way around this arrangement. This is a cool rocker in so many ways. It has a definite psychedelic edge, but is also proggy.
Birds in Blue Sky Again
There is a cool groove to this. The music has plenty of modern prog along with psychedelia on display. This is energetic and a lot of fun. It's one of the standouts.

 

 
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