Nelson’s complete studio output with his 70s band Be Bop Deluxe was reissued in a five-disc set last year, but this more expansive box presents a breathtakingly full picture of what he got up to over the next three decades. There’s also a reminder of Nelson’s beginnings, however, in the form of a quartet of largely acoustic folky tracks from his 1971 debut, Northern Dream.
There’s still space for a (by comparison) relatively short recap of BBD, including three previously unavailable audition demos the band recorded for Decca prior to signing to Harvest, before we get to the real meat of the set: a dazzling, dizzying trip through years of solo experimentation, ambient soundscapes, an occasional return to the more straight-forward rock shapes of his former group, and plenty of extraordinary guitar playing.
Nelson’s creative restlessness manifests itself in myriad musical voyages (he even dabbles in drum’n’bass on 1996’s After The Satellite Sings), recording for the most part in his home studio to his own deadlines. Such freedom without label interference may occasionally result in meandering projects with less focus, but the breadth of ideas, cherry-picked from more than two dozen albums, means the next sonic “eureka!” moment is never too far away.