Bill Nelson’s Red Noise – Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise review

29 06 2022

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise is a new six disc boxed set of the complete recordings made by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise – comprising four CDs and two NTSC/region free DVDs. The boxed set is released by Cherry Red on 26 August 2022.

Bill Nelson’s Red Noise - Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise review

The collection features a newly remastered edition of the album Sound On Sound along with new 5.1 surround sound and new stereo mixes by Stephen W Tayler (Rush, Peter Gabriel, Howard Jones, Kate Bush, Rupert Hine).

Sound on Sound was originally released in February 1979 on Harvest / EMI and spawned the singles Furniture Music and Revolt Into Style. One of my favourite albums from the late 70s, this collection from Cherry Red is the definitive Red Noise release. Disc one comprises an excellent remaster from the original master tapes. It packs more of a punch and has a sonic sparkle missing from previous CD re-issues.

The spikey new wave / drums and guitar of Stay Young sound newly powerful with this remaster. The album delivers a mix of glam / art rock and new wave styles that populated so much good music from 1979, which also happens to be my favourite musical year. Sorry for repeating myself, I know I’ve said that before in this blog.

Feeling at home with the likes of The Stranglers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Skids and Magazine, Sound On Sound is the only album Bill Nelson released with this art-rock spiked with new wave hybrid style. Subsequent releases headed off into a more synth driven style with Quit Dreaming And Get on the Beam (1981), The Love That Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) (1982) and one of my other Bill Nelson favourites, the mini-LP Chimera (1983). Such a rich vein of form.

“Your relatives are white and all your children have record players
They listen to Tom Robinson, the Beatles and the Byrds and Leo Sayer”
A Better Home In The Phantom Zone

Sound On Sound would have still been popular with fans of Be-Bop Deluxe, as the music was a natural evolution, not a cash-in on the popularity of the late 70s new wave acts that were a feature of the charts during this era. Nelson’s guitar work shines through, his solo on The Atom Age remains one of his finest from this period. The arrangements are rich, with new layers and moods rising to the surface throughout the songs, which are short and sharp. Nelson’s pop sensibility remains intact, even though the edges are rougher than what came before.

The original album ends with Art / Empire / Industry, with its delightful Autobahn meets Buzzcocks end section and the song that was my introduction to Red Noise, the classic single Revolt into Style. I’ve still got my treasured 7″ vinyl copy, and it still sounds so like the future.

“And though I know the time is almost 1984
It feels like 1965″

The bonus tracks are not just included to pad out the release. The slower pace of Wonder Toys That Last Forever and Acquitted by Mirrors feels like a bridge between Red Noise and what would come next for Bill Nelson. The urgency displayed in the February 1979 BBC Friday Rock Show session tracks is a delight, and the performances sound fresh and representative of the Red Noise live sound, more of that on the next disc in the boxset.

“Oh, Oh
Here comes the red noise
Absolute a go-go
Wonder toys that last forever”

Disc Two is Red Noise Live At The De Montfort Hall, in Leicester, recorded on 8 March 1979. This previously unreleased live set is a delight, and was originally engineered by John Leckie. The recordings for this disc were mixed from the original 24-track master tapes at Chimera Arts, Box, Wiltshire in March 2022 by Stephen W Tayler. I often find that live albums included in deluxe editions are the discs I rarely return to, but not in this case. The concert is one of the most exciting parts of the boxset. The arrangements and vocals differ enough to bear up to repeated listening. For Young Moderns is a highlight, as is the inclusion of Red Noise’s take on two tracks from Be-Bop Deluxe’s Drastic Plastic album, Possession and Superenigmatix.

Disc Three is where things get really interesting. These new stereo mixes, with all tracks remixed from the original 24-track master tapes in March 2022 by Stephen W Tayler, are an important part of the boxset. Comparing the two mixes, I’ve lived with the original album since 1979, so it is always going to be my preferred version, but these new mixes are wonderful. They are in the main slightly less abrasive and more widescreen, with drums processed more than on the original release and synths / keyboards often pushed to the fore. The difference with tracks such as For Young Moderns is very noticeable. Its almost Be-Bop Deluxe play Red Noise!

Stay Young is a standout of the new stereo mixes, with the bass more prominent, along with the enhanced synth and organ lines. The Atom Age sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday, and the early Roxy Music influence on the album shines bright on this track, more than any other.

I was not so keen on the new mix of Revolt Into Style, which does not hit the mark for me (I don’t like the effects on the drums), but its the only minor mis-step for me of these fresh new mixes. Wonder Toys That Last Forever feels superior to the original mix, with a fuller sound and a great bass upgrade. My Light is a previously unreleased song, recorded for the Sound On Sound album. I can see why it was not included. Its a good song, but would not have fitted with the frenetic pace of the original album. New mixes of Instantly Yours, Ideal Homes and Disposable, tracks recorded at RAK Studios, London during May 1979, are welcome additions and would possibly have formed part of the shelved follow-up to Sound On Sound.

The new mixes are never going to replace the original album, here in all its remastered glory, but the idea and the execution is good.

Discs four and five (not supplied for review) features a 96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mix of Sound On Sound and 96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes of the bonus material, plus video content – a promo video for Revolt into Style, plus Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric), Furniture Music and Stay Young from BBC TV’s Old Grey Whistle Test, originally broadcast in 1979.

Bill Nelson

Disc 6 consists of Bill Nelson’s original 1978 demos for Sound On Sound. They are a fascinating insight into the original thoughts behind the songs, but are not recordings that are likely to be returned to often, unlike the other discs in the collection.

The booklet includes an introduction written by Steven Wilson, and a lengthy piece about the background to the formation of Red Noise and the Sound On Sound album and live shows.

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise is a well put together box-set, and will appeal to all fans of the Red Noise era. If you are new to the album, but are a fan of late 70s new wave and art-rock, I would recommend the 2 CD version of the album, that includes the remastered album plus the new stereo mixes.


Buy from Amazon
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Buy from Burning Shed
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)

Disc One: Sound On Sound Remastered

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors (B-side of ‘Furniture Music’ EP)
Stay Young (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Furniture Music (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Out of Touch (BBC session 17.02.1979)

Disc Two: Live At The De Montfort Hall, Leicester 1979
Previously Unreleased

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)(live)
For Young Moderns (live)
Furniture Music (live)
Out of Touch (live)
Stop-Go-Stop (live)
Atom Age (live)
Possession (live)
Superenigmatix (live)
Substitute Flesh (live)
Phantom Zone (live)
Radar in My Heart (live)
Art / Empire / Industry (live)
Revolt into Style (live)
Stay Young (live)
For Young Moderns (Encore) (live)

Disc Three: Sound On Sound New Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors
My Light
(previously unreleased) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours
Ideal Homes
Disposable

Disc Four: Sound On Sound

96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mix

New Stereo Mix Original Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (5.1 mix)
For Young Moderns (5.1 mix)
Stop / Go / Stop (5.1 mix)
Furniture Music (5.1 mix)
Radar in My Heart (5.1 mix)
Stay Young (5.1 mix)
Out of Touch (5.1 mix)
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone (5.1 mix)
Substitute Flesh (5.1 mix)
The Atom Age (5.1 mix)
Art / Empire / Industry (5.1 mix)
Revolt into Style (5.1 mix)

Disc Five Additional Red Noise Sessions
96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes

New Stereo Mixes Original Stereo Mixes

Wonder Toys That Last Forever (5.1 mix)
Acquitted by Mirrors (5.1 mix)
My Light (5.1 mix) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours (5.1 mix)
Ideal Homes (5.1 mix)
Disposable (5.1 mix)

RAK Studios, London May 1979

Video Content

Previously Unreleased

Revolt into Style (Promotional video 1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test – 1979)
Furniture Music (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test 1979)
Stay Young (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test 1979)

Disc Six Bill Nelson Red Noise Demos

1978 – Previously Unreleased

Acquitted by Mirrors (demo)
For Young Moderns (demo)
Stop Go Stop (demo)
Furniture Music (demo)
Radar in My Heart (demo)
Stay Young (demo)
Out of Touch (demo)
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone (demo)
Substitute Flesh (demo)
The Atom Age (demo)
Revolt into Style (demo)
Waiting for the Night (demo)
My Light (demo)

Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Disc One: Sound On Sound Remastered

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors (B-side of ‘Furniture Music’ EP)
Stay Young (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Furniture Music (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Out of Touch (BBC session 17.02.1979)

Disc Two: Sound On Sound New Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors

My Light (previously unreleased) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours
Ideal Homes
Disposable

Buy from Amazon
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Buy from Burning Shed
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)


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