The Highly-Biased Bill Nelson Review, part XLVII
Anthony D Ravenscroft | Santa Fe, NM United States | 06/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is no way that I can pan a Bill Nelson album. His lamest, most irritating efforts, compiled onto a single CD, would spend more time coming through my speakers than all commercial radio combined. But, on to this title.Subtitled "A Collection of Recordings 1979-1989," this is an interesting side-trip in the corpus. It shares four cuts with the two-CD set "What Now, What Next?" which is a compendium of Nelson's output on the Cocteau label. Meanwhile, "The Strangest Things" is a compendium of songs put out on the eventually ill-fated Enigma label in the U.S., most of which were licensed copies of the Cocteau albums.To apparently confuse matters further, 7 of the cuts on this CD (half, that is) had not been previously released in the U.S.... which meant that they hadn't been released on Enigma -- one, in fact, had been released on Harvest, not Cocteau.Hmm.Is it a decent album? Oh, yes. Nelson's "samplers" are fascinating, beginning with the apparent sonic hodgepodge. When I play it for people, they ask me why the hell I pasted so many disparate bands onto one CD, as there's no apparent unifying point -- in that respect, it sounds like a K-Tel album assembled by some hung-over mid-level exec (which is likely all, but I digress).As a sampler, "Strangest" is pleasing from the first. It includes Nelson looking solo as well as under the Red Noise & Orchestra Arcana rubrics. There's some of his orchestral, some of his ambient, some of his jazzier side, some frantic Europop, & a hint of his sheer ability to rock out on a whim.All in all, if you're still new to the corpus, go for "What Now, What Next?" & build from there, as that's as good a guide to his range & span as any. The reason I knocked "Strangest" down a star is because the CD mostly makes me long for a "The Harvest Years" compendium CD set that goes from Be Bop Deluxe through Red Noise.If you can handle a range of music from ambient whooshing through jarring/dazzling guitar, you'll never likely go wrong with Nelson.Oh... did I forget to mention that he's one of the best orchestrators I've ever heard, an amazing marimba player, possesses a dozen distinct singing voices over the years, & crafts some of the most devilishly memorable free-association quasi-beat poetry imaginable?"