Nucleus: Live At The BBC

Over 14 hours of BBC radio recordings of the English jazz-rock group between 1970 and 1991 are collected across 13 CDs


We should always be wary of the siren voice of nostalgia even when it’s as enticing as in this 13-disc set, which takes in how Nucleus evolved and thrived in a cultural environment far less emasculated than that of the present day. Indeed, the nagging suspicion that had they been American both the band and leader Ian Carr’s dedication to his art would have got far more attention and respect than in their lifetimes is never far away.

Booklet writer Roger Farbey is aware of this, asserting that Nucleus was the first bona-fide British jazz-rock group. In fact, the line-up consisting of Carr, Bob Bertles, Geoff Castle, Kenny Shaw, Roger Sutton and Roger Sellers produce on disc 5 two sets of music by turns more subtle, lyrical and colourful than that of some of their high-octane American counterparts.

It’s at the beginning that the impression of new ground being broken is at its most pronounced. Elastic Rock, from 7 March 1970, and introduced slightly inimitably by the late and great John Peel, features a solo from guitarist Chris Spedding which in its pervasive simplicity straddles about three different musical camps while keeping within the band’s overall ethos.

The equally late and great Charles Fox introduces a session from 12 February 1985 which is rich in evidence of how the band, in the midst of changing line-ups, was to some extent reflective of changing times even while it retained a heart of musical substance: to hear Carr and Phil Todd on tenor sax soloing over a groove which flirts coyly with a strain of musical sterility (but no more) shows how committed musicians can mine something approaching gold from an unpromising seam.

Finally, a few words about the sound quality, which varies. These discs are gleaned from radio broadcasts, and the earliest ones are not in the highest of fi, so audiophiles will have something to gripe about. For me it’s all part of the set’s considerable appeal.

CD1: Introduction: John Peel; Elastic Rock; 1916 (The Battle Of Boogaloo); Orpheus; Persephone’s Jive; Twisted Track; Song For The Bearded Lady; Elastic Rock; Stonescape; Single Line; Twisted Track; 1916 (The Battle Of Boogaloo); Persephone’s Jive; Never Carry Any More Than You Can Eat; Ballad Of Joe Pimp; 1916 (The Battle Of Boogaloo); Sun Child; Introduction: Brian Priestley; Freudian Saturday; Outro: Brian Priestley (73.50)
CD2: Oasis; Introduction: Brian Priestley; Jam; 1916 (The Battle Of Boogaloo); Song For The Bearded Lady; We’ll Talk About It Later; Snakehips’ Dream; Song For The Bearded Lady; Elastic Rock; Snakehips’ Dream (79.08)
CD3:Snakehips’ Dream; Introduction: John Peel; Song For The Bearded Lady; Morning Call; Introduction: John Peel; Song For The Bearded Lady; Snakehips’ Dream; Crude Blues Part Two (57.29)
CD4: Introduction: Don Locke; The Dream; Mayday; Belladonna; Suspension (52.08)
CD5: New Life; Introduction: Peter Clayton; Sarsaparilla; Introduction: Peter Clayton; Pastoral Graffiti; Introduction: Peter Clayton; Theme 3: Rites Of Man; Snakehips Etcetera; Introduction: Charles Alexander; Alive And Kicking; Rat’s Bag; Outro: Charles Alexander; Introduction: Peter Clayton; Splat; Introduction: Peter Clayton; Brain Child; Outro: Peter Clayton (76.03)

Plus eight other CDs including in disc 10 a collection of entirely improvised works, never before released on CD
Ian Carr (t, flh); Charlie Mariano (ss, as); Bob Bertles (as, ss); Brian Smith (ts, f); Karl Jenkins (bar, o, elp); Geoff Castle (elp, syn) Chris Spedding (g, v); Allan Holdsworth (g); Jeff Clyne (b); Dill Katz (b); John Marshall (d); Nic France (d) and others. 7 March 1970 – 7 March 1991.
Repertoire REPUK1410 13CD