Getting The Holy Ghost Across

Bill Nelson

AIS 2014

Review by David Bowling


Bill Nelson has always explored the outer edges of rock and roll. His work during the 1970’s with the experimental rock group Be Bop Deluxe was both creative and influential as it expanded the boundaries of the rock idiom.

During the course of his four decade plus career he has released dozens of albums but none so famous and mysterious as Getting The Holy Ghost Across and its accompanying EP Living For The Spangled Moment. The tracks were recorded at his home studio with Nelson playing most of the instruments. The album was released in 1986 in the U.K. but ran into religious censorship problems in the United States. The title was changed to On A Blue Wing, the cover art was replaced, and the album quickly disappeared.

Now the original album and art has been restored and reissued with an array of bonus tracks including the aforementioned EP. The sound has been modernized and a booklet contains a short essay of the album’s history written by Bill Nelson himself.

The music is firmly rooted in the 1980’s electronic world. What makes it stand-out is Nelson’s expertise with the guitar, which tends to move the focus away from the keyboards many times. The music also travels in a number of directions. “Suvasini” has an improvisational flavor, while “Rise Like A Fountain” has an underlying funky foundation.

Despite many protests by the religious right, the main theme of the album is Nelson’s dealing with a romantic affair. Songs such as “Wildest Dreams,” “Lost In Your Mystery,” “The Hidden Flame,” and “Because of You” are centered on the ramifications of love rather than the devil.

The return of the seven song Living In The Spangled Moment EP is a welcome addition. The music has a more flexible nature than the accompanying album. While this may give it a non-cohesive feel; it contains more surprises along the way.

The music of Bill Nelson is not for the faint hearted. It requires a person to leave their perceived notions about rock music behind and be willing to accept new sounds and directions.

Getting The Holy Ghost Across was an adventurous journey over a quarter of a century ago and remains so today. A good investment for any fan of Nelson or who approaches music with an open mind.


Rating: ***1/2