One of the strongest aspects to Nucleus music was the way that they straddled modern jazz and progressive rock without ever being ‘of’ either camp.

Their music is hypnotic, powerful, rhythmic and strident, sometimes all at the same time and with Ian Carr’s position in the British jazz world he was able to attract the finest musicians to play in the various incarnations of Nucleus.

This collection – a 6CD clamshell set – covers the recordings on the famous Vertigo label – mainly known as a Prog label -from 1970 to 1975 and gives a great account of the development and changes in the outfit over that time.
Rather than truncate the albums, or create a set too massive by putting one album on each CD, each CD contains tracks from more than one album with the tracks still following the original order. They were VERY prolific through those six years.

So, to the music. Carr is a composer and his main instrument is trumpet and the music is mainly horn led. In the early days of the outfit Karl Jenkins and Brian Smith featured on horns while they also had renowned jazz musicians Jeff Clyne (bass) and John Marshall (drums) who had been with a lot of the early Blues and jazz outfits including Alexis Korner, Zoot Sims, Buddy Hayes and Centipede. Add Chris Spedding to the mix and the music becomes remarkably free and unstructured on the face of it – although tightly scored and properly written and integrated. As the band progressed, other musicians came and went and there were close ties to Soft Machine with Marshall going over and Alan Holdsworth playing with Nucleus for example. The sound however remained strongly horn led with a powerful rhythm behind.

Considering that the jazz world in the seventies had become hidebound and had lost the spark of true originality, Nucleus were like sticking two fingers up to the jazz establishment and in appealing more to the rock and progressive crowd were making a very bold statement.

As a collection I was struck by the quality of the production on all of the albums but knowing Esoteric’s ability to wring the best out of master tapes, it isn’t any great surprise. For a change there are no bonus tracks but the booklet is excellent.

In all a superb collection and with the progression and development of the band clear to see across the sic CDs, an important release.