Mid-70s gem given an upgrade and a polish. It’s odd how time often consigns once raved-about records to the dark, rarely visited corners of rock history, often due not to downgrading reappraisal but simply because they fade from memory. One (perhaps the only) good thing that comes from that happening is having such an album popped under your nose, giving it a listen and being jolted into remembering how good it was first time around.
By the end of 1975, Be-Bop Deluxe had two creditable albums (Axe Victim and Futurama) and a couple of classy singles (Maid In Heaven and Sister Seagull) under their belt, and hot-shot guitarist Bill Nelson was turning heads. They were one of a busload of bands and artist with real success seemingly close but without a sleek enough vehicle to take them to it. Then they recorded Sunburst Finish.
Recorded at Abbey Road (maybe some lingering fairy dust landed on the tapes) and released in February ’76,
Sunburst Finish was a thrill-ride of balletic melodies, tough riffs, punchy rhythms and some startling guitar playing. From the ratt-a-tatt intro of opener Fair Exchange, through the exotic rhythm of Ships In The Night, Bowie-suggesting Crystal Gazing and the glorious melodic Crying To The Sky with its swirling, skycracking guitar solo, to stopstart multi-faceted closer
Blazing Apostles, it’s an album brimming with inventive songwriting and clever arrangements, thoughtful lyrics and some taut performances.
Most people with their nose to the shop window eyeing-up the new four-disc, remastered, limited-edition box set will already know the original album. Here’s what else is under the lid: an additional 39 tracks including 5.1 and stereo mixes and contemporaneous BBC radio sessions; album out-takes, a promo video for Ships In The Night and a couple of Old Grey Whistle Test appearances; an illustrated 68-page book, a new essay by Bill Nelson, and a reproduction Sunburst Finish tour programme and poster.
Although there’s plenty of it, there’s not much of the extras that’s actually surprising. The new stereo and surround-sound mixes will be of interest to Be-Bop fans, as will the live BBC sessions of most of the album’s songs, none of which differ significantly from the studio versions. The Whistle Test footage is available on YouTube, although here it’s of a much higher quality.
Altogether this a well puttogether package and a welldeserved upgrading of an oddly unsung mid-70s gem.