Sunburst Finish: Expanded and Remastered EsotEric Classic third album gets successful sonic zhoosh.
Ever since Be-Bop Deluxe’s 1974 debut Axe Victim, a serious momentum had gathered behind the band who transitioned from a support act with attitude blowing the headliner off stage to one elbowing their way into the spotlight. Chief songwriter and frontman Bill Nelson candidly admits surprise that they were nudged towards a chart-friendly direction aided by the single Ships In The Night released primarily at EMI’s behest.
In his essay accompanying this four-disc set celebrating the band’s third album, Nelson says that he always regarded Be-Bop Deluxe primarily as an albums band. “I considered hit singles as belonging to the domain of ephemeral pop acts, rather than the currency of a ‘serious’ rock band.”
Originally released in 1976, Sunburst Finish is the product of a band with road-honed confidence and technical prowess to match the aspiration tucked into some truly smart songwriting. Eager to build on their previous forays in the studio, newcomer keyboard player Andy Clark extends Be-Bop Deluxe’s fluency and textural range, creating a complementary space within the foundations of Charlie Tumahai’s sleek bass and Simon Fox’s on-point drumming. Collected with a 68-page book, the audio content includes demos, radio and TV footage and six previously unreleased tracks. However, the real attraction in this package is Stephen W Tayler’s new stereo and surround sound mixes, which add ravishing details that command attention without detracting from the vital energy accrued from the album’s hurtling pace.
Nelson’s guitar solos are constructed in the manner of a series of epic sagas, which draw upon the myths and legends of existing rock music while casting a visionary eye toward future times. Imbued with a striking theatricality, his runs evidence an inclination toward calculated precision on the one hand and reckless abandonment on the other. Much of the album reads like a seminar on how to create a rock’n’roll hybrid with dazzling illustrations. Fair Exchange showcases this souped-up approach at playing fast and loose with hairyarsed riffing, a typically precocious reference to a rousing jig and later, polishing off the overdriven tones of Jimmy Page as the icing on the cake. Crying To The Sky and the sumptuous orchestral manoeuvrings during the Beatles homage Crystal Gazing add further testimony to the album’s heroic scale.
In order to fly you have to have the courage to jump. Nelson’s ability to swoop between these various extremes with what appears to be greatest of ease remains a key factor in Be-Bop Deluxe’s success back in their heyday, and in the inherent freshness that spills from them now.
ADDS RAVISHING DETAILS THAT DON’T DETRACT FROM
ITS VITAL ENERGY.