Sun­burst Fin­ish: Ex­panded and Remastered Es­o­tEric Clas­sic third al­bum gets suc­cess­ful sonic zhoosh.

Prog - - Echoes - SID SMITH

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.



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