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Be Bop Deluxe - Radioland BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert CD (album) cover

RADIOLAND BBC RADIO 1 LIVE IN CONCERT

Be Bop Deluxe

 

Crossover Prog

4.12 | 7 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars When I reviewed this band's debut album a while back I noted that even though I wasn't terribly impressed with the record itself, the bonus live tracks did intrigue me because they sounded so much better than the stuff I'd just sat through. The in-concert material that was added to the reissued CD had been taped some years later and they featured Be-Bop Deluxe with a revamped lineup. The musicianship involved was a significant step up compared to what I'd heard on the amateurish "Axe Victim" so when I came across this compilation of three separate BBC radio simulcasts I acquired it in hopes that it would contain material along the same lines. Not being at all familiar with what the four studio LPs that followed their initial offering held inside their cardboard covers, I figured this would be a good way to obtain a fair overview of the group's career. Plus, radio concerts are usually very intimate affairs and it's hard for a band to hide their defects in that setting. In a large hall or an arena the cavernous echo, the volume projected and the feedback of the crowd can smooth over some inherent flaws but simulcasts, by default, expose every bad note and miscue as it happens. The most curious thing about these recordings is the fact that they were tucked away in somebody's basement or back room until 1994.

The initial four tunes are from a session captured early in 1976. "Life in the Air Age" sports a nice, jazzy tint and some interesting musical patterns that belie a lot of maturity in leader Bill Nelson's songwriting skills. "Sister Seagull" has an aura that, like much of what their flawed debut exuded, reminds me of some of the unorthodox, trippy compositions that were coming out of the psychedelic San Francisco scene in the late 60s. "Third Floor Heaven" is weak mainly because it's not much of a song to begin with and it has too much of the dated British Glam coloration to be taken seriously. "Blazing Apostles" is the best of the four. The overall arrangement is very progressive and Andrew Clark's keyboards add a touch of class as the group toys with some clever, Zappa-ish incidentals throughout. The next six cuts are from a broadcast that aired much later in the same year and their upwardly evolving craftsmanship is evident. On "Maid in Heaven" Nelson's guitar playing shows he gained much more confidence during the months of touring and his style is a lot more fluid because of it. "Kiss of Light" follows. While I'll admit that Bill's compositions are truly unique, sometimes (as is the case here) they have a bad habit of being inconsistent in quality. The intriguing high points are offset by the confusing low ones. One of the numbers that captivated me in the aforementioned bonus section of "Axe Victim" was their onstage rendition of "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" and the version presented here is just as good. It's a strange song but I really like its bluesy jazz groove immensely. Nelson's guitar solo is excellent and Clark's electric piano ride is superb while the rhythm section consisting of drummer Simon Fox and bassist Charles Tumahai is remarkably tight. "Fair Exchange" is a quirky rocker with a variety of feels included and, while it doesn't thrill me, at least it's not boring. On "Ships in the Night" a slight Supertramp influence is noticeable but it's not blatant, either. The tune is engaging in a coy, clandestine way that sneaks up on you. The long medley of "Modern Music/Dancing in the Moonlight/Lost in the Neon World/Modern Music (reprise)" is well worth the price of admission. Pink Floydian sound bites set the mood, then the melodic journey begins with intertwined guitar and synth harmony lines and Bill's smooth but authoritative vocal. The proggy structure of the entire endeavor is admirable on many counts.

The final six selections were taped early in '78 and they sound like a different ensemble altogether this time around. The perky "New Precision" features a throbbing disco beat but it's deceptive because the tune is more of a heavy rocker than a trite dance number. There's a noticeable New Wave vibe going on here that reminds me of Talking Heads but, since that eclectic New York outfit had just appeared on the map at the time, I wonder who was affecting who, exactly? It's a very arresting and memorable composition. The change in Be-Bop Deluxe's direction is even more obvious on "Superenigmatix." Most notable is their generous use of effects on both the guitar and the keyboards. Next is "Possession" and, again, the New Wave sound abounds throughout. The problem I have with this one is there are times during it when I'm reminded of the borderline vapidity that permeated that movement and used to drive me to have anxiety attacks over where music was headed. "Dangerous Stranger" follows and I can easily picture a dolled up David Bowie manning the microphone for this punchy rock & roll ditty. It's not disturbing but it is a tad too derivative to deem it very original. A true highlight of the record is their stunningly deft delivery of "Islands of the Dead." The song's presentation is a lot less hectic and much more delicate than the others, as they create a serene atmosphere that draws the listener right in. They end the show with "Panic in the World," a driving number that causes me to ponder that these boys were just a little ahead of their time because this is precisely the kind of music that really took over and dominated the industry in the early 80s.

It's always fascinating to hear how a group or an artist developed and/or adapted over a period of years and these three concert recordings do it as well as I've ever come across. One thing's for sure, they were most assuredly prog-minded at a time when progressive rock was slowly but surely falling out of fashion. While I don't always cotton to the whole of their stuff I have great respect for their gumption and for not being scared to be trendsetters in a business full of followers. I'm kinda surprised that they didn't catch on stateside like Elvis Costello and The Police did but maybe they just gave up and disbanded a year too soon. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable trek through their history that unflinchingly displays Be-Bop Deluxe live without embellishments just as they were and they prove themselves to be worthy of any unbiased, open-minded progger's respect. 3.5 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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