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Be Bop Deluxe - Live In The Air Age CD (album) cover


Be Bop Deluxe


Crossover Prog

3.58 | 24 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The music of Be Bop Deluxe must have passed through my collection at some point, years ago. But after revisiting the band through this 1977 live album it's easy to see how they never found a stable foothold in my vinyl library, and (on a much larger scale) why the band couldn't make that leap from popular cult act to superstardom.

In retrospect, I hear a young quartet of capable, efficient musicians unable to find a distinctive style to call their own. The sound of the band on this disc, which as a live set from late in their career can also be heard as a more or less representative best-of-Be Bop Deluxe collection, is strictly quintessential but hardly classic mid '70s guitar rock, without enough hooks to hold onto after thirty-plus years.

Certainly there's nothing here approaching the pure electronic energy and (at the time) innovation of guitarist Bill Nelson's techno-pop solo albums from the early 1980s. And none of his unique visual fixation with Jean Cocteau or post-war suburban Americana and beatnik culture.

But on the other hand, without even being familiar with the original studio albums, without even being a fan of the group, I have to acknowledge what an excellent live album this is, as a piece of performance. Many of the songs here obviously came to life on stage, with lengthy instrumental breaks and galvanized solos only possible in front of an eager audience. Nelson's long, luxurious guitar break during "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape", bracketing an equally romantic turn by Andrew Clark on electric piano, is one of the album's highlights. Even more impressive (and longer) is the quicksilver guitar and keyboard jam over the funky accompaniment of the song "Shine".

There are plenty of similar moments when the music really gels. But the album itself would have to be considered a period piece now, produced and played in a style which locates it very precisely in the middle 1970s. Listeners of a certain age will no doubt recognize the attractive time-capsule aura surrounding it (the album was released the same year I graduated from high school). But to anyone who didn't come of age in the '70s it might be little more than a dusty, irrelevant fossil from another generation.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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