Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Be Bop Deluxe

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Be Bop Deluxe Sunburst Finish album cover
3.74 | 99 ratings | 16 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fair Exchange (4:49)
2. Heavenly Homes (3:36)
3. Ships in the Night (4:03)
4. Crying to the Sky (3:57)
5. Sleep That Burns (5:16)
6. Beauty Secrets (2:47)
7. Life in the Air Age (3:59)
8. Like an Old Blues (3:27)
9. Crystal Gazing (3:24)
10. Blazing Apostles (4:29)

Total time 39:47

Bonus Tracks on 1990 CD release:
11. Shine (7:48)
12. Speed Of The Wind (4:20)
13. Blue As A Jewel (5:11)

Line-up / Musicians

- William Nelson / lead vocals, guitars, harmonica, tubular bells, percussion, co-producer
- Andrew Clark / keyboards
- Charles Tumahai / bass, percussion, backing vocals
- Simon Fox / drums, percussion

- Ian Nelson / alto sax (3)
- Andrew Powell / orchestral arrangements (8,9)

Releases information

Artwork: Mike Doud with John Thornton (photo of model Nicky Howarth Dwek)

LP Harvest - SHSP 4053 (1976, UK)

CD Harvest - CDP 7947272 (1990, UK) With 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to chopper for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy BE BOP DELUXE Sunburst Finish Music

BE BOP DELUXE Sunburst Finish ratings distribution

(99 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

BE BOP DELUXE Sunburst Finish reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album can probably stake a claim to being Be Bop Deluxe's best. Full of classic songs from the opening "Fair Exchange" via "Sleep that Burns with its wonderful guitar/keyboard riff and dream sequence, the futuristic "Life in the Air Age" (it's grim enough to make a robot cry) to the attack on organized religion that is "Blazing Apostles". As usual the songs are all written by Bill Nelson and his guitar is at the front of most songs, however he is ably backed by the now sadly deceased Charlie Tumahai on bass, Andy Clarke on keyboard and Simon Fox on drums. The music itself shows influences from Bowie and Cockney Rebel mixed in with some prog and some rock 'n' roll. The band themselves seemed to be on the verge of the big time when "Ships in the Night" was a minor hit in February 1976 but somehow it never quite happened for them. Another sad fact is that original member Ian Parkin died in the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988. A fair number of these tracks turned up on the live album "Live in the Air Age" which showed the high regard the band themselves had for this album and they never quite topped it.
Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fantastic! I have been aiming to collect some BBD for a while now so a couple of months ago, I decided to get Sunburst Finish. Was I wrong? Definitely not. This is art rock at it's finest along with the likes of Supertramp. Probably more random and ecclectic than an atypical art rock album. If I was to describe the band or make a comparision to fellow peers it would have to be a more funked up Roy Harper/cross 10cc combination. Without doubt more musically advanced than 10cc but less commercial which has to be a good thing right?

Bill Nelson is a rare talent indeed and his guitar work is exemplary. The album itself starts off with the clumsy ' Fair Exchange'. meaning that the delivery is great, the guitar work excellent but vocally it is a bit awkward. The album then starts to pick up with the beautiful ' Heavenly Homes' followed by their commercially acceptable ' Ships In The Night' ( my least favourite track on the album). The album in it's master re-release is one continous concept and it really begins to pick up some gears on the excellent ' Sleep That Burns'.For me side two does not reduce in compositional quality as other reviewers have suggested but the highpoint of Sunburst Finish is the incredible bonus track called ' Shine'. This is just sheer genius where Bill Nelson even gives Steve Hillage or the Ozric team a run for their money with unbelievable guitar chords. A highly satisfying album,

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of those albums that gets better every time I hear it. The combination of great melodies with Bill Nelson's unique and eccentric style of guitar playing makes Sunburst Finish a feast for the ears.

While it may be distracting to some, I love the way Nelson changes musical styles and genres right in the middle of a song, skipping around between pop, rock, new wave, metal, latin, jazz, blues and pretty much everything else. It gives the record a crazy energy and prevents it from being a formulaic glam rock outing.

The obvious song highlights are the radio hit Ships in the Night, Sleep That Burns, and Blazing Apostles, but the slower numbers are actually quite rewarding once you give them time, and to be honest there are no weak tracks. Nelson's lyrics are very good throughout, addressing a wide range of topics, most quite different from the typical love song fare.

The bonus tracks are also very good. Shine is a trippy psychedelic jam session and Blue as A Jewel and Speed of the Wind are both very nice melodic pop songs.

This is a great record from a very underrated band. It is sure to please fans of Queen and other glam and art rock groups.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A naked lady in high heels with a burning guitar? Be-bop-a-lula!!

Now on to his third line up of the band in as many albums, Bill Nelson managed to stabilise the ship here, essentially retaining the same members who had made the previous "Futurama". Keyboard player Andrew Clark is brought in to fill out the sound, but it is Nelson's guitar which remains the lead instrument. The result is what is generally regarded as the finest album made in the Be Bop Deluxe name. While the songs here are essentially pop based with new wave overtones, to simply dismiss them as such is to overlook some fine compositions and musicianship.

For the first time, Nelson takes on production duties himself, sharing the role with John Leckie who is also making his debut as a producer. Nelson writes all the songs too.

The opening "Fair exchange" certainly plays up to the new wave sounds of the time, with a distinctly Talking Heads like feel. "Heavenly homes" is the first track here to feature one of Nelson's fine guitar solos, with Clark's synthesiser adding new colours to the band's sound.

"Ships in the night" was the song which single handedly propelled Be Bop Deluxe into the next level of success. The song was released as a single at the same time as the album, and sailed up the UK pop charts. The jaunty pop song, which is not really that representative of the band, featured Bill's brother Ian guesting on saxophone. This leads into what is for me the finest track recorded by Be Bop Deluxe in their entire career. "Crying to the sky" is an irresistible rock ballad to which Bill Nelson adds some of the most striking and inspired guitar work I have heard. The song just oozes emotion, with Nelson's guitar literally crying. My only grumble, the song should have been at least twice as long. Nelson is quoted as saying the guitar work here is that which gives him the most pride in any of his work.

"Sleep that burns" changes the pace completely again, the pounding rhythm alternating with slower sections in what is an unusually progressive arrangement (if not sound) by the band. "Beauty secrets" is one of several tracks which appears to reflect Nelson's growing disillusionment with his career, "I'll be your hero only as long as I'm paid", but the song itself is ordinary. "Life in the air age" continues Nelson's growing cynicism, his focus this time being modern life, "It's grim enough to make a robot cry".

"Like an old blues" is an undistinguished barroom like piano based shuffle. "Crystal gazing" is an orchestrated ballad which sees Nelson returning to his Bowie style, something he avoids for much of the album. The orchestral arrangement will not be to everyone's taste, but it does give the song a uniqueness in terms of the album. We finish with the heavy driving rock of "Blazing apostles", where Nelson directs his cynicism towards the cash for forgiveness messages of T.V. evangelists.

In all, a fine album which features some of the best songs of Be Bop Deluxe. While the album is not without its faults, these can easily be overlooked in the context of the sublime "Crying to the sky".

The sleeve illustration of a high heeled naked lady holding a burning guitar aloft is striking. It must surely have helped to shift a few more units of the album to the frustrated youth of the time.

The remastered CD features 3 bonus tracks. "Shine", which runs to just under 8 minutes, is a rambling guitar based jam, a live version of which appears on the "Live in the air age" album. "Speed of the wind" is a primarily acoustic song with an interesting arrangement, which would have been worthy of inclusion on the album. "Blue as a jewel" continues the softer sound in a synth backed reflective pop song.

Review by Gooner
5 stars As mentioned in the description of Be Bop Deluxe - the albums of most interest to prog.rock fans are _Futurama_ and _Sunburst Finish_. Not really prog.rock as we know it, but astonishing guitar albums to say the least. An excellent mixture of hard rock a la Thin Lizzy, a little Steve Howe and a little Roxy Music...and a touch of Eno. Tracks flow in and out of one another giving it a concept album feel. _Ships in the Night_ was a big hit, and rightfully so. One of the greatest guitar tracks ever written _Crying to the Sky_ is included here as well. Bill Nelson(guitarist) has indicated this is a personal favourite, and I can see why. Nothing wrong with personally saying it's the greatest when it's true. :-)

5 stars for great guitar record...4 stars for prog.rock.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars There are no signs of weakness in this third album form the very good Be Bop Deluxe.

They keep on being enthusiastic, creative and fun. This album has little to do with prog but it is again so inventive that only for this it is normal that the band is featured on PA. But at the same time, I would say that it is also normal that the band doesn't collect more reviews.

Be Bop Deluxe were a very good band from the mid seventies; they played a fresh glam rock music deeply influenced with Bowie during their debut album, but they tried to keep some distance from him after (even if they won't completely succeed in this).

I also consider their music as being close to Mott The Hoople (I have already mentioned this filiation) and this is an aspect which can't really annoy me. I was keen on the Hoople while I was fifteen (in 1974). Just listen to their FABULOUS live album (in its double version) to understand my opinion.

Sunburst Finish is an album full of creative sounds, and I would again point out some links with the incredibly polished arrangements from 10CC. Even a reggae-ish mood is reproduced (Ships In The Night). And if you have ever doubted in the great guitar capabilities of Bill Nelson, a single listen to Crying To The Sky should be sufficient to convince you. It is a great emotional moment.

This album is a fantastic blend of an early new wave sound, Roxy Music, post glam-rock and pure good old rock'n'roll. I have to say that I pretty much like this great mix. These influences can be heard in the melodic and catchy Sleep That Burns. The fourth highlight I guess.

It is honest to say that the second part of the album is not so powerful, but it would have been rather difficult IMO. Otherwise, this album would have been a masterpiece. At times it reminds me of the great (but totally obscure) Seventh Wave. The same sort of decadent feeling is met during the fine, yet quiet Crystal Gazing.

The original album closed on the rocking (glam?), Blazing Apostoles which is pleasing me a lot; very much Lou Reed oriented. A funny and shaky song. Still, I can understand that the hungry proghead can't find his way with such a recording.

The remastered CD comes with three bonus tracks which aren't really thrilling, I'm afraid. The long and funky Shine is not my cup of tea, even if it features very good guitar, Speed of the Wind is a repetitive and uninspired song. Blue As A Jewel is close to Roxy and I quite like it as well (no wonder here). A fine vocal melody which could have been interpreted by dear old Bryan is very pleasant to listen to. A hidden Roxy song.

This is really a fine album which I rate with four stars. It has vey few reviews and I frankly would recommend this to any open-minded music lover (or maniac).

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Upbeat guitar driven crossover music

Be Bop Deluxe's third album is a nice blend of traditional rock music, impressive playing and a little bit of progressive tenancies. While you definitely should not expect any kind of suites or epics when putting on this album you can definitely expect some darn good music with impressive playing and memorable melodies. While it is a disappointment that the band is not willing to let their songs go past the 5-minute mark in some cases it's easily forgivable when remembering other bands like Strawbs who never really needed epics to make great albums (although they did come up with some lengthier suites). Actually, this band often times sounds like a more adventurous version of Sweet (you know, Ballroom Blitz?) with more musical chops under their belts. The band likes to use their vocals to the max, and there's no instrumental tunes on the album which would have been great here and there, but what is presented certainly satisfies.

There's a very long list of tracks on the album, especially for an album listed on the archives. 10 compositions of concise workings are what's found here, and each of them is different enough to stand out, but not so eclectic as to throw off the listener. Crying To The Sky, for example, is a lazily dreamy song with a slow beat to it while Fair Exchange is a fast jazz-based rocker with guitar shouts thrown in for good measure. Heavenly Homes is a song that relies on brief builds and cool-downs and it segues into Ships In The Night which is an appropriately be-boppy song with an uplifting tone.

The band is at their very best on the album in quite a few places. On the first side it's easily the coda song which takes the cake. Sleep That Burns has that Sweet-like attitude with charging verses and a catchy chorus which is quite well sung. The keyboards on this song also stand out quite a bit as their yelping gives the song quite a bit of character, as does the 'cafe in paradise' breakdown. Crystal Gazing is another somewhat dreamy song that has a lot of attitude to it and makes for a very good listen as the album makes it's way into the last song, Blazing Apostles which characterizes everything the album has done well to this point with its upbeat catchy melodies. These are the songs which really showcase the band as a 'progressive' force, as they're also the ones which use the most progressive elements like changes in speed and the very bombastic approach.

Other songs on the album are also rather good. Life In The Air-Age makes slight abuse of the vocals but is still able to get away with the bombardment of lyrics. Like An Old Blues is a fun song which is good but ultimately hard to call to mind after the album is over, while Beauty Secrets is a short little ditty which is incredibly pleasant in its acoustic approach.

This is a very good band for just about anyone to get into. There's nothing particularly odd about them, but they are very unique in their approach. ''Very much 70s'' would be an ample way to describe the sound of these rockers, and the music is very much for those who like their hard rock with a hint of jazz and blues. This album would go under the 'good, but not essential' category for a few songs which are able to blow your head clean off, but for a mostly safe and pleasing listen. 3 stars out of 5, still, the album is recommended for those who want to check it out - you really can't go wrong.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Prog 'N' Roll

The music of Be Bop Deluxe is similar to that of Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie and early Roxy Music. What makes this acceptable from a Prog perspective is the high level of musicianship, the occasional and short keyboard solos and the fact that the tracks flow into each other like on some of Queen's best albums. (Ironically, the same year as Sunburst Finish was released Queen released A Day At The Races, an album that ended the tradition of having the tracks flow into each other).

All this creates an acceptable and sometimes even quite enjoyable mix of straightforward Rock 'N' Roll and Pop with some progressive aspirations; Art Rock ('N' Roll) is perhaps a better description. The songs considered in themselves are hardly progressive, but the unity of the whole and the diversity of the album makes it, as I said, acceptable. We find here a nice balance between rockers and ballads and there are only a few weak moments.

The often crooning vocals are an acquired taste and sometimes remind of Brian Ferry of Roxy Music. The lyrics are sometimes full of Rock 'N' Roll clichés like the silly Fair Exchange. Some similarities with 10cc can also be detected.

Sunburst Finish is high quality, arty Rock 'N' Roll with slight progressive leanings. Recommended for those who feel attracted to that kind of music.

Two (and a half) stars

Review by progaeopteryx
3 stars This is my first exposure to Be Bop Deluxe, bought on a whim due to dirt-cheap prices. My curiosity causes me to do this from time to time and a low price always catches my attention. That's not because I'm cheap. It just means I can fit another CD into my purchase, i.e., more bang for my buck.

Be Bop Deluxe reminds me more of what used to be termed as "art rock" on this site before it got relabeled "crossover." So what we have here is not the usual symphonic prog, or anything resembling the other genres that began in the 1970s. It's generally quirky pop rock with progressive leanings and performances clearly made by very skilled musicians. In fact, this group could have pulled off some really wonderful music if they could take some of their better tracks and extend them to two to three times their length.

Overall, there are some similarities with other art rock groups of the period, like Roxy Music, 10cc, and David Bowie. The quirkiness at times reminds me of Gentle Giant, but even those these musicians are talented, they aren't even close to the same league as Gentle Giant. Because of the quirkiness, the music has a very eclectic feel to it.

Sunburst Finish is clearly not in the same league as the classic progsters of the 1970s, but their music is far better than the average pop rock of the time. Those of you with an interest in quirky stuff should really like this. If it weren't for the charming quirkiness, this would be a rather bland album.

A solid three stars.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars It is strange to realise, given the importance of their music on the art rock scene of the Seventies, that Be-Bop Deluxe only released five studio albums. Of the five, this has always been my personal studio favourite, although I must confess my all-time favourite is the mighty 'Live! In The Air Age'. It was the third release, with the coming together of the classic line-up of Bill Nelson (vocals, guitar, songwriter), Andrew Clark (keyboards), Charles Tumahai (bass, percussion, backing vocals) and Simon Fox (drums, percussion). It was only when I was doing some research I discovered that not only was Charles a Kiwi, but he was also a member of Herbs in the Eighties, one of the most important New Zealand bands ever (he passed away from a heart attack at the way too young age of 46). What I am listening to is a digital promotion copy of the expanded edition of 'Sunburst Finish' which has just been issued by Esoteric Recordings (it is also available as a twin CD set).

This expanded reissue has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features an additional 39 bonus tracks drawn from a stunning new 5.1 surround sound & stereo mixes from the original multi-track tapes by award winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler, previously unreleased out-takes from the album sessions, a BBC Radio "In Concert" performance from January 1976, a rare John Peel Show session from February 1976 (unavailable on CD for over twenty years), along with an unissued and previously unreleased 1976 Harvest Records promotional video for "Ships in the Night" and a session for BBC TV's "Old Grey Whistle Test" show from January 1976. Another highlight of this limited-edition boxed set is a lavishly illustrated 68-page book with many previously unseen photographs and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson. Additionally, the set includes a facsimile of the 1976 'Sunburst Finish' tour programme, postcards and a replica poster.

Sadly, I just have the digital, which contains the three CDs, but that is more than enough to get my excited. The first disc features a remaster of the original album, along with the original single version of "Ships In The Night", the second disc features new stereo mixes of the album along with six alternate versions, while the third features six songs recorded live for the BBC, and three more from the John Peel session. So that is 36 songs, while the fourth disc features 5:1 mixes of the albums as well as the videos.

Bill co-produced the album with John Leckie, and I suggest you go to YouTube and search for the informative documentary which has been released by Cherry Red Records to tie in with this, which has them both looking back on the sessions and the recording process. For those like who may who find this part of the process fascinating, it is enthralling.

What is the music like? Do really have to ask? Have you really never heard this album before? It surely is a staple in every music lover's collection. Although they sound nothing like then, in some ways they remind me of Gentle Giant in that they produced some amazing albums that are still played and enjoyed today the world over, but never really gained the commercial success they deserved. Nelson is a consummate songwriter, and here it really all came together with "Ships In The Night", "Life in the Air Age", "Blazing Apostles" and "Fair Exchange" rightly agreed to be some of the very finest songs they ever recorded. But, to be honest there isn't a duff song on this album, and since I first discovered this album not long after it was originally released back in 1976, it is one to which I have constantly turned. As many of you know, I live in New Zealand, and my home is just outside Christchurch. When the terrible tragedy was unfolding last month, I finally had to turn off the radio and seek comfort in music. After much thought, there was only band that felt right for me at that time, Be-Bop Deluxe.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars "Sunburst Finish" was one of two studio albums that Bill Nelson and BE BOP DELUXE released in 1976. Most Prog fans prefer this record and the one that follows "Modern Music" to the 1975 record "Futurama" but I have to disagree. I do feel that the two '76 albums are more mature but there's something about that Glam style I prefer to "Sunburst Finish" which is more Pop Rock. The guitar isn't as flashy here, for me the songs aren't as memorable although I wish I could say that about "Ships In The Night" a minor hit of theirs that gets stuck in my head. Not a fan.

The production isn't as good here either but one thing they did do here was try different things like bringing in some orchestral stuff along with guest sax on one track. The guitar solos tend to be near the end of the songs on this one and this seems to be more consistent than "Futurama", but I am not connecting with this record at all. I'm actually surprised at this after enjoying a lot of "Futurama".

One track that works for me is "Sleep That Burns" with that galloping start and chorus. "Crystal Gazing" is another good one where they slow it down which is a nice change. The closer "Blazing Apostles" does little for me along with "Beauty Secrets", I mean come on. Love the guitar in "Heavenly Homes", pretty sure my house number will be 63. The other track that was pretty good was "Life In The Air Age" with percussion galore to start as guitar joins in. I like when it settles with vocals.

I am scratching my head over the love for this one, but keep in mind I did not know this band at all back in the day so there's no nostalgia for me it's just the music which is worth 3 stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Sunburst Finish" is the third full-length studio album by UK rock act Be Bop Deluxe. The album was released through Harvest Records in February 1976 only seven months after the release of the preceding album "Futurama" from July 1975. Since the release of "Futurama", keyboard player Andrew Clark has joined the lineup making Be Bop Deluxe a quartet on "Sunburst Finish". Clark was also part of the lineup touring in support of "Futurama".

"Sunburst Finish" pretty much continues the art rock direction, which was introduced on "Futurama", but Be Bop Deluxe have refined the formula a bit more on "Sunburst Finish" and the inclusion of Clark to the lineup has also meant a stronger keyboard/piano presence. It´s still frontman/guitarist William Nelson who shines the most though, and his many leads and interesting rhythm riffs are the greatest asset of Be Bop Deluxe´s music. His vocals are decent but not a standout feature of the music.

The slightly more mainstream commercial touch (Be Bop Deluxe even had a hit single with "Ships in the Night") makes "Sunburst Finish" a slightly less appealing release than "Futurama", if you´re interested in listening to the most adventurous material by Be Bop Deluxe, but "Sunburst Finish" is still a well composed, well produced, and very well performed release and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Be Bop Deluxe - one of the most overlooked bands, perhaps overshadowed by Queen, but in my view BBD produced more great material that their more famous counterparts. After the guitar-fest of Futurama, Sunburst Finish introduces a more song oriented approach, although there is much here for th ... (read more)

Report this review (#252959) | Posted by gingernut | Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Lovely piece of work that hits the highs, but also some very mediocre bits at best. The album starts off nicely with the pacy and interesting "fair exchange." The lyrics and vocals can make you sit up and be surprising like "The Tia Maria she lives on the wall, looks in the mirror and pukes on ... (read more)

Report this review (#252918) | Posted by Kev | Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is by far my favorite album ever by any band, and I would rate it 5 stars in any other forum. However, it is not prog and it barely manages to be proggish. So, 4 stars, excellent for anyone who loves listening to a true artist of guitar, and in this case, Bill Nelson. This album and Deep P ... (read more)

Report this review (#181277) | Posted by Ardiril | Monday, September 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars In fact, be bop Deluxe is not progressive rock either stuffs like Iron maiden, primus etc etc. But be bop deluxe, a band from the 70´s did a mix of some different styles and good arrangements, to me, they don't sound as David Bowie but a cross between Queen and The Wings, but they have their ... (read more)

Report this review (#93280) | Posted by Rafael In Rio | Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of BE BOP DELUXE "Sunburst Finish"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.