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Be Bop Deluxe - Sunburst Finish CD (album) cover


Be Bop Deluxe


Crossover Prog

3.78 | 97 ratings

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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.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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