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(145:29, Esoteric Recordings [2018 Edition] )
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 realised 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.
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