Be-Bop Deluxe box set puts a Sunburst Finish on Bill Nelson’s brilliant career

By Steve Newton

Be-Bop Deluxe: now that’s what I call a true seventies-rock band.

Led by singer Bill Nelson–who also wrote every single song and handled a mean guitar–Be-Bop Deluxe combined the finest elements of ’70s-era hard-rock, glam-pop, art-rock, and prog.

I bought every one of their five studio albums, and loved them all.

1974’s Axe Victim was the first to catch my eye–and how couldn’t it with that wicked skull-guitar cover art. I scooped that up with no idea what the music was like, but just adored more-Ziggy-than-Bowie tracks like “Love is Swift Arrows” and “Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape”.

Next up was 1975’s Futurama, which saw the band move from a quartet to a trio, and perhaps head in a heavier, more riff-oriented direction, as heard on “Sister Seagull” and “Maid in Heaven”.

Then came 1976’s Sunburst Finish, which continued the enthralling progression with adventurous, guitar-drenched tunes like “Crying to the Sky” and “Sleep That Burns”.

Anybody else who loved Be-Bop back in the day should be pleased to note that Esoteric Recordings have recently released a deluxe, limited-edition box set version of Sunburst Finish that features 39 bonus tracks, previously unreleased out-takes from the album sessions, a BBC Radio “In Concert” performance, a rare John Peel Show session, a previously unreleased 1976 Harvest Records promotional video for the single “Ships in the Night”, and a session for BBC-TV’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” show. The package also includes a 68-page book, a facsimile of the 1976 Sunburst Finish tour program, postcards, and a replica poster.

Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a copy?

God bless Bill Nelson.

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One response to “Be-Bop Deluxe box set puts a Sunburst Finish on Bill Nelson’s brilliant career

  1. I discovered Bill Nelson in 1979 when his Red Noise album showed up at CJUS, the university radio station in Saskatoon. A friend and I who did a punk rock program thought it was the voice of the future, if not God. From there, I then worked my way back through Nelson’s Be Bop Deluxe albums. I still think Drastic Plastic is one of the best albums ever. And 1977’s Live in the Air Age is a great live album. But I particularly hold Nelson’s 1980s recordings in awe. Criminally underappreciated musician.

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