Out of all the Be Bop Deluxe albums, Sunburst Finish is the closest to achieving perfection of their trademark sound. Once again with Bill Nelson at the helm you have clever lyrics, great guitar work, wonderful vocals and most of all… memorable hooks.
Every song on this album has merit, beginning with the marching beat and sonic assault that is “Fair Exchange.” Following is a great ballad with “Heavenly Homes” that picks up a bit at the end with a driving guitar section. A tango shuffle is the way I’d describe the incredible “Ships in the Night.” It’s one of Be-Bop Deluxe’s more popular songs.
“Crying to the Sky” is my all-time favorite ballad from Mr. Nelson. It features a beautiful melody and a solo guitar section that actually sings in a way that you rarely hear from even the best of guitarists. Bill Nelson is definitely among the upper echelon of talented guitarists that can play with an emotive quality as extraordinary as this.
“Sleep That Burns” is another great tune amongst so many here. It also features a humorous refrain with Spanish flamenco references. “Beauty Secrets” begins with acoustic guitar and travels through several stylistic passages throughout. “Life In the Air Age” is a bona fide classic, and its motif would be further explored on the following album, Modern Music. “Like an Old Blues” has a good boogie shuffle. “Crystal Gazing” again features the flamenco-style playing that Nelson features on a few songs, this time much more prominent. Closer “Blazing Apostles,” a fun song about telephone evangelism, highlights a great chorus and an interesting break. It then closes quite uniquely.
This is an album that would fit nicely in the collection of Bowie, Queen, Roxy Music fans or anyone who enjoys clever witty lyrics, great Hendrix-like guitar playing, and art rock that presents a pop-prog sensibility. This is my favorite recording from the too few Be Bop albums, though the following Modern Music (also 1976) would also be a strong contender. Both these albums are highly recommended.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on March 25th, 2011