Sound: Released in 1976, "Sunburst Finish" is the third studio album by the Progressive Rock band, Be-Bop Deluxe. Although well known in their home of the UK, Be-Bop Deluxe never truly broke mainstream in North America. Although the band toured with acts such as the Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, and Iggy Pop, songwriter, singer and guitarist Bill Nelson dissolved the band at the beginning of their potential North American success.
With a sound that could be compared to the combination of David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and even Rush, Be-Bop Deluxe managed to work all around the board of Rock and Roll with "Sunburst Finish". The album comes soaring in on the first track "Fair Exchange", displaying the bands ability to progress through sounds, tempo changes and Bill Nelson's sonic guitar work. "Sunburst Finish" goes on to please with lush combinations of acoustic and electric guitars, beautifully orchestrated keyboards and bass and drums to fill every inch of the listener's speaker. With every track Nelson's guitar work seems to speak more and more and on "Crying To The Sky", Nelson displays not only his mastery of the guitar alone, but his ability as a sound technician as well. While primarily a Rock album, one the best qualities found on "Sunburst Finish" is the wonderful blend of instrumental stylings. Each track forces the members of Be-Bop Deluxe to change and progress within minutes and it could not be executed any better. Heard wonderfully on tracks such as "Sleep That Burns", which moves from it's running drum beat to the malaguenas guitar style. Which each song flowing smoothly into another, the overall sound, and combination of sounds found on "Sunburst Finish" are arguably impossible to find displeasing to almost any fan of classic rock. // 9
Lyrics: With an album filled with such extravagant musical qualities, lyrical content is an extremely important characteristic used in each song on "Sunburst Finish". Bill Nelson writes each song in very poetic fashions, filling stanzas with similes and metaphors, making sure each line blends properly with the next and that each song tells a kind of story. Nelson cleverly explains his views on the human condition, society, and even fantasy through his lyrical musings on "Sunburst Finish". "Life In The Air Age" is written first person as a man describing his life in a future world that is cold and without the warmth of his childhood. Nelson sings "you can leave me in the air age if you'd like, but I'd really love to go back, to my own time". But Nelson's literary strength is evident throughout the album as he goes between the more pop-oriented lyrical styling's of "Ships In The Night" to the more scholarly style's found on tracks "Beauty Secrets" and "Crystal Gazing".
Along with his writing, Nelson also carried a powerful voice. Layering each song with harmonies and carefully constructed melodies, Nelson made sure that the voice was just as much an instrument as the rest. The lead single on "Sunburst Finish", "Ships In The Night" is the perfect example of Nelson's mixture of lyrical style and vocal attributes, making it one of the stand out tracks on the album for any listener. // 9
Overall Impression: While high praise can often be seen as unfair, biased judgment, "Sunburst Finish" is a truly exceptional rock album that any fan of classic rock should own. One may be hard pressed to find a fan of Be-Bop Deluxe today, but all the ones around only have a world of praise for their forgotten rock stars. So take the opportunity to discover, or for some, rediscover Be-Bop Deluxe through their classic album "Sunburst Finish", and find out why Bill Nelson was seen as one of the most promising up and coming guitarists of his time. A timeless album by a timeless band that just begs to be listened to as a whole, the experience the listener deserves. // 9