Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Crossover Prog Review: Be-Bop Deluxe-Modern Music Reissue (4 CD/1 DVD)

Release Date:  December 6, 2019
Label:  Esoteric Recordings

Born out of the blues-based British rock scene of the late 1960s, Be-Bop Deluxe are part glam, part pop, part punk, and part prog. This limited five disk (4 CD/1 DVD) reissue of their 1976 classic Modern Music is a complete remaster from the original tapes. The box set contains unreleased out-takes, a BBC Radio concert performance, A TV session from BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, and a previously unreleased bootleg of a performance at the Riviera Theater in Chicago. These recordings were all captured during the height of the band’s creativity in 1976.

Founder Bill Nelson’s vocals conjure the earthiness of Billy Joel mixed with the gravitas of David Bowie. Lyrically, the album was inspired by the disillusionment Nelson felt toward the music business after touring the U.S. and a longing for home. Far ahead of their time, one doesn’t have to listen too carefully to hear the influence they had on post-punk English bands such as The Jam, XTC & Joy Division.

Disc 1 contains the remastered album in its entirety. “Kiss of Light” is chockfull of catchy hooks amplified by screaming guitar. It is but one side of the band as they switch gears with a softer, multi-textured beauty in “The Gold at the End of My Rainbow.” “Shine” is an extended seven-minute rock and funk jam initially released as the B side to “Kiss of Light” and this reviewer’s personal favorite.

Disc 2 is the real gem of the collection with “First Versions” and “New Stereo Mixes” of the entire album.  Those that stand out are: “The Bird Charmer’s Destiny” and “Forbidden Lovers.” Free from the sanitization of heavy production, these tracks are sharp, organic renditions, and the heart and soul of the collection. The “New Stereo Mixes” give the listener a feel for how alternative arrangements may have affected the final song.

Disc 3 gives the listener a taste of Modern Music live, with select tracks from a live show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. “Blazing Apostles” is an extended twelve-minute sojourn where the progressive runs of Nelson’s concise guitar work are met with Simon Fox’s deep rhythms and Andrew Clark’s dancing piano riffs. This respite rings a bell in the harbor of your mind, clearing the fog and guiding you safely to shore.

While Disc 3 constrains itself to Modern Music, Disc 4 reaches back with music from the band’s first three albums, Axe Victim (1974), Futurama (1975), and Sunburst (1976) live from Riviera Theater in Chicago. Previously unreleased, the live guitar work of Bill Nelson on this disk is exceptional and will leave you wondering how he flew under the radar for so long and never reached the commercial success he so deserves. On this disc, you’ll hear the unrestrained sounds of the band breathing new life into their most popular hits at the time.

Be-Bop Deluxe is a sound you’ll feel you’ve heard before, yet it is unlike anything you’ve heard before. Textures, even within the same songs, are interspersed to produce a profound effect. You’ll hear T-Rex-like rock riffs followed by Genesis-like playful explorations followed by Jeff Buckley-like resonant vocals. If you’re discovering Be-Bop Deluxe for the first time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and feel as if you’ve unearthed a real gem.  If you’ve known them all along, this reissue, especially Disc 2 and 4, will take your appreciation to new heights.
Tom Endyke - MuzikMan.net Staff
November 22, 2019


Disc 1: CD
Modern Music
The Original Stereo Mix:

01. Orphans of Babylon
02. Twilight Capers
03. Kiss of Light
04. The Bird Charmers Destiny
05. The Gold at the End of My Rainbow
06. Bring Back the Spark
07. Modern Music
08. Dancing in the Moonlight (All Alone)
09. Honeymoon on Mars
10. Lost in the Neon World
11. Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids
12. Modern Music (Reprise)
13. Forbidden Lovers
14. Down on Terminal Street
15. Make the Music Magic
16. Shine (B-Side of Single)

Disc 2: CD
Modern Music
The New Stereo Mix:

01. Orphans of Babylon (New Stereo Mix)
02. Twilight Capers (New Stereo Mix)
03. Kiss of Light (New Stereo Mix)
04. The Bird Charmers Destiny (New Stereo Mix)
05. The Gold at the End of My Rainbow (New Stereo Mix)
06. Bring Back the Spark (New Stereo Mix)
07. Modern Music (New Stereo Mix)
08. Dancing in the Moonlight (New Stereo Mix)
09. Honeymoon on Mars (New Stereo Mix)
10. Lost in the Neon World (New Stereo Mix)
11. Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids (New Stereo Mix)
12. Modern Music (Reprise) (New Stereo Mix)
13. Forbidden Lovers (New Stereo Mix)
14. Down on Terminal Street (New Stereo Mix)
15. Make the Music Magic (New Stereo Mix)
16. Shining (New Stereo Mix)
17. Forbidden Lovers (First Version)
18. The Bird Charmer’s Destiny (First Version)

Disk 3: CD
BBC Radio One “In Concert” October 2, 1976 at Hammersmith Odeon London

01. Made in Heaven
02. Bring Back the Spark
03. Kiss of Light
04. Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
05. Fair Exchange
06. Ships in the Night
07. Twilight Capers
08. Modern Music
09. Blazing Apostles

Disk 4: CD
Live at the Riviera Theatre, Chicago, March 1976.

01. Fair Exchange
02. Stage Whispers
03. Life in the Air Age
04. Sister Seagull
05. Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
06. Maid in Heaven
07. Ships in the Night
08. Bill’s Blues
09. Blazing Apostles

Disk 4: DVD

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