This 6-CD/2-DVD set reissued on Winterfold Records last year, consists of Bruford’s solo career from 1977 to 1980. The box set contains three of the studio releases and the “official bootleg” live album (Feels Good To Me, One of a Kind, The Bruford Tapes, and Gradually Going Tornado). It also includes unearthed material from one of their live performances they did at The Venue and an unearthed sessions for the fourth album. Bill Bruford has had an amazing career from his run with Yes (1969 to 1972) to joining King Crimson the same year to 1974.
He would worked with his frequent Yes artists including Steve Howe’s Beginnings and Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water while joining National Health for several live performances. In 1976, he went on tour with Genesis after Peter Gabriel left to embark on a successful solo career as Phil Collins replaced him on vocals. It was the only time Bill toured with them from March 26th to July 11th for their Trick of the Tail tour.
In 1977, at the height of both the Punk and Disco movement, Bruford was formed. He wanted to step into the sound of Jazz Fusion which featured keyboardist Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health), Jeff Berlin on Bass, and the late great Allan Holdsworth (‘Igginbottom, U.K., and Tempest) on Guitar. They released their debut album, Feels Good to Me originally on the E.G. label in 1978.
Recorded at Trident Studios in London, they brought electronic composer and vocalist Annette Peacock to sing on three tracks, and the late Kenny Wheeler (ECM Records) on Flugelhorn. Listening to their debut album, Bill wanted to open the floodgates of the Fusion genre to a wide surrounding and give it a big gigantic push.
The opener, Beezlebub features these odd time signatures between the Marimba, Keyboard, and Drums doing these dueling races by paying a nod to Zappa’s One Size Fits All-era. Holdsworth, Bruford, and Berlin share a section to see on the time changes as Stewart’s rising organ comes into play by going back into the intro. Back to the Beginning begins with Stewart’s dreamy moody ambient opener before kicking into a 22nd century futuristic sound.
Annette’s vocals and Holdsworth’s guitars share the melodic structure while the two part suite of Seems Like a Lifetime Ago has these different mood swings. The first part has this romantic vibe as Wheeler’s flugelhorn makes a melodic ballad to give Annette a chance to duel together. Then it changes into a rising adventure for the sun to come out by giving the band a chance to go for some exercising improvisation.
With clapping rhythms, cowbell (yes, cowbell) keyboards going into the side of fantasy, Bruford gets a little bit of the Brazilian vibes on his kit. Not just a samba, but giving some creative ideas of what he will come up with next. Sample & Hold has some of the progressive textures with bits of post-Gabriel era of Genesis thanks to Stewart’s Twilight Zone-sque organ including a little honor to the Grand Wazoo himself to show some appreciation on the last minute of the arranging and composition.
Their second album, released in 1979, One of a Kind which was a follow up to their debut album, sees an approach of the progressive melodies but with the flows of the Jazz Fusion genre to keep it on a tightrope. The fanfare of Hells Bells by Dave Stewart, makes you ready to embark on an adventure as he gives us a chance to float and soar to new heights on the opening track.
But Berlin himself comes to the forefront for a slap-and-pop introduction on Five G before leading the members for some real funk-fusion vibrations. Holdsworth and Bruford follow up to Jeff by catching up with him for one of the most challenging compositions on One of a Kind. It did reminded me a little bit of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in a good way.
The moody introduction that Dave does on Forever Until Sunday, brings this scenario of the sun to come down featuring some amazing violin work by Eddie Jobson. They do some incredible yet romantic balladry between each other before the groove changes as Jeff lays down some Headhunters-era vibes on his bass before the Keyboards, Guitar and Drums come knocking the door down before Allan brings everything to a crescendo end.
Originally the two-part suite of The Sahara of Snow was going to be on U.K.’s second album along with Forever Until Sunday which featured Eddie and the late John Wetton, but instead it’s used on here. The first part has a droning organ sound featuring a classical piano section with a Dave Brubeck twist. With dynamic sections between Bruford’s drumming and Marimba’s, he’s not just a drummer, but taking turns on where he would go to next by going back and forth on the instruments.
The second part has some of the heavier notes from the piano as it goes into a booming sound along with some clapping sections. Allan follows through with some melodic structures on the guitar. He goes high or low between the frets and bits of the synth loop in the middle.
By 1979, Allan Holdsworth left the band to pursue his own musical aspirations. John Clark or simply known as “the unknown” John Clark replaced him on guitar. The Bruford Tapes was recorded live in the summer of 1979 for a radio broadcast on 92.7 FM WLIR radio at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York.
Listening to this live performance, it shows Bruford at their finest. It may have a rough sound, but giving the audience a deliver that shows their stamp of approval. And it is a delivery they’ll never forget by bringing both the energy, and the cannons to erupt at any second. When you listen to Fainting in Coils/Back to the Beginning, the band makes sure the audience are all revved up and ready to go into outer space.
Berlin’s bass and Stewart’s moog give the crowd to clap along for a stomping vibe. Clark isn’t bad on here. He’s almost as if he’s putting his toes in the water to make sure he’s okay. The live version of 5G, is a killer version. They’ve made the jump to light speed for a race tracking version of the classic as Berlin takes the stage in front the club.
But a nice little nod to Rush’s YYZ. The last studio album, Gradually Going Tornado released in 1980, is now one of my favorite albums. Yes, there’s some dividing lines in the sand on Jeff Berlin taking over on vocals on some of the tracks, but is he a great vocalist? No, but it’s not so bad, but okay. However with Ron Malo who produced Weather Report’s two albums (Heavy Weather and Black Market) on the realm, it seems for me, in my opinion, a perfect combination.
Age of Information deals with the subject matter of commerciality and ignoring what the media (we’re talking about pre-Social Media) tells you what to do and doing it your own way and how you want to do it while Gothic 17 which features some chilling cello notes done by National Health’s Georgie Born on the subject of being an neglect and as an outsider and hopefully to escape the hell they are in.
But it’s Joe Frazier that is a real surprise. Inspired by the 1975 Thrilla in Manilla between two of the legendary boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, it showcases more of Berlin’s bass exercise. You can imagine the intensity between the match at the coliseum fighting for the heavyweight championship. The music is almost an alternate score set to the scenery of the match as Stewart’s takes his step towards the Fuzztone approach.
Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons (The Northettes) appear on this album and do some amazing vocalizations on Land’s End. Barbara who would later join with Stewart in the ‘80s as a duo with their 1981 hit single of the new wave take of Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party, and worked with him during his time with Egg (The Civil Surface), Hatfield and the North, and of course, National Health, lends Stewart a helping a hand.
The vocalizations for the first 2 minutes and 22 seconds, have this symphonic epic surrounding before going into the styles between the Wind & Wuthering-era and Moonmadness-era of Genesis and Camel. It’s has this approach as if the band are riding back home to Earth by going towards a Space-Fusion rock style that the band go into.
Clark and Berlin do some incredible improvisations between the two of them that resemble a little bit of Lunar Sea from Camel’s fourth studio album as if they’re following in the steps of Andy Latimer and Jaco Pastorius. Now we’ve come to the bonus CDs that are in the box set. It includes their live performance in which they shared a bill with Brand X at The Venue in Victoria, London. They did each Monday performance from April 28th to May 19th.
Recorded on May 5th, 1980 during the Tornado-era, the band go into some incredible work at the club and the challenging it was, the unexpected was shown on the live recording how they can take the audience some incredible ideas with them. Bill at times like a conductor on the drums. And he’s giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to know which direction and area he wants them to go into.
Now the next disc, covers the rehearsal sessions which was going to be their fourth album. The band wanted to move forward into an electronic approach on the next album. Listening to the sessions, I find it very interesting hearing these sketches and it would have been interesting if this was released.
You can hear the essences of Reggae (Hell’s Midriff), New Wave (Hooligan Juice 2, There Is No Reward, and Consequential Circus), R&B (Should’ve Been Something), Blues shuffling rock (Hooligan Juice 1), and a nod to Stanley Clarke with Saturday No School. But then it all changed when the band broke up due to an expensive bill of tour losses. Bill knew that he had to repay the costs and that was where joined up with Robert Fripp in 1981 for the reincarnation of King Crimson.
The 2-DVDs contain two of the 5.1 mixes from the original master tapes done by Jakko Jakszyk, along with the new stereo mixes of the first two Bruford albums on CD that he’s done. Now I’ve really admired what Jakko has done with the ELP albums, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery and his touch on the ’78 Berne concert of the released reissue of Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses: New Shoes Edition. Listening to the new mixes of those two albums, I find it to be quite interesting.
On the new mix of Back to the Beginning, Jakko’s mix gives Holdsworth a chance to come forth on the chord progressions and improvisational moments he would do throughout the midsection as the synths would lead into a different corridor and then on If You Can Stand The Heat… I love how Jakko brought the levels of Stewart’s jazz piano playing chords and Bruford’s insane Marimba playing on here up a notch on the mixes on the first few seconds.
In the original mix of the piece, it feels as if someone turned the volume a little bit down, but what Jakko did on the new mix, was that he brought the levels up and it’s has a clearer sound than what was on the 1978 mix. And then what he did on Five G, he brought the instruments to come towards the center as if the duel between the Bass and drums doing a frantic duel with a speeding chase.
I had an amazing blast listening to the entire box set. Speaking of the box set. It contains a large 16-page booklet done by Sid Smith containing the history of the band including interviews with the members, photos, newspaper cuts, and promo posters to name a few. It also includes the replica of the Venue ad they did in 1980, two pictures of the different line-up from ’78 to ’80, and an autograph of the limited edition by Bruford himself.
So if you want to discover more than just his run between Yes and King Crimson, then delve into the pool of Bruford’s music. You will not be disappointed.