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Bill Bruford's Earthworks - A Part, And Yet Apart CD (album) cover

A PART, AND YET APART

Bill Bruford's Earthworks

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.96 | 20 ratings

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fuxi
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album was a milestone in Bill's career; it's essential listening to all Bruford fans.

'O.K. I admire the stuff Bill did with Yes and King Crimson, and I'd like to hear more from him, but this is jazz, and I hate jazz!'

Well, in that case I suggest you first try Bill's fusion albums. If you really love his drumming, you're bound to enjoy FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND. And as soon as you're familiar with those, it's a short step to A PART, AND YET APART. The most important difference is that the main melody instrument (electric guitar) is now replaced by saxophone, and there are no synth solos any more. But the style of music remains much the same.

If the first incarnation of Earthworks (with Django Bates and Iain Ballamy) was criticised in certain quarters for being 'fusion-lite' (which will come as a surprise to anyone who knows their splendid live album, STAMPING GROUND!) this new incarnation (with Steve Hamilton on piano and Patrick Clahar on saxes) definitely sounded very muscular from the word 'go'.

Clahar's tenor sax and Bruford's own bebop-style themes sometimes evoke restless American jazz of the 1950s, but there are lots of tender moments as well. On 'Sarah's Still Life', for example, Clahar's soprano horn is reminiscent of the great Wayne Shorter. 'Dewey-eyed, then Dancing' is yet another lovely ballad, on which Bill & Co use that old trick of entertaining the listener with variations BEFORE going on to play the main theme.

Some of this album's tunes may remind you of FEELS GOOD TO ME. 'The Emperor's New Clothes' is like a slowed-down version of that album's title song. Other tunes are Canterbury-like in mood, such as 'Curiouser and curiouser'. Throughout the album, there are quite a few moments where piano and bass maintain a repetitive pattern, allowing Bill to deliver 'killer drum fills'. Steve Hamilton, also, proves himself a lyrical soloist, sometimes colouring piano improvisations with gentle synthesizer washes in the background.

There can be no doubt that, with this new incarnation of Earthworks, Bill initiated a creative renaissance. While his former bandmates were clearly in the doldrums, releasing album after album of soporific New Age piano and second-rate guitar instrumentals, Bill was on a creative high. The only other 1970s prog instrumentalist with a distinguished solo career is Steve Hackett, whose style, however, appeals less to me than Bruford's. (I still don't understand what went wrong, after 1980, with the likes of Steve Howe or Rick Wakeman.)

But the best news of all is that, by the beginning of the new millennium, the very best Earthworks album was yet to come...

fuxi | 4/5 |

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