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Bill Bruford - Gradually Going Tornado CD (album) cover

GRADUALLY GOING TORNADO

Bill Bruford

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.45 | 69 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This album presents one of the classic good news/bad news scenarios. After their brilliant debut turned more than a few jazz rock/fusion heads, three of the four members stuck around for the follow-up. That's the good news. The bad news is that the inventive, unpredictable (yet always entertaining) Alan Holdsworth was the one who departed and he left behind some mighty big boots to fill.

Things start well enough with the exciting, new wave-flavored "Age of Information" that is peppy and bright, containing a very catchy musical refrain with clever accents. However, this is also where you are introduced to bassist Jeff Berlin's singing voice. It's not that he can't hit the notes because he does that very well but his vocal has no character, no personality and it hangs around like a pesky gnat for the duration of the album. It's not his fault that he doesn't sound like Greg Lake but they could have done better with another singer. "Gothic 17" features a strange, jazzy vocal line (again, sung accurately but not memorably) and starts with a lot of energy before dropping down to a quieter level that utilizes a cello. This song is where "the unknown" John Clark (as he is identified in the credits) shows that, while he utilizes a lot of the same tones and effects that Holdsworth uses, he's not quite in the same zip code as his predecessor. In other words, the tune could have benefited from some of Alan's surprises. Jeff Berlin's incurably funky instrumental "Joe Frazier" is the highlight of the proceedings. It has an infectious high-speed melody played simultaneously by the bass and piano as its centerpiece but it's really a showcase for Berlin's fabulous dexterity and he rises to the occasion with an incredible performance. You'll probably want to play this one over a few times before moving on. "Q.E.D." is a very interesting song. After a mysterious beginning it takes you through many phases where there's not much in the way of melody but the towering quality of the musicianship is overwhelming and it never gets boring. "The Sliding Floor" brings back Jeff's limited vocals but the band creates some very powerful music behind him. The break down in the middle is a treat. Bill Bruford wrote the peaceful "Palewell Park" but he doesn't play a note as Dave Stewart's delicate piano and Berlin's bass are all that's needed to convey the song's soft meaning. It's also a refreshing change of pace. Bill's lively, slick "Plans for J.D." follows. Jeff warbles the odd melody as well as one can expect him to but this tune never really finds its identity and is forgotten as soon as it's over. Stewart's "Land's End" finishes the album with a flourish as the band creates a kaleidoscope of musical colors and hues. It starts with some intricate but freely drifting melodies before transitioning to an uptempo segment where Clark shows he's got game. A beautiful, slower piano part intervenes briefly, then Berlin gets another chance to shine on his bass. Drummer Bruford has been content to stay in the background up till now but here the spotlight finally turns his way and he flashes a couple of dynamic fills here and there to demonstrate that he's still got "it." The tune has a nice build up and takes you full circle to the original theme. A bit avant-garde but never dull.

After being wowed by "One of a Kind" I really expected more from this one but maybe that was unfair considering the circumstances. John Clark turns in a courageous (but ultimately predictable) guitar contribution and Jeff Berlin sings the best he can with what he was born with but the album was a step back. It never really caught on and the group eventually called it quits before recording anything else. All in all it's an above average album but not on the level as the first one. 3.2 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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