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Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Footloose and Fancy Free CD (album) cover


Bill Bruford's Earthworks


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.35 | 19 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This incredible double live CD is one of the highlights in Bill Bruford's long career.

It mainly consists of pieces from two previous Earthworks CDs (A PART, AND YET APART and THE SOUND OF SURPRISE) but all are given a thorough makeover. The pieces from THE SOUND OF SURPRISE, in particular, take on a new life of their own and sound far more passionate than they ever did in the studio.

You might admire Bruford for his work with Yes and King Crimson, and it's true some of the early highlights of his career can be found on albums such as FRAGILE or THE GREAT DECEIVER (one of the Crimson box sets). But of all the members (or former members) of classic 1970s prog bands, Bruford is, beyond doubt, the one who has, in recent decades, expanded his musical vocabulary most. He has refined his drumming technique, his composing skills and his emotional expressivity to such an extent that, if you like his original style, you really ought to listen to Earthworks as well. I cannot imagine you won't be captivated.

With the Earthworks incarnation represented here, Bruford resolutely went down the jazzy road. I hesitated a little before awarding this album the full five stars. "Masterpiece of progressive music? But it's jazz!" Well, if you look at all the projects by leading prog musicians during the past thirty years, some have strayed, at times, into ambient music (Robert Fripp, for example), traditional singing- songwriting (Peter Gabriel) or pseudo-classical suites (Steve Hackett). Many of those musicians have produced excellent albums in various genres, fully deserving five stars. If thousands of Progarchives readers are able to enjoy such products, some will also appreciate Bill Bruford's evolution. As listeners we ought to have an open mind, and accept Bruford the way he is. And since Bill now plays and composes better than ever, he fully deserves our admiration.

Although Bruford devotes himself to jazz these days, he's still recognisably the same musician as when he set out on his own. The quirky melodies he writes, full of time changes and unusual meters, still bear a close relationship to the stuff you'll hear on FEELS GOOD TO ME (Bill's early 'fusion' masterpiece) and to certain Canterbury Scene albums (e.g. NATIONAL HEALTH).

As far as Earthworks' other members are concerned, few lovers of symphonic prog will have problems with double bass, or with Steve Hamilton's masterly piano. Patrick Clahar may be the greatest problem, since many rock fans simply don't accept the saxophone as main melody instrument in a band. (To make things worse, in some of his solos Clahar 'goes a bit crazy' - something many rock listeners just CAN'T STAND.) Well, to all of you grumblers out there, I'll only say three things. (1) Broaden your mind, dammit! Life is short, and most of the world's great music is NOT produced by rock bands. (2) Just imagine Clahar's bloody sax is a guitar! (3) If all else fails, use your fast- forward button. The customer is king, I guess...

But once again: as long as you're not a "cloth-eared nincompoop" (to quote Mike Oldfield), it's likely you'll appreciate Bill Bruford's unique virtuosity and his amazing inventivity as a composer. This double album was definitely meant to be enjoyed.

fuxi | 5/5 |


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