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Bill Bruford - Master Strokes: 1978-1985 CD (album) cover

MASTER STROKES: 1978-1985

Bill Bruford

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.52 | 27 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Like many fans of KING CRIMSON in the late 1970s, I must have been a little bewildered by the embryonic solo career of ace drummer Bill Bruford. Expecting more of the hard-hitting avant-metal of "Red" (or at least some of the heavy instrumental punch of the first UK album), we were instead given the airy, optimistic Jazz-Rock fusion of "Feels Good To Me", Bruford's 1978 solo debut.

It took a long time and a lot of replays to finally appreciate the drummer's impeccable (and deeply rooted) Jazz instincts. Which may be why the music in this 1986 compilation, recapping the initial seven years of Mr. Bruford's solo work, actually sounds better today than when it was new: hindsight being 20-20, and so forth.

The selections are drawn from the drummer's first three albums, plus his two later collaborations with ex-YES keyboard wizard Patrick Moraz. But because half the tracks are from only one source (his 1979 early career peak "One of a Kind") it's a somewhat lopsided sampler, certainly worthwhile as a primer for neophytes but useless to connoisseurs.

Either way, the music is the same: intricate, challenging, playful, sophisticated, and never less than surprising. This is the work of an artist liberated (and just in time) from the Prog Rock fashions of the day, then in precipitous decline. I'm reminded of another erstwhile Progressive Rock drummer who was likewise baffling critics with a similar fusion of styles: Phil Collins and the first BRAND X (too bad he then had to beat such a hasty retreat back to the GENESIS gravy train).

For Bruford, all the tar and feathers from a knee-jerk post-Punk orthodox press couldn't stick to music so far removed from the alleged pretensions of Prog Rock superstardom. Check out, to cite the most extreme example on this disc, the drummer's stark, minimalist improvisations alongside Patrick Moraz, another kindred jazzer re-discovering his long-dormant roots.

To be fair, Bruford didn't completely turn his back on his art rock upbringing. Many of the selections here are clearly more Rock than Jazz: the quicksilver power chords of "Fainting in Coils"; the distorted attack of "Gothic 17" (the only vocal track in the collection), and the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA-like "Sahara of Snow, Part II", co-written with Eddie Jobson and possibly an orphan of the short-lived first lineup of UK.

In short, it's a valuable portrait of a world-class musician taking the first confident steps toward securing his own identity.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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