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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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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By the time I snapped up this collection of material featuring William Bruford's eponymous band I'd been listening to his music for nearly 15 years ... and I already believed him to be among the deities of prog-rock. After all, the man had the audacity to help create The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge and then ditch Yes to make Larks Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black and Red with King Crimson. He then spent time touring with Genesis, guested with Pavlov's Dog and also was a member of both UK and National Health. And all this in 8 short years before forming this self-titled supergroup with guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist Dave Stewart (bassist Jeff Berlin was also part of the group.)

Of course most prog fans will tell you that compilation albums and progressive rock don't go together ... and for the most part, I agree. But every once a while a group comes along where a compilation suffices because the group proves either to be decent but not worth checking out extensively, or patchy with a few highs and many lows spread across a few albums. Master Strokes let me know that while Bruford (the group) has some great moments, it isn't really the kind of group I go crazy over.

Basically I was disappointed by this record. Not just because I came to this expecting great things, but because Bruford's music contains large doses of jazz fusion and hardly any symphonic prog. That's not to say that I hate jazz fusion but Bruford's variety reminds me a little too often of Weather Report (by far my least favourite of the fusion giants). In fact, Berlin's bass solos during Travels With Myself, Palewell Park, If You Can't Stand The Heat ... and Joe Frazier sound to me like an audition for a spot in WR!

The music here is basically culled off three albums 1978's Feels Good To Me (2 tracks), 1979's One Of A Kind (a whopping 7 tracks) and 1980's Gradually Going Tornado (3 tracks), as well as 3 pieces from ol' Bill's project with Patrick Moraz. My favourite piece is probably the opener Hell's Bells ... an excellent example of Billy Cobham (Spectrum-era) style jazz fusion with bold colours from the synths, a fiery solo from Holdsworth and fat bass from Berlin all in 3 and a half tight minutes played in some strange time signature that most proggers will appreciate. The only vocal track Gothic 17 (sung by Berlin) also has some superb moments but suffers because the keyboards are really dated. Other highlights include Beelzebub and If You Can't Stand The Heat ... (both of which have some great interplay between the band members, not to mention exquisite vibraphone-playing), Five G (which sounds to me like a really great party track!!!), Joe Frazier (which has some fantastic high-intensity playing in the latter half of the song) and Fainting In Coils (which is the track that comes closest to conventional symphonic prog).

Ironically I enjoyed the three pieces from Bruford's collaborations with Patrick Moraz (off Music For Piano And Drums and Flags) more than I did the average "Bruford" track. These were Living Space, which an atmospheric discordant improv feel to it, an excellent drum solo based on Max Roach's The Drum Also Waltzes and Split Seconds, another moody jazzy number that like Living Space conjured up the feeling of two truly great musicians improvising off each other.

I still have mixed feelings about Bruford the band, because despite the many highlights, I was also unimpressed by parts of this record. I think Bruford is a band any serious progger will feel compelled to listen to, but many might be disappointed by. ... 57% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |

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