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


Bill Bruford


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.58 | 33 ratings

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4 stars Some twenty-five years ago, in the days of the vinyl LP, I had the first four solo Bruford albums (listed here), and enjoyed them very much. Though Bruford's incomparable work with prog rock pioneers Yes and King Crimson had initially drawn me to his solo efforts, I soon acquired a taste for the more overtly jazzy drumming and fusion which he gave free reign to when outside the confines of those more rock-oriented acts.

Still, when I switched from vinyl to compact disc in the mid eighties, I didn't bother trying to replace my old Bruford records (there was so much new music to explore!), until I saw this very good compilation one fine day. MASTER STROKES contains many of the best tracks from the first two Bruford works (FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND), and three pieces from the under-rated and less fusion-esque GRADUALLY GOING TORNADO. As an added bonus, there are also three terrific tracks from the master drummer's more traditional, acoustic jazz collaborations with pianist and ex-Yes keysman Patrick Moraz, which add the finishing splashes of colour to this thorough retrospective of the early explorations of one of the prog world's best percussionists. ("Drummer" seems a woefully inadequate word for Bruford's role behind - or in front of - his kit. I've seen some truly great prog drummers -- including Phil Collins and Carl Palmer -- in my day, but perhaps the best, most jaw-droppingly impressive "drum solo" I've ever witnessed live was executed by B.B. on a single wooden block. The man had - and still has -- the enviable ability to make even that simple instrument speak to, and enthrall, the audience!)

Yes, many of my favourite Bruford pieces are here, including "Hell's Bells," "One of a Kind," "Gothic 17" (an especially hard-hitting song from "TORNADO" -- though many might quibble, I actually like superb bassist Jeff Berlin's vocals), the lovely "Palewell Park," the ultra-fast bass and drum workouts that are the aptly-entitled "Five G" and "Joe Frazier," the almost scary-superb "Fainting in Coils" (I love the Alice in Wonderland excerpt at the intro), and the evocative "The Sahara of Snow."

To further sweeten the deal, eight of the fourteen tracks (the disc lists fifteen, but numbers two and three - "One of a Kind - Part One" and "One of a kind - Part Two" - are in reality a single, two-part track) feature the magnificent Alan Holdsworth on guitar. For my money, his awesome axe work on the compelling closer "The Sahara of Snow" (and elsewhere) is by itself almost worth the price of admission.

Nor is Patrick Moraz the only undoubted "artiste of the 88s" heard from here. On the eleven selections that don't include Moraz, Brit fusion veteren Dave Stewart (Hatfield and the North, National Health) deftly mans the keyboards, ably adding to the star-quality and fully-fleshed sound of this vintage stuff.

Thus, the first-rank compilation MASTER STROKES would be an excellent addition to any prog lover's collection, especially if you're fond of fusion, and the jazzier output of the man who is arguably the genre's best drummer. All Bruford and fusion fans should own a copy of this one!

Peter | 4/5 |


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