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Bill Bruford - One of a Kind CD (album) cover

ONE OF A KIND

Bill Bruford

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.06 | 216 ratings

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Negoba
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Drifting Toward Muzak

I should love this album. The all-star lineup includes my favorite prog key player, one of my favorite fusion guitarists, and a monster rhythm section. Alas, the date (1979) dominates this record's sound and we are left with a toothless, dated record that shows some hints at what could have been but ultimately disappoints.

In 1979, the aesthetic of music was in full transition mode. Synthesizers were changing to a computer age goofiness, production techniques were getting glossier, reverbs were getting huge. Jazz fusion in general was getting softer, more brainy, and less dangerous. ONE OF A KIND is an enormous victim of these trends. The primary victim is Dave Stewart, whose monster contributions in the Canterbury scene had a distincitve set of tones including a distorted organ sound that was nasty and organic. Here, his tones are so processed and white washed that you can barely tell it's him. Similarly, the drum and bass are occasionally effected into complete cheese. Sadly, this was a trend. Allan Holdsworth's later work is very muzaked and his mind-boggling heir apparent Shawn Lane would play almost exclusively in this defanged sound. Some of jazz's best players like Pat Metheny and Bela Fleck / Victor Wooten have records that are almost unlistenable unless you tolerate 80's elevators.

There is indeed some great playing on this record. The late tracks actually have some menace here and there. There are some nice riffs, and the musicianship is at a very high level. Holdsworth is very comfortable in his element here, maybe too much so. Bruford is solidly slippery as always. Berlin is a madman. Stewarts playing is actually quite nice, when you listen for the note choices and block out the tone.

But the fact is that tone is the first thing that leaves an impression on the listener. The timbre of a singer's voice, the sing of a guitar note. The snap of a snare. And of course the sound of a keyboard. Here it's just unpleasant. As I listen to Stewart's solo on "Travels With Myself..." with it's faux steel drum, I yearn for the nasty Khan organ.

As I'm forcing myself to listen to the album for this review, the playing does come through. But in general, I never make it through the album. The fact is that all of these players have so many examples of great playing elsewhere, in more palatable settings.

Huge disappointment.

Negoba | 2/5 |

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