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Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Dig? CD (album) cover


Bill Bruford's Earthworks


Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.73 | 35 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars DIG has been undeservedly maligned by the critics. Wherever you look, reviews rarely sound more than lukewarm, which is why I've postponed buying and listening to the album until now - almost a quarter century after it first appeared. It may not exactly be a first recommendation among Earthworks albums, but if you're already familiar with the band, it ought to interest you.

In my opinion there have been four distinct peaks in Bill Bruford's career: (1) The early years with Yes, which led to albums such as FRAGILE and CLOSE TO THE EDGE; (2) the early years with King Crimson, when John Wetton was in the band; (3) the two albums featuring Allan Holdsworth, Dave Stewart and Jeff Berlin; (4) the second incarnation of Earthworks, which resulted in A PART, AND YET APART and FOOTLOOSE AND FANCY-FREE. Of course these peaks aren't ALL that can be said about Bill's career. The first U.K. album and King Crimson's DISCIPLINE are brilliant as well, and the very first incarnation of Earthworks (whose second studio album DIG was) has its charms, if only because Django Bates is probably the most gifted and idiosyncratic keyboards player Bill ever worked with, Iain Ballamy is an utterly adorable saxophonist, and Bill's own experiments with electronic percussion are never less than interesting.

Two things struck me about DIG. First of all: the overall mood is very close to (and seems inspired by) mid- period Weather Report. Most of the music feels bright and carnavalesque, and Ballamy's sax is strongly reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's. Secondly, apart from 'Gentle Persuasion' it's hard to find strong or memorable tunes. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why people don't particularly like the album. (Please note 'Gentle Persuasion' itself is so delightfully poppy jazz snobs will be horrified - but also note its highly lyrical sax solo.) Take the closing number, 'Corroboree'. It sounds utterly weird, and if it had appeared on FEELS GOOD TO ME or ONE OF A KIND, it would have been the prelude to one of Bill's great "symphonic" climaxes, with Allan H's electric guitar blazing away. Only, in this case there's no climax, the prelude is all you get, and the piece stops suddenly, without warning. Album over. So what else have we got?

Well, there's still a lot to admire! 'Stromboli Kicks' is wonderfully mischievous jazz, with a delightful pocket trumpet solo from Django Bates. 'Pilgrim's Way' and 'Libreville' are based on joyful ostinato patterns provided by Bill's electronic percussion; both tunes feature wonderfully wayward electronic keyboard solos. 'Dancing on Frith Street' is a unique opportunity to hear B.B. play ska. "A Stone's Throw" is an unremarkable ballad, but it features a beautiful piano solo and a superb saxophone-led finale... In fact, the more you listen to this album, the more riches you discover. Believe me, this really is an album where you need to DIG.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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