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Bill Bruford - Bruford: Rock Goes to College CD (album) cover


Bill Bruford

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars To date, this is the only official live release of Bill Bruford's 1979 outfit with the original lineup of Dave Stewart, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Berlin and Annette Peacock. The superior Bruford Tapes - a live set recorded three months after this in New York featuring the marvelous "Unknown" John Clark and his drop-dead Holdsworth impersonation - still stands as the group's definitive performance in this writer's opinion. But historically speaking, this is a highly valuable document. That it was recorded at Oxford Polytechnic in front of an intimate and lively crowd, broadcast that week on BBC 2, just adds to the archival importance of arguably the finest jazz-rock ensemble the world has ever seen, one that produced precious few memories before its members were scattered to the wind. Bruford recalls: "We didn't think we were a 'fusion' group, and the word wasn't much used around or about us. We thought we were a rock group with fancy chords. We were also unaware that if we strayed too far outside of rock's clearly defined borders - three chords and 4/4 - we'd pretty soon get some hate mail. If you think jazz is conservative, try rock." It reminds us that even when this kind of music was accepted it was met by the world at large with impatience and suspicion.

The flat and imbalanced sound doesn't help things, either. I've heard bootlegs that sound like full studio productions compared to the TV broadcast quality here. But sometimes that's how it goes in musical archeology, you take the best you can find. We abruptly join 'Sample and Hold' from the Bruford debut, the tight bond between our leader and bassist Jeff Berlin immediately apparent, Bruford's energy and enthusiasm for the material blasting through and Berlin a rhythm monster handling anything thrown at him. Bruford's compositional partner Dave Stewart harmonizes and contrasts with the Bruford/Berlin pumping heart, and Alan Holdsworth, still developing his distinct attack but already a voice of great importance, rests his fluid scale-leaping on top of things with care. The tense meters of 'Beelzebub' are reproduced perfectly, and the tingle of Bill's triangle leads us to parts 1 and 2 of 'Sahara of Snow' from the One of a Kind record. Painfully slow 'Forever Until Sunday' finally breaks out with a little energy at the halfway mark, has a nice extended solo from Mr. Holdsworth and is followed by two songs from the uniquely-voiced Annette Peacock, 'Back to the Beginning' and 'Adios a la Pasada'. Electro-thumper '5G' ends as an instrumental showcase for all.

Frankly what we have here is an important, long-lost recording by a landmark band that will be of little interest to most, even to Bill Bruford fans. In this case I can't blame them but the CD won't likely be available forever, so if you need some live material from this period and can't find anything else, grab it. A DVD of the same show is also available.

Report this review (#209463)
Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Back to the begining again

While the Bruford Tapes was released straight after it was recorded in 1979, the present live recording sat in the archives for many years before being released on CD (and apparently there is also a DVD version available, but I haven't seen it). This show was recorded earlier than the Bruford Tapes and features the original Bruford line-up including Allan Holdsworth on guitars and Annette Peacock on vocals. Some of the songs like Sample And Hold, Beelzebub, The Sahara Of Snow (both parts), and 5G are on both live albums, but others such as the two vocal pieces Back To The Begining and Adios A La Pasada - both originally on Feels Good To Me - are only here.

The sound quality of this recording is not perfect and I think it is best seen as of mainly historical interest. If you own the two studio albums One Of A Kind and Feels Good To Me as well as the live Bruford Tapes, I don't think you need this one as well unless you are a fan and collector of all things Bruford.

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Posted Friday, May 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars As a 16-year-old back in 1979, I used to try and see as many episodes of 'Rock Goes To College' as possible, as seeing live gigs on TV was so rare back then. Of course, this was in the days before video recorders so I could only see them when they were aired, but some of the shows made a huge impact on me (I vividly remember both April Wine and AC/DC). What we have here is the first gig by the band of Bill Bruford (drums, percussion), Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass) and Annette Peacock (voice), capturing them at the very beginning of their journey. It is also the only time this line-up was ever filmed, and the album has now been reissued as a DVD/CD set.

I only have the audio, but with this line-up I am more than happy enough to sit back and revel in what is taking place in my ears. Holdsworth will rightly always be thought of as one of the most important and innovative guitarists of his generation, many will argue the same for Dave Stewart (Egg, Khan, Hatfield and the North, National Health), Berlin was a well-known session bassist (Patrick Moraz, David Liebman, Patti Austin) and then driving them all was Bill Bruford. (I know it seems like I overlooked Annette Peacock, another incredibly well-known performer, but she only appears on a few songs). Any fan of progressive rock music will already own multiple albums featuring Bill Bruford, such is his importance to the genre, and this recording is an important slice of time, as not long afterwards Holdsworth had departed, and the band itself disbanded after only a few years, with Bruford working again with King Crimson and then moving more into jazz. Each of this quartet can take the lead at any given time yet are also prepared to sit back and support the others. The result is something which sounds very 70's due to the fusion style being used but is also fresh and still exciting all these years later.

Bruford has a real skill in writing parts for others which allows them to shine, and anyone who has yet to read his autobiography really does need to do so as it provides incredible insight into him as musician, composer, and person. This album has been made available a few times previously, and there have been complaints from some that the sound is not as good as it might be, but if that has been an issue in the past then that has now been resolved as this is wonderfully clear for a live recording of this age (it does help that it was recorded by the BBC). It is a great example of Seventies fusion from guys who were bouncing off each other, and that they had been together for such a short period of time is nothing short of incredible.

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Posted Friday, October 1, 2021 | Review Permalink

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