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


Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Bill changes directions again, gives up the prog of Yes and KC, the fusion of Bruford, Torn and Kazumi Watanabe, the experimentation of Moraz/Bruford and clocks in with a powerful JAZZ disc, full of swing, bouncy numbers and an excellent ballad. Bill forgoes the electric band for an acoustic quartet. The drummings quite nice, too.
Report this review (#28152)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars First there were four albums of guitar-led fusion, then a pair of piano & drums works with Patrick Moraz, and now the third phase of BRUFORD's solo career begins: avant jazz with horns. "Bill Bruford Eartworks" isn't a complete departure from his past work -- winning melodies and exotic percussion still play a pivotal role in the music -- but the presence of two horn-playing songwriters (Iain Ballamy and Django Bates) opens the door to many new musical avenues. BRUFORD still pleases both halves of his musical mind, psuedo-intellectual and iconoclastic one moment (as in the opening "Thud", which recalls an earlier EG act, The Lounge Lizards), sentimental and remarkably accessible the next ("Making A Song And Dance"). Ballamy and Bates are real finds, the latter a double threat to play the horn (e.g., "Up North") and piano ("Pressure"), leaving the lovely solos to the former's small array of saxophones. In such surroundings, acoustic bassist Mick Hutton becomes an afterthought, and as for BRUFORD -- well, I'm not sure what he's doing here some of the time. His handiwork is stamped all over tracks like "My Heart Declares A Holiday" and "Bridge of Inhibition", but the virtuoso drummer is a virtual no-show for "It Needn't End In Tears" and "Up North".

Perhaps BRUFORD was adopting the role of the jazz impresario, letting the young turks slug it out for musical turf while he recedes into the background, his percussion more the wise minister than willful dictator. While more audible participation from Mr. B would have only endeared this more to his fans, the fact remains that "Bill Bruford's Earthworks" is a pleasant, often exciting venture regardless of who's driving the horses. Even if his greatest contribution is bringing good music to light, it's something to be thankful for.

Report this review (#28151)
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Warning!!! This is strictly a jazz-fusion record, and while Bruford's self-titled project had prog-jazzers Allan Holdsworth and Dave Stewart on board to ensure the odd moment that would appeal to prog fans, there are no such safeguards on this record. If you don't like jazz-fusion, avoid this like the plague.

That said, Earthworks which comprised Bruford, reed man Iain Bellamy, keyboardist/trumpeter (ahem) Django Bates and acoustic bass player Mick Hutton do come up with some really pleasant moments. Despite a truly garish sound that kills some songs (you can tell that this was recorded in 1986!) and a few excursions into elevator jazz territory, there's a vibrant joyful vibe that underpins tracks like Thud and the Carribean-flavoured Up North and that makes this record a little hard to trash.

The best "prog" moments are probably Emotional Shirt (which has a great bit of drumming halfway through), the second half of Pressure, the wierd riffs that hold Bridge Of Inhibition together and a mini drum solo towards the end of My Heart Declares A Holiday.

Nonetheless, I'd like to repeat my warning that this record is rarely progressive, occassionally terrible and will generally appeal only to those who are looking for a slightly more creative version of Sypra Gyra, The Rippingtons, The Yellowjackets and the like. ... 24% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#28153)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bill finally achieves his pre-azimuth after playing in everything from Yes KC Genesis Pavlov`s Dog and his previous assorted solo works which included the fickle Allan Holdsworth. this is an explosion of heavy jazz. Rythmn abounds on this one and it only gets better on subsequuent Earthworks albums. prepare yourself for some dangerous smashing percusion accompanied by complicatited accopaniment. Guitar heads should stay away from this one for the simple reason is that there are no guitars here. i think that Bill just had enough guitar overload afetr KC.

Bruford had tought himself a number of chords on the piano when embarking on his first solo album album and it is evident that he has taught himself a few more here.

The album goes through so many motions from the thuderous introductory track Thud to the romantic My Heart Declares a Holiay.

Perhaps more appealing to jazz-rock fans, fans of Bruford`s drumming will swim in this.

Report this review (#89672)
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Back in the 1980s, Bill Bruford founded Earthworks, a four-man ensemble which combined electronic drums with mainly acoustic instruments.

For those familiar with the classic Bruford sound, which you will hear on CLOSE TO THE EDGE, RED and even on more recent Earthworks discs (in the late 1990s Bruford discarded his electronic kit) the results may initially be unsettling. The opening bars of 'Thud', the first number on this CD, call up unwanted memories of the echo-laden electro-pop of the 1980s. For a few anxious moments you wonder if this album is going to be all style and no substance. But then the melody takes wing, Django Bates provides a truly bizarre synth solo, Iain Ballamy performs a lovely solo on soprano sax, and Bruford's drum fills sound so characteristic and assured, you realise the master has lost none of his brilliance.

On the second track, 'Making a song and dance', Bruford employs the same technique as on King Crimson's 'Waiting Man', providing a marimba-like pattern over which Ballamy plays a wonderfully dreamy soprano sax melody. By the third track, 'Up North', the listener is captivated. On top of a gentle ostinato pattern provided by Bruford, Ballamy (on sax) and Bates (on e flat 'peck' horn, a trumpet-like instrument) play a melody which sounds gentle and totally delightful. Bates takes a great solo. And so the album goes on. There are no disappointments; the music remains fresh and inspired until the very end.

One of the great things about this first incarnation of Earthworks is that Bruford surrounded himself with such supremely gifted musicians. Bates and Ballamy certainly had more characteristic voices than the musicians who would succeed them at the end of the 1990s. Django Bates is an idiosyncratic keyboard player who sounds as if he would have fitted right in with Hatfield and the North. If you can, check out some of the 'Canterbury'-like albums he recorded under his own name, especially SUMMER FRUITS and WINTER TRUCE!

Report this review (#127946)
Posted Monday, July 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars On listening to this, the first of Bill Bruford's Earthworks albums, I get the idea that the amazing Mr. Bruford might have been a bit fearful of going as far away from his progressive roots as he did on the subsequent recordings of ths group. This one is quite a bit more prog than any of the other releases. It's even produced by, and has a guest appearance by Bruford's previous keyboard player, Dave Stewart. Stewart's influence is apparent, as much of the album has some of the feel of Bruford's fusion band, most apparently the middle section of "Making A Song And Dance" and most of "My Heart Declares A Holiday"

But the highlight of the album is "Bridge Of Inhibition", a Middle-Eastern flavored tune, that's spectacular as it is, but just amazing when you see it played live. It's just incredible how much of the melody comes from Bruford's drum synths, played at the same time he's keeping the rhythm.

If you get any Earthworks disk, this should be the one.

Report this review (#218422)
Posted Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Bill Bruford was well known as prog-rock drummer with prime league bands in his past. That time has gone many years ago. First we heard Bruford solo albums incl. quality jazz- rock/fusion music. Then he played some boring albums with Patrick Moraz.

There we have debut album of his new project - Bill Bruford's Earthworks. First of all, this music is far away from prog-rock, or any rock. It is far away even from his solo works in fusion field. Here we have mainly quite conservative jazz with some eclectic elements of rock.

First of all, album's music is very unfocused. From very beginning it sounds as second league jazz band with deep ancient acoustic bass, quite simplistic musical structures, soft sound and pale melodies.

Song after song, the impression become a bit better, at least there are some melodies and some trumpet solos, filling the space, in some songs. Common sound is well rounded and amorphic, with rare chaotic heavier ( rock?) fragments.Synth-keyboards doesn't input life signs in a music, some cheap "soundscapes" only improve eclectic sense.

Listening to that album, I few times had a feelind as being in restaurant and listening a jazz- band there. Even some flirt with Eastern folk ( "Bridge Of Inhibition") doesn't help: all in all it sounds as semi-professional jazz band, which was formed to realise Bruford ambitions to play jazz .

In fact, could be interesting for heavy Bruford fans as item for their collection. For all others - easy jazzy listening for dinner time.

P.S. The CD I own has 9 tracks ( not 8 as stated above): album's seven track is It Needn't End In Tears (5:14)

Report this review (#241962)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Bridge of inhibition

After the folding of the Jazz-Rock/Fusion group Bruford in the early 80's Bill returned to King Crimson for a while before going deeper into Jazz territory with this new group called Bill Bruford's Earthworks. This is Jazz Fusion with little or no elements of Rock, and even though it can rightly be described as eclectic it is by no means Prog. Hence, anyone expecting a continuation of what Bill did with Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Berlin, and Dave Stewart in Bruford will probably be sorely disappointed by this. (And anyone expecting anything even remotely related to Yes, King Crimson, or UK will of course be even more off the mark.)

The album opens with a cheerful, up-tempo Jazz number that sets the tone for the album. This cheesy little ditty makes me cringe and is one of the worst pieces of music ever coming from an ex-Yes member's solo album! The rest of this album is mostly a bit better than this dismal beginning and there are even a few moments when it gets almost acceptable, but even the better parts are nothing too special and the worst parts are, as mentioned, rather awful.

The drums are obviously in focus and the rest of the sound is dominated by acoustic bass, brass, and some cheesy sounding keyboards. Guitars and other typical Rock instruments are avoided.

It should be clear that I'm not the target audience for this project and anyone not sharing Bill's passion for Jazz is probably well advised to stay away, far away.

Report this review (#1407755)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This isn't as bad as I was led to believe by some reviews out there. Still I consider this nothing more than a 3 star album so there's that. Bruford shifts gears in his career here in 1987 to a more straight up Jazz direction with this acoustic quartet. Keyboards, horns, acoustic bass(of course) and drums. Bouncey is a good word for a lot of this, lightweight might be another. Just not my music scene at all but I did like the track "Emotional Shirt" a lot. My favourite by far. It's catchy at first with keyboards, horns and heavy beats before it all deconstructs after 2 minutes and a new soundscape arrives that's fast paced with bass out in front then piano followed by a horn. Good stuff! The track "The Shepherd Is Eternal" is pretty cool because we get this atmosphere that starts to pulse then it gets windy as a solo horn arrives offering up these mournful expressions. "It Needn't End In Tears" sounds like a Christmas carol and "My Heart Declares A Holiday" sounds like a dance song from one of the islands. The rest is okay but this isn't all bad that's for sure.
Report this review (#2532187)
Posted Sunday, April 4, 2021 | Review Permalink

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