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Bill Bruford

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Bill Bruford Master Strokes: 1978-1985 album cover
3.60 | 37 ratings | 8 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1986

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hell's Bells (3:33)
2. One of a Kind, Pt. 1 (6:25)
3. One of a Kind, Pt. 2 (6:15)
4. Travels With Myself -- and Someone Else (6:15)
5. Gothic 17 (5:09)
6. Palewell Park (4:01)
7. If You Can't Stand the Heat... (3:27)
8. Five G (4:46)
9. Joe Frazier (4:45)
10. Living Space (3:53)
11. The Drum Also Waltzes (2:55)
12. Split Seconds (4:42)
13. Fainting in Coils (6:37)
14. Beelzebub (3:22)
15. The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 2 (3:27)

Total Time: 62:49

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Bruford / percussion, cymbals and drums
- Allan Holdsworth / guitar
- Jeff Berlin / bass
- Patrick Moraz / piano and piano (grand)
- John Clark / guitar
- Dave Stewart / keyboards

Releases information

EG Records, EGCD 67

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BILL BRUFORD Master Strokes: 1978-1985 ratings distribution

(37 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(59%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BILL BRUFORD Master Strokes: 1978-1985 reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a collection of tunes from the three BRUFORD albums and a few treats from the Moraz/Bruford experiments, also highly reccommended. Be sure to check out "The Drum Also Waltzes." Bill's solo drum piece, a cover of jazz drummer Max Roach's tune. This would be a great place for the uniniated to start.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By the time I snapped up this collection of material featuring William Bruford's eponymous band I'd been listening to his music for nearly 15 years ... and I already believed him to be among the deities of prog-rock. After all, the man had the audacity to help create The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge and then ditch Yes to make Larks Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black and Red with King Crimson. He then spent time touring with Genesis, guested with Pavlov's Dog and also was a member of both UK and National Health. And all this in 8 short years before forming this self-titled supergroup with guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist Dave Stewart (bassist Jeff Berlin was also part of the group.)

Of course most prog fans will tell you that compilation albums and progressive rock don't go together ... and for the most part, I agree. But every once a while a group comes along where a compilation suffices because the group proves either to be decent but not worth checking out extensively, or patchy with a few highs and many lows spread across a few albums. Master Strokes let me know that while Bruford (the group) has some great moments, it isn't really the kind of group I go crazy over.

Basically I was disappointed by this record. Not just because I came to this expecting great things, but because Bruford's music contains large doses of jazz fusion and hardly any symphonic prog. That's not to say that I hate jazz fusion but Bruford's variety reminds me a little too often of Weather Report (by far my least favourite of the fusion giants). In fact, Berlin's bass solos during Travels With Myself, Palewell Park, If You Can't Stand The Heat ... and Joe Frazier sound to me like an audition for a spot in WR!

The music here is basically culled off three albums 1978's Feels Good To Me (2 tracks), 1979's One Of A Kind (a whopping 7 tracks) and 1980's Gradually Going Tornado (3 tracks), as well as 3 pieces from ol' Bill's project with Patrick Moraz. My favourite piece is probably the opener Hell's Bells ... an excellent example of Billy Cobham (Spectrum-era) style jazz fusion with bold colours from the synths, a fiery solo from Holdsworth and fat bass from Berlin all in 3 and a half tight minutes played in some strange time signature that most proggers will appreciate. The only vocal track Gothic 17 (sung by Berlin) also has some superb moments but suffers because the keyboards are really dated. Other highlights include Beelzebub and If You Can't Stand The Heat ... (both of which have some great interplay between the band members, not to mention exquisite vibraphone-playing), Five G (which sounds to me like a really great party track!!!), Joe Frazier (which has some fantastic high-intensity playing in the latter half of the song) and Fainting In Coils (which is the track that comes closest to conventional symphonic prog).

Ironically I enjoyed the three pieces from Bruford's collaborations with Patrick Moraz (off Music For Piano And Drums and Flags) more than I did the average "Bruford" track. These were Living Space, which an atmospheric discordant improv feel to it, an excellent drum solo based on Max Roach's The Drum Also Waltzes and Split Seconds, another moody jazzy number that like Living Space conjured up the feeling of two truly great musicians improvising off each other.

I still have mixed feelings about Bruford the band, because despite the many highlights, I was also unimpressed by parts of this record. I think Bruford is a band any serious progger will feel compelled to listen to, but many might be disappointed by. ... 57% on the MPV scale

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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!

Review by NetsNJFan
3 stars An excellent compilation of Bruford's solo works, and it makes a great starting point for those unfamiliar with his fusion/Canterbury work. It covers his material fairly well, with the classics "Beelzebub", "Hell's Bells" and "Fainting in Coils" present, albeit in abridged form. The album also contains some of Bruford's collaborations with Keyboardist extraordinaire Patrick Moraz, and they are all high quality jazz fusion. Included as well are the U.K., never recorded tracks "Sahara of Snow" (co-authored with Eddie Jobson), which popped up in Bruford's solo work, and the majority of his second album ONE OF A KIND (1979), his masterpiece.

As can be expected, the the musicianship from Bruford's supergroup band is stellar, and the pieces are some of the best fusion ever recorded. Highly recommended for beginners to Bruford's incredible solo work, but be aware it is not symphonic prog, just very English, Dave Stewart tinged jazz-rock. Great album, very solid three stars. Not essential, but solid.

Bruford's three solo albums, FEELS GOOD TO ME (1978), ONE OF A KIND (1979), and GRADUALLY GOING TORNADO (1980) are also highly recommended, but start with this one for an overall view.

Review by fuxi
4 stars MASTER STROKES remains excellent value for those in search of an overview of Bill Bruford's early solo career. It offers you a particularly good selection from the album ONE OF A KIND, which is often considered as Bill's fusion masterpiece. More than half that album is represented, and whoever selected the tracks did an excellent job: you're getting ALL the strongest bits.

Approximately half of FEELS GOOD TO ME, Bill's first solo album, is excerpted as well, but in this case I'm not altogether happy with the selection. Although the tracks included are strong, the selection overlooks Bill's collaborations with top fluegelhorn player Kenny Wheeler and with the eccentric jazz vocalist Annette Peacock. I know most proggers won't regret Ms. Peacock's absence, since her way of singing is an acquired taste, and they'll all just want to hear Allan Holdsworth, Dave Stewart and Jeff Berlin... But I personally enjoy Annette and I believe 'Back to the Beginning' (which features her singing) was FEELS GOOD TO ME's strongest track; it certainly incorporates one of Allan Holdsworth's very best solos as well.

So, if you're not too hard-up, I'd recommend you give MASTER STROKES a miss and buy both FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND instead. Since they are two of the very best prog-fusion albums around, you cannot go wrong.

Perhaps you'll even end up buying GRADUALLY GOING TORNADO! I must admit that at the time of writing (August 2007) I haven't heard that particular album, but the three tracks included from it on MASTER STROKES sound promising - especially 'Joe Frazier', which features one of the most acrobatic bass guitar performances I've ever heard.

As for the three shortish (and acoustic) collaborations by Bruford and Patrick Moraz which are included here: I'm afraid most listeners will find them boring. I personally only enjoy "The drum also waltzes", which does exactly what the title promises (and admirably so!) but which is really a B.B. solo performance. Still, these brief collaborations in no way detract from MASTER STROKES' documentary value.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Like many fans of KING CRIMSON in the late 1970s, I must have been a little bewildered by the embryonic solo career of ace drummer Bill Bruford. Expecting more of the hard-hitting avant-metal of "Red" (or at least some of the heavy instrumental punch of the first UK album), we were instead given the airy, optimistic Jazz-Rock fusion of "Feels Good To Me", Bruford's 1978 solo debut.

It took a long time and a lot of replays to finally appreciate the drummer's impeccable (and deeply rooted) Jazz instincts. Which may be why the music in this 1986 compilation, recapping the initial seven years of Mr. Bruford's solo work, actually sounds better today than when it was new: hindsight being 20-20, and so forth.

The selections are drawn from the drummer's first three albums, plus his two later collaborations with ex-YES keyboard wizard Patrick Moraz. But because half the tracks are from only one source (his 1979 early career peak "One of a Kind") it's a somewhat lopsided sampler, certainly worthwhile as a primer for neophytes but useless to connoisseurs.

Either way, the music is the same: intricate, challenging, playful, sophisticated, and never less than surprising. This is the work of an artist liberated (and just in time) from the Prog Rock fashions of the day, then in precipitous decline. I'm reminded of another erstwhile Progressive Rock drummer who was likewise baffling critics with a similar fusion of styles: Phil Collins and the first BRAND X (too bad he then had to beat such a hasty retreat back to the GENESIS gravy train).

For Bruford, all the tar and feathers from a knee-jerk post-Punk orthodox press couldn't stick to music so far removed from the alleged pretensions of Prog Rock superstardom. Check out, to cite the most extreme example on this disc, the drummer's stark, minimalist improvisations alongside Patrick Moraz, another kindred jazzer re-discovering his long-dormant roots.

To be fair, Bruford didn't completely turn his back on his art rock upbringing. Many of the selections here are clearly more Rock than Jazz: the quicksilver power chords of "Fainting in Coils"; the distorted attack of "Gothic 17" (the only vocal track in the collection), and the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA-like "Sahara of Snow, Part II", co-written with Eddie Jobson and possibly an orphan of the short-lived first lineup of UK.

In short, it's a valuable portrait of a world-class musician taking the first confident steps toward securing his own identity.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars It is rare in the world of compilations to find a collection from any artist that actually contains the best of that artists material. This collection of Bill Brufords 1970s and early 1980s work does a pretty good job of that. The songs come from his three studio albums recorded with his fusion band (in fact, seven of the songs come from his best album, "Feels Good To Me") and the two albums he recorded with keyboard master Patrick Moraz.

This collection wisely shies away from the songs with vocals, including only one piece where bassist Jeff Berlin sings (although I wouldn't have minded if the disk included one of the songs with Annette Peacock's vocals). Nearly all of the songs here would qualify as some of the best progressive rock in Bruford's solo career.

Highly recommended as a starting point for a Bruford collection.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A nice album to listen to, where jazz fusion predominates. Despite the sound of keyboards is a little bit exaggerated and harmonious, (gives the idea that the keyboardist wanted to show off before other elements), there are moments of great quality. We can appreciate the virtuosity of his own be ... (read more)

Report this review (#455686) | Posted by Joćo Paulo | Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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