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Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Bill Bruford's Earthworks Earthworks album cover
3.23 | 62 ratings | 10 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1987

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Thud (4:14)
2. Making a Song and Dance (5:56)
3. Up North (5:28)
4. Pressure (7:26)
5. My Heart Declares a Holiday (4:40)
6. Emotional Shirt (4:48)
7. It Needn't End in Tears (5:15)
8. The Shepherd Is Eternal (1:52)
9. Bridge of Inhibition (4:17)

Total Time 43:56

Bonus tracks on 2005 reissue:
10. A Stone's Throw (8:55)
11. All Heaven Broke Loose (8:27)

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Bruford / drums & percussion, whirled instruments
- Iain Ballamy / saxophones
- Django Bates / keyboards, horn & trumpet
- Mick Hutton / acoustic bass

Releases information

CD EG Records - EEGCD 48 (1987)
CD Summerfold - BBSF 009 CD (2005) with 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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BILL BRUFORD'S EARTHWORKS Earthworks ratings distribution

(62 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)


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 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.
Review by daveconn
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.

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by fuxi
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!

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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)

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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.

Review by 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.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Band-leader Bill Bruford has taken a whole new musical direction with his Simmons drums' MIDI sound capabilities-- gathering young up-and-coming jazz musicians around him to create some of the freshest new "jazz" music the planet had heard.

1. "Thud (4:14) some Crimsonian "industrial" bass and drums laid down for the rhythm track while the horns and horn keys establish a syncopated, staccato melody above. The synth soloing that takes the first lead starting at 0:50 sounds very much like a joyful Chick Corea foray. The soprano sax takes the next turn, spewing notes out at an impressive speed in a very nice, fluid Kenny G solo. Mick Hutton's gorgeous double bass play beneath provides all the engine needed to keep this one on the road as Bill starts to play a little with the timing belt beneath. While the solos are all stellar, it's Mick's bass that keeps me happy (and I'm oh, so happy). (9.25/10)

2. "Making a Song and Dance (5:56) the opening motif of this song is one of the band's most signatory: sheer music magic with tinkling piano flourishes, fast-walking double bass, beautiful soprano sax melody-making all played over Bill's Simmons drum-delivered MIDI chord sequence--until 2:45 when two "Owner of a Lonely Heart"-like cymbal crashes signal a shift to a more gruff motif--which then, quite magically, becomes smooth and gorgeous as tenor sax takes over the melody delivery with some gorgeous play. The band then shifts back to the song's original motif for the final minute with some more beautiful soprano sax melody-making taking us to the end. Such a cool song! (9.75/10)

3. "Up North" (5:28) another song that got radio (and VH1) airplay. Simple and melodic. This is part Joe Jackson, part Jazz Crusaders, part pop-elevator schlock, but it works! (8.667/10)

4. "Pressure" (7:26) opens like some heavy techno-rock 80s song before the horns arrive. Then at 1:45 there's a radical stop-and-shift to a sensitive piano-based sensitive jazz piece that turns full-bop in the fourth minute. Nice jazz drumming, Bill. Nice jazz piano playing, Django! Nice jazz double bass play, Mick! Very nice. Reminds me a lot of Chick Corea's jazziest piano play. At 5:25 we then bridge to a more industrial Crimsonian pulse motif. Bill really goes off while the horns and bass support. At 6:40 we iump into a big band-like finish. Cool! (13.25/15)

5. "My Heart Declares a Holiday" (4:40) opening with a Crimsonian "Discipline" polyrhythmic weave. It's as if you were to combine the song "Discipline" with some Miles banking and soloing. A top three for me (cuz I love that minimalist sound and feeling of "Discipline"). A top three song. (9/10)

6. "Emotional Shirt (4:48) the foray into avant-garde music: part hypnotic minimalistic chromagnum part Thelonius Monk and/or Don Pullen free jazz. May be accomplished but it's not my favorite. (8.25/10)

7. "It Needn't End in Tears" (5:15) old-style love ballad given a William Henderson (Pharoah Sanders) keyboard treatment. (8.667/10)

8. "The Shepherd Is Eternal" (1:52) picking up on the cross-cultural appropriation that artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Peter Gabriel were doing ? 9. "Bridge of Inhibition" (4:17) and then moving more into the straight jazz territory that Miles still had his feet cemented in is what this pier of songs feels like they're doing (they're even using some Sketches of Spain melodies!)-- only add a bit of Broadway musical pit orchestra (coming from Bill's Simmons drums MIDIed sound programs) to it and then, Boom! You have it! (Nice trombone from Django Bates.) (8.667/10)

Total Time 43:56

Though I played this album to death when it first came out, when it came time to writing a review for it, it had been a long time. But it is amazing how familiar it is and how much I enjoy it. But now, with many years and many, many more albums to reference inside my assimilative brain, I can see how many old and new musical sounds and styles are reflected herein. Miles Davis, Chick Corea/Return to Forever, Pat Metheny Group, and of course, the industrial sounds of King Crimson, the angular chords and melodies of both Dave Stewart and Allan Holdsworth are all present and accounted for in these song expressions--all gathered and synthesized through Bill and company's conscious and unconscious minds. Mind-expanding and brilliant!

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover's music collection--and definitely an essential listening experience for any prog music historian.

Latest members reviews

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 albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#89672) | Posted by | Thursday, September 14, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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