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Bruford: Rock Goes to College

There's never been much, if any, live recordings of Bill Bruford's blazing fusion band from the late 70's, so the fact that Rock Goes to College, a BBC recording from March of 1979, is now available on CD as well as DVD is major news. This hot set (sadly only about 40 minutes long) sees drum virtouso Bruford joined by super guitarist Allan Holdsworth, bassist Jeff Berlin, keyboard legend Dave Stewart, and vocalist Annette Peacock. The band peforms material from both Feels Good to Me and One of a Kind, both staples of 70's fusion alongside albums by Brand X, Return to Forever, Majavishnu Orchestra, and Lifetime.

"Sample and Hold" and "Beelzebub" kick things off in crankin' fashion, with Bruford's intricate drum patterns laying the framework for Holdsworth's flights of fancy, Stewart's range of keyboard sounds, and Berlin's acrobatic bass work. In fact, Berlin steals the show on "Sahara of Snow (Part 1 & 2)" with his muscular and sinewy bass lines, despite the commanding presence of Holdsworth and his snaking guitar lines and Stewart's wild piano excursions. The more laidback and jazzy "Forever Until Sunday" slows things down a bit, and features some nice keyboard melodies and popping bass work, as well as a great solo from Allan. The next two tracks have vocals from Peacock, and quite frankly she somewhat spoils the show. Having a strange Debbie Harry-meets-Patti Smith vocal style, her vocals sound out of place on the funky fusion piece "Back To The Beginning", and her spoken word, off key drawl on "Adios A La Pasada (Goodbye To The Past)" is almost unbearable at times, killing what is otherwise a very progressive piece with plenty of hot instrumental spots. Thankfully that's the last we see of her, as the grand finale "5G" is a molten fusion number featuring Berlin's wild Jaco-ish bass grooves, Stewart and his effects laden keyboards, Bruford's frantic drum spots, and a legato solo from Holdsworth.

Most of what you get here is breathtaking, and if it weren't for Peacock's weak vocals and the short length of the set, this would be a 5 star release for sure. Add in a nice booklet with commentary of the show & band, plus plenty of photos, and you have a must hear archival release for Bruford and fusion fans alike.

Track Listing
1. Sample And Hold
2. Beelzebub
3. Sahara Of Snow (Part 1)
4. Sahara Of Snow (Part 2)
5. Forever Until Sunday
6. Back To The Beginning
7. Adios A La Pasada (Goodbye To The Past)
8. 5g

Added: April 22nd 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Bill Bruford Website
Hits: 2936
Language: english

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Bruford: Rock Goes to College
Posted by Kerry Leimer, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-04-22 19:58:07
My Score:

Kin to Feels Good to Me, One of a Kind and The Bruford Tapes, Rock Goes to College is another reminder of the lush tangle that results when the impulses, conclusions and yearnings of jazz and rock interact. The pieces here span all three of the prior releases and there are not a great many differences to be found. In fact, the sound quality of this BBC performance is generally lackluster, no more so than when Annette Peacock comes up to the mic. The technical issues of balance between the instrumentalists and vocalist become very apparent, even by 1979 standards. But the performance is that splendid combination of the polished and the raw which, after more than a quarter century, is charmingly sincere and still impressive.

Sound quality aside, where else will we few admirers of this first incarnation of Bruford's solo ventures turn? For music that is so like the shortly following and first U.K. album which at turns and shakes did the same sort of work with a decidedly and less avantly guarded pose, while managing to exhale the most fluid yet still graspable sinews of Holdsworth's then nearly and now completely personal style. Not to mention Wetton on bass. And, not to mention the then even shorter time Bruford sat with Dave Stewart as part of that wondrous piece of Canterbury, elevening his way down the "Tenemos Roads" with National Health.

Reminiscences now lain to rest, the music here does its best to represent a particular distillate that results from the cross-pollination of many influences and styles and experiences, and despite the number of experts on hand, it still at times rings a bit forced and self-conscious to these ears. For my money Bruford hits his solo and compositional stride in two very different areas: within the equally short-lived and still experimentally rock-inflected thumping of Upper Extremities and free to roam through the pure jazz extrusions of If Summer Had its Ghosts, et al. Still, unlike these and even more recognizable forms performed by U.K. and National Health, it's a good exercise as a listener to discover the profound value of this music in particular. Since it still, after nearly three decades, remains resolutely outside the boundaries of easy categorization.

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