Bruford – Rock Goes To College: Album Review

A live vintage recording from early Yes member Bill Bruford’s band, Bruford, to rival more recent recordings from his Yes colleague’s current new releases and re-releases.

Release date: 20th November 2020

Label: Winterfold Records via Cherry Red

Format :  CD / DVD

Parting from Yes when they were reaching worldwide acclaim to join King Crimson may have been seen as a risk at the time. Bill Bruford was always one to follow his heart and his heart, I think, was more jazz than rock. This venture as  Bruford, which was essentially his band, bears witness to this. These live recordings, thankfully retained are predominantly a masterful pageant of improvised jazz and rock.

This is made plainly clear from the outset with Sample And Hold and Beelzebub. The instrumentals are as intriguing as the title of  The Sahara of Snow (parts 1 and 2). Bill Bruford once admitted, “You can’t half-ass play at rock, or at jazz, either, you’ve got to play jazz or play rock — or something in between like I always was.

This recording was made very early in band’s inception in 1979 but passes the test of time and Cherry Red deserve credit for allowing us the opportunity to listen to this now with perhaps more ‘mature’ and educated ears than some of us could back then.

Allan Holdsworth on guitar and Jeff Berlin on bass are quite dominant upfront with complex guitar riffs, solos  and elaborate bass runs. Annette Peacock has a unique jazz singing style in which she utilises the voice as an instrument rather than merely a facilitator of lyrics. Her role in the band is heard with distinction during the only two vocalised tracks, Back To The Beginning and Adios a La Pasada. The performance ends with a frenzied G5  on which Dave Stewart extends his keyboard dexterity with some spacey effects.

For a live performance of the late 70’s it was almost de rigueur to have an extensive drum solo but throughout this performance, Bill Bruford doesn’t need to resort to that as his proficient skills are constantly prominent.  

As a pioneer of music through the early stages of Yes and finding King Crimson and later Earthworks as a preferred vehicle for his talents he always comes across as an unassuming character. I would at this juncture like to relate a story I heard from a drummer I once played with who attended a drummer’s course. Having set up their kits for the tuition session the tutor strolled in and introduced himself by saying: “Hello, you probably haven’t heard of me but my name is Bill and I used to be in a band called Yes!

Accompanying the CD is the only known film  coverage of this stage of Bill Bruford’s  career.

On a personal level, I enjoyed this album admiring the highly skilful musicianship without having the technical knowledge to describe it with any accuracy. If you can appreciate it at that level then you will be doubly satisfied. This album is a super addition to anyone collecting music related to the resurgence of interest in former and new recordings by other his Yes contemporaries and indeed King Crimson too. Leaving the final word with Bill Bruford himself: “This was a baptism by fire, our first gig in the first few days of the band’s existence. At the beginning of it I wasn’t sure. By the end, I knew we were on to something serious.

Listen to Bruford live: 

Bruford online: Website / Facebook

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