Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Complete,
Summerfold Records have made available a 20CD/4DVD box set of the entire back catalogue across Earthworks’ 20-year career, which includes previously unreleased and little known material. This means there are fifteen titles from 1987 to 2006, featuring Bill Bruford with Iain Ballamy, Django Bates, Patrick Clahar, Laurence Cottle, Tim Garland, Steve Hamilton, Tim Harries, Mark Hodgson, Mick Hutton, Gwilym Simcock. The set has been put together by Bruford, along with some additional original artwork by award-winning illustrator, photographer and filmmaker Dave McKean. Needless to say I haven’t received the full set to review as I’m not in the same league as writers for Rolling Stone, but I have been sent a couple of the titles included within, and as a huge fan of Bruford (whose autobiography should be required reading for anyone remotely interested in music) I was more than happy to have these to listen to.
From Conception To Birth. This is absolutely fascinating, and answers a question I always had in my mind regarding how Bill composed his music. I was intrigued as to how he presented his ideas to the musicians, and now I know! As an album this is a very simple concept, in that we get the demo performed by Bill on keyboards, and then we get the track performed by the band, showing the direct relationship and differences between the two which for an audiophile like myself is absolutely fascinating. As with all of Bruford’s material he rarely pushes himself to the front, and loves to use the power of a string brass section to get his ideas across. It does seem a little strange to hear the same tune performed twice with the demo being immediately followed by the end result, but it is compelling listening all the same.
Heavenly Bodies. Originally a single disc when it was released, this has now been expanded to be a double CD set containing a compilation of material from throughout the band’s history along with explanatory notes from Bruford. This compilation in its original form is probably the one I have played most from Earthworks over the years, so having it extended is great as it is the perfect way to get into the different styles of jazz played by the band. I am a huge fan of the likes of “Making A Song and Dance” with its strong rhythmic attack, the very Eighties keyboards and the sax taking the lead breaks. Such an easy set to listen to, just sit back and marvel at the mastery of Bruford and the way he brings in great musicians and for the most part sits behind them and lets everyone get on with the job in hand.
Live In Santiago. Originally released in 2002, here we also have a DVD as well as the original album. What a band, the quartet sound like they are having fun and the audience certainly are. With lead melodic roles being swapped between piano and sax, Bruford is tied in with the bass but also all over the kit, bringing it down when he needs to but also driving it on like the great jazz drummer he is. There are few drummers who have had such a major influence on two quite different, although related, areas of music. Here one would imagine he has never played any other style, let alone been a full-time member of two of the most important progressive rock bands of all time, and a touring member of a third.
Undoubtedly only diehard Bruford fans will get this set due to cost, but if you are one of those, then this is absolutely essential.