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Bruford — Rock Goes to College (Deluxe Edition)
(Winterfold WFBX5-CDVD, 1979/2020, CD+DVD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-10-20
Ah, the heady days of 1979, when talented musicians could show their stuff and not be called self-indulgent. Oh, wait... That was by no means generally true in 1979, at least not in rock, but some hardy souls soldiered on, refusing to dumb down their music to appeal to critics enamored with punk’s simplicity and directness. Bill Bruford’s band sat more on the jazz side of the spectrum than rock, so maybe they weren’t expected to churn out three-minute paeans to anarchy. In any case, Bruford and his cohorts Dave Stewart (keyboards), Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Jeff Berlin (bass), and Annette Peacock (vocals) recorded a concert in 1979 for the BBC and gave it a title paying tribute to a Dave Brubeck album from 1954. Rock Goes to College is a completely appropriate title given the somewhat brainy nature of the compositions, which are full of rhythmic and harmonic complexities paired with the occasionally philosophical lyrics. All of the factors that made this band special are on display: Bruford’s precise drumming, Holdsworth’s crazy technique, Berlin’s hyper-funky low end, Stewart’s textural and dextrous keyboards, and Peacock’s amazing voice. They tackle “Beelzebub,” “Back to the Beginning,” “Sample and Hold,” and “Adios a la Pasada” from Feels Good to Me along with “The Sahara of Snow,” “Forever until Sunday,” and “5G” from One of a Kind, which had just been released at the time. The only drawback to this set is the audio quality, which is acceptable, though not outstanding — definitely worth it for fans of the band, but inferior sonically to the studio renditions. The main drawing point to this new version is the DVD, which features the only available video footage of this version of the group.
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