Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Bill Bruford: A Retrospective

Photo credit
Re-listening to the track ‘Roundabout’ from the progressive rock album ‘Fragile’ by Yes (1971) recently, I once again became fascinated by the unusual sound, the precision and odd syncopation of drummer Bill Bruford’s high-pitched snare drum, and reminded myself that Bruford is one of my favorite ‘rock’ drummers; a drummers’ drummer, if I might say?
This is the same guy who 32 years later played drums on the exceptional live 2003 acoustic jazz album ‘Random Acts of Happiness’ by ‘Bill Bruford’s Earthworks’, which has been one of my favorite reference recordings for some time now (in particular, the tracks ‘With Friends Like these…’ and ‘Speaking With Wooden Tongues’ (in which he even uses Polynesian log drums). I also reminded myself how lucky I was to have seen him perform live four times (twice with King Crimson; once in the 1970s and once in the early 1980s, once with Genesis in the 1970s, and once with Patrick Moraz in the mid 1980s). As such, I thought it was time to write something in deference to the great musician.
Fragile in 1971 was the fourth album of Yes, and their first album in which classically trained keyboard player Rick Wakeman was aboard. Yes’ first album ‘Yes’ was recorded in 1969; Bruford was one of the original co-founders of the band in 1968, although interestingly, right after he co-founded the band in 1968 he quit shortly afterwords, deciding to attend college for an undergraduate degree; but then while attending college being asked/begged to rejoin because Yes’ replacement drummer turned out to drink too heavily and Yes had been invited one week later to play at Royal Albert Hall in London—as a supporting band to the famous November 1968 ‘Farewell Concert (Cream)’ with Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. He rejoined, deciding to be a professional musician instead of attending college–and played at Royal Albert Hall.
Bill Bruford with Yes.
Bill Bruford with Yes. photo credit: Neil Preston/Corbis
In 1971, Fragile shot Yes, and Bruford, to international fame with that single cut ‘Roundabout’. Lucky for all of us, they also had the recording engineer (also a producer), Eddy Offord, who had an intense interest in and talent for recording progressive/classical rock groups: Emerson Lake & Palmer being another such group who even honored (and played a joke on) Offord with the track (7) ‘Are You Ready Eddy?’ from their 1971 album ‘TarKus’.

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