39. All too brief

Seems Like a Lifetime Ago. From Bill Bruford, Feels Good to Me, 1978

A game of two halves, labelled as Parts one and two on the original, and posted here on YouTube separately. It’s the first half stays with me, but the combination works.

The record came as Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford (He’s Dr Bruford, retired drummer nowadays) was striking out as a leader, using whoever he thought would be good to play with. As he’s a musically curious gent with unerringly sound instincts the results were invariably interesting, notably in the various editions of the slightly later Earthworks, in which Django Bates and Iain Ballamy found themselves on world tours when most UK jazz players of their generation were still booking gigs in back rooms of pubs (as they do now).

This on-the-way-to-Earthworks effort assembled a similarly talented crew – who for a while became the band Bruford, which underlined who the famous one was. But on the first album we get the one-off collaboration with the undersung vocal genius, Annette Peacock. Her delivery on part one here – the LP’s earworm – is stunning, as it is on all of her all too rare recordings. The soundworld prefigures the one she built on the neglected masterpiece The Perfect Release which appeared the next year, with a quite different band: rockish drums, electric keys, and a sumptuous, superficially affectless vocal that I can hear in my head at will.

Bruford arrived at a similar mix by a different route, I guess – a jazz-inclined drummer who got famous playing prog rock in the most gloriously pretentious band of all, and here brought in the jazzier side of the Canterbury scene sound. Dave Stewart’s keyboards were at the core of Hatfield and the North and National Health. Add US electric bassist Jeff Berlin and Allan Holdsworth and that’s quite a band.

The results are still worthwhile, though the band sound is maybe a little airless. My musical brain works slowly, so all Holdsworth’s solos sound basically alike to me, though I do quite like them. And the eighties keyboard sounds do evoke an era that has now gone.

But any reservations are swept away on the tracks with Peacock, who humanises the whole thing in her inimitable way. A perfect trumpet cameo from Kenny Wheeler provides a crowning grace on Part 1 that enhances the effect. of this two and a half minute glide. Then go on to part 2 to sample the sound of most of the rest of the album. It’s a neat pairing, but as so often when delving into old recordings it makes one wonder what Bruford and Peacock might have done if this had been more than a one-off.

Why the No 39? This is one of a series running (in no particular order) through 2021. I explain a bit what it’s doing here.

There’s a cumulative playlist of all the ones that can be found on Spotify (with a different Peacock track – for all its faults, it is good the way the streaming service makes work by artists like this so accessible again).

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