Rock Goes to College
01. Sample and Hold
03. The Sahara of Snow (part one)
04. The Sahara of Snow (part Two)
05. Forever until Sunday
06. Back to the Beginning
07. Adios a la Pasada
- Bill Bruford / drums
- Dave Stewart / keys
- Jeff Berlin / bass
- Allan Holdsworth / guitar
- Annette Peacock / voice
Recorded live at Oxford Tech, March 7 1979 by BBC
To date, this is the only official live release of Bill Bruford's 1979 outfit with the original lineup of Dave Stewart, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Berlin and Annette Peacock. The superior Bruford Tapes - a live set recorded three months after this in New York featuring the marvelous "Unknown" John Clark and his drop-dead Holdsworth impersonation - still stands as the group's definitive performance in this writer's opinion. But historically speaking, this is a highly valuable document. That it was recorded at Oxford Polytechnic in front of an intimate and lively crowd, broadcast that week on BBC 2, just adds to the archival importance of arguably the finest jazz-rock ensemble the world has ever seen, one that produced precious few memories before its members were scattered to the wind. Bruford recalls: "We didn't think we were a 'fusion' group, and the word wasn't much used around or about us. We thought we were a rock group with fancy chords. We were also unaware that if we strayed too far outside of rock's clearly defined borders - three chords and 4/4 - we'd pretty soon get some hate mail. If you think jazz is conservative, try rock." It reminds us that even when this kind of music was accepted it was met by the world at large with impatience and suspicion.
The flat and imbalanced sound doesn't help things, either. I've heard bootlegs that sound like full studio productions compared to the TV broadcast quality here. But sometimes that's how it goes in musical archeology, you take the best you can find. We abruptly join 'Sample and Hold' from the Bruford debut, the tight bond between our leader and bassist Jeff Berlin immediately apparent, Bruford's energy and enthusiasm for the material blasting through and Berlin a rhythm monster handling anything thrown at him. Bruford's compositional partner Dave Stewart harmonizes and contrasts with the Bruford/Berlin pumping heart, and Alan Holdsworth, still developing his distinct attack but already a voice of great importance, rests his fluid scale-leaping on top of things with care. The tense meters of 'Beelzebub' are reproduced perfectly, and the tingle of Bill's triangle leads us to parts 1 and 2 of 'Sahara of Snow' from the One of a Kind record. Painfully slow 'Forever Until Sunday' finally breaks out with a little energy at the halfway mark, has a nice extended solo from Mr. Holdsworth and is followed by two songs from the uniquely-voiced Annette Peacock, 'Back to the Beginning' and 'Adios a la Pasada'. Electro-thumper '5G' ends as an instrumental showcase for all.
Frankly what we have here is an important, long-lost recording by a landmark band that will be of little interest to most, even to Bill Bruford fans. In this case I can't blame them but the CD won't likely be available forever, so if you need some live material from this period and can't find anything else, grab it. A DVD of the same show is also available.