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Saturday, July 1, 2017

10: Bruford - Feels Good To Me (1977)

Holdsworth with Gibson SG on "Adios a La Pasada",
from "Bruford: Rock Goes to College"

     After returning from his stint with Gong, Holdsworth continued playing jazz club dates in London from the beginning of 1977. Drummer Bill Bruford (from the progressive supergroups Yes, King Crimson and Genesis) caught Allan at some of these gigs, and in a 2005 interview with Christophe Coureau, mentions playing an early date with the guitarist:
     "...Allan had certainly asked me to play in a pub in Putney (South-West London ) some time around then with Ray Warleigh. Of course, by now I knew enough about his talent to be hugely impressed, and to think that if ever the opportunity arose, if ever I could find a vehicle big enough to contain him, I'd give him a call..."  (77)
Neil Murray, Bill Bruford, Allan Holdsworth

Bruford: Feels Good To Me
     Bill Bruford composed his first solo album Feels Good To Me during the first half of 1977, with National Health keyboardist Dave Stewart's assistance. Allan and bassist Neil Murray (National Health, Whitesnake, etc..) ended up joining the duo for some rehearsals in May and July. Bill reminisces about Allan's time in his "Bruford" band in his 2009 autobiography:
     "Guitarist Allan Holdsworth, like bassist Jeff Berlin, was clearly developing something on his instrument that involved huge leaps forward. There was the liquid hammering-on technique in the left hand, by which perhaps only one in three or four notes are struck, with the rest hammered on, by just hitting the fingers on the frets. There were the spectacular leaps in intervals — Allan had given me Nicolas Slonimsky's "Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns" as a Christmas gift, and he was by now a leading authority in the arcane world of palindromic canons, sesquitone progressions, and the like. Allan brought forward this heavy armament, more commonly found in classical composition, as source material for improvisation in rock and jazz groups. There was the whammy bar, more commonly known as the tremolo arm, which invested his work with so much passion. Just as it seemed the notes could go no further, the phrase would spin off into the ether with the crying vocal inflection caused by momentarily altering the pitch of all the guitar strings. There was his sound — a beautiful, passionate thing -  (but) not always readily available: many was the night you could find Allan, soldering iron in hand, five minutes before the audience was let into the hall, wiring together three complaining amplifiers, their guts spilling out onto the stage, solder and screws everywhere."  (90)
     Although Neil Murray helped out in these early rehearsals, Jeff Berlin was eventually chosen to take the bass chair on the studio date. Allan had already met Jeff briefly when he and Tony Williams were auditioning bass players for Tony's New Lifetime in 1975 ("He's a killer. He's gonna scare a lot of people. Really lethal." (3)). Jeff Berlin talks about Bruford's intuitive approach below: 
     "(Bill) played a chord on a piano and there was a note that clashed. The harmony book says you shouldn't play those two notes together. I mentioned that to him and he said 'Well, I like the way it sounds.' That little line absolutely changed my life because it made sense. It was about how I hear it versus how it ought to be." 
 - Innerviews 2002, Anil Prasad
     In August (after Allan had returned from completing guitar tracks in Los Angeles for Jean-Luc Ponty's album, Enigmatic Ocean), studio sessions for Bruford's Feels Good To Me began, although the album was basically an assembled studio project, in which Allan overdubbed his guitar onto existing rhythm tracks.
     “I had never played a completely overdubbed solo until I recorded with Bill Bruford a few years later. It's so weird, so sterile. You know, you feel like you're outside. But when you do solos live, there's a sort of spirit that's so difficult to get in overdub situations. When a band plays together, everybody interacts. And that feels much better to me. If you make mistakes, they don't feel so goofy as when you overdub and foul it up. I try to listen to everything and cue off of everyone in the band… (so instead) I just listened to what they wanted, and played. It's hard sometimes, because I can get a mental block. It would be a great advantage to read (music) because when you've got something difficult to remember — even if it's only two or three bars — you can look at it and jog your memory. And sometimes I get so worried about remembering something that I don't remember it. The biggest problem, though, is that I can't write anything down when composing a piece.” (07)
     Bill explains his reasoning in an "Oor" magazine interview:
      "The sound engineer thought we'd gone crazy! We first recorded just the the drums, then the bass, and so on. With our music, it was possible to do that. Since everyone makes mistakes in the studio, if everyone records their parts individually, they can do it as many times as they like. Of course, we first rehearsed the pieces before entering a studio, so we had a clear idea of how the pieces would sound... But next time I think we’ll do it differently." 
- Magazine "Oor" (Netherlands, Feb. 8, 1978, re-re-re-translated) 
     Allan didn't contribute any songs to Feels Good To Me, but he did have to navigate through some interesting rhythmic meters and lengthy unison ensemble figures (Allan was no stranger to these "tricky dick" parts, as he had written some intricate rhythmic parts on "Velvet Darkness" ("Karzie Key") back in 1976).

Feels Good To Me: Musical Analysis:
     This album sets the stage for some of the more structurally-complex music Allan would be involved with in the late '70s. Balancing out the technical prowess on display would be Annette Peacock's poetic, "sprechstimme" vocal delivery, with her voice becoming elevated to that of an alluring 'siren' by the climactic end of the album. From a stylistic viewpoint, Allan's solos seem to have retreated just a bit from the iconoclastic tremolo bar articulations he had achieved on the Gong Gazeuse! album, which may also be due to the more demanding natures of Bruford's rhythms and harmony structures. Allan be seen playing a red Gibson SG for some of these songs in the 1979 "Rock Goes to College" video (top of page), so that may have had something to do with it as well...

Bruford: Feels Good To Me (1978)
Recorded August 1977

Bill Bruford: Drums, percussion, composition
Allan Holdsworth: Electric guitar
Dave Stewart: Keyboards, synthesizers
Jeff Berlin: Bass
Annette Peacock: Vocals ("Back to the Beginning", "Seems Like A Lifetime Ago Pt. 1", "Adios a La Pasada")
Kenny Wheeler: Flugelhorn ("Seems Like A Lifetime Ago Pt. 1", "Either End of August", "Springtime In Siberia"))
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 Beezlebub 3:22      Right from the start, Bruford's interest in ensemble rhythmic gymnastics is signaled.  Allan's lyrical solo closely navigates the chord changes, but ties it off with a nice "mystery" lick.

0:00: A section: Syncopated head with accented bass counterpoint, filtered synth layers and tuned metal percussion.
0:41: B section: Guitar solo 1 (short lead statement), over a broader rhythm, ending in cadenza and accented figure.
1:02: A section reprise, leading to accented pedal ostinato against rising keyboard chords, developed into a bass/guitar riff (variation of a fragment of the A melody head).
1:47: Guitar solo 2 (long) over B section rhythm section, adding organ layers, ending in cadenza and accented figure.
3:01: A section reprise, ending in accented final chord.
2 Back to the
7:25      This song starts off very peacefully, but soon breaks off into a nasty, menacing riff, eventually leading to some weird synth-funk grooves for Allan's solo (this time more harmonically adventurous).

(with Annette Peacock: vocals)

0:00: Impressionistic woodwind-synth lead over celeste/synth textures.
0:48: 1st verse: heavy stuttering pulses (modulating), vocal enters with brass-synth accents.
1:26: Cadence, rising accents, cadence.
1:43: 2nd verse, cadence, accents.
2:15: Funky accented groove (w. vocal).
2:34: 3rd verse, developed brass-synth ornaments, cadence, accents.
3:06: Funky accented groove reprise (with added electric piano accents).
3:25: See-sawing synth/bass riff with hand percussion, male chant, soon joined by Allan's patiently-constructed guitar solo leading to some complex harmony substitutions (synth plays two-chord harmony after chant ends). Cadence, accents.
5:52: Funky accented groove (w vocal) as guitar solo fades out.
6:11: Guitar solo briefly resumes over broadened funk groove (this time more lyrical).
6:29: See-saw synth riff with added celeste ornaments and vocal chant from Annette.
3 Seems Like a Lifetime Ago
(Part One)
2:31      This pastoral tune highlights vocal and flugelhorn. No guitar appears here.

(with Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn solo, Annette Peacock: vocals)

0:00: Slow groove driven by bass riff intro, cadence.
0:15: Plaintive vocal over relaxed groove in a falling harmony.
0:41: B verse, vocal continuing over intro riff reprise, cadence.
1:10: Vocal over relaxed groove, flugelhorn solo takes over.
1:50: B verse (horn solo continues under vocal), intro riff reprise, cadence, vocal over relaxed groove.
4 Seems Like a Lifetime Ago
(Part Two)
4:29      Another somewhat suspenseful riff surfaces, as Allan contributes some lyrical lead passages.  The simmering funk middle section is somewhat reminiscent of Allan's old Nucleus days...however his solo is far more advanced harmonically than back then.

0:00: Accented/clipped power chords (with narration) transitions to heavy syncopated 5/4 guitar riff and synth-brass stabs.
0:36: Lyrical guitar solo over synth-texture and riff groove.
0:59: Syncopated 5/4 guitar riff and synth-brass stabs, joined by synth lead.
1:32: Impressionistic pedal texture with 8th-note ride cymbal and electric piano ornaments.
2:03: Guitar and keyboard ornaments intensify as groove ramps up.  Guitar lead eventually comes to the front (3:10) as vamp develops.
3:36: Cadence with solo cont'd, rising accented figure, slow groove melody from Part One (guitar in top line) with celeste ostinato, held and then ending with motif in woodwind synth, final power chord cadence.  
5 Sample and Hold 5:12      This song features some limber bass from Jeff Berlin and more "tricky dick" sections.  Allan has a stop-start, lyrical solo over a quick-changing rhythm structure.

0:00: Mid-tempo drums groove leads to power chord fanfare figures.
0:28: Syncopated, melodic layers groove on synth, piano, bass and metal percussion, capped by fanfare figures.
1:24: Oscillating synth texture, guitar power chord accents, then funky groove with aggressive bass and keyboard ornaments.
2:10: Power chord bridge, pedal bass texture with modulating electric piano chords, harpsichord/piano string elements.
2:45: Guitar solo over mid-tempo two-chord vamp, alternating with pedal bass/keys texture, cadence accents.
3:42: Syncopated, melodic, layered groove (developed with added vibraphone), fanfare chords (featuring piano).
6 Feels Good
to Me
3:53      Allan's guitar is nicely harmonized at various points in this song (probably a combination of double-tracking and Eventide harmonizer).  Personally speaking, the head melody is a bit too saccharine for my tastes...

(with John Goodsall: additional rhythm guitar)

0:00: Rising harmony guitars intro, synth-brass head melody over cheerful, pulsing groove (Goodsall contributes funk guitar riffing), cadence, head melody reprise, cadence.
1:00: Accented cadence variation, electric piano/synth solos alternating with head cadence fragments.
1:46: Handclaps lead to pedal piano groove and harmonized guitar lead, groove modulates and is developed with accents.
2:34: Brief piano ornaments interrupt, leading to melody in piano.
3:01: Synth-brass head melody, rising harmony intro reprise.
7 Either End
of August
5:24      This wistful song transitions between 5 beat grooves and a 6-beat variation, then ends in straight time for the lyrical end guitar solo.  Berlin plays some nice fretless bass here.

(with Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn solo)

0:00: Slow, filtered synth chords and hand percussion (Indian bells).
0:28: 5/8 piano melody enters in a relaxed tempo.
0:57: Synth melody over 5/8 groove, flugelhorn takes over, then fretless bass, then guitar.
2:32: Melody changes to fit 6/8, cadence accents.
3:01: Fretless bass picks up 5/8 melody, joined by piano, flugelhorn solo as guitar plays melody in 5/8.
3:56: Melody back to 6/8 groove, cadence accents.
4:24: Lyrical guitar solo over hopeful 4/4 groove, fade out.
8 If You Can't Stand the Heat… 3:26      This "mutant-funk" workout is built around a zig-zagging rhythmic cadenza which is often led by vibraphone.  Allan's solo charges through another fast-evolving rhythmic landscape.

0:00: Piano/vibraphone rhythmic cadenza, developed and joined by accented bass.
0:27: Broad synth chords punctuated by bass ornaments.
0:51: Adventurous guitar solo over broad synth chords.
1:16: Rhythmic vibraphone cadenza figures with bass accents, cadence.
1:38: Somewhat "bluesy" guitar solo over funky keys/bass accents, walking bass, and modulating rhythmic grooves. 
2:35: Vibraphone cadenza leads to woody-synth solo over funky bass groove, rhythmic cadenza.
9 Springtime
in Siberia
2:44      This piano ballad (featuring Wheeler's majestic flugelhorn) acts as a thoughtful prelude to "Adios a la Pasada".

(with Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn)

0:00: Piano ballad with flugelhorn.
1:12: Piano develops theme alone.
2:06: Horn returns for final melodic statement.
10 Adios a la Pasada
(Goodbye to the Past)
8:41      This piece, alternately exuberant and whimsical, is the high-point of the album, with Allan and Annette's lines engaging in a soaring dialogue at the end.

(with Annette Peacock: vocals)

0:00: Enigmatic piano arpeggios herald atmospheric, bubbly synth layers with melodic bass and percussion ornaments, uptempo drums fade in under brass-synth accents.
1:29: Synth melody line over restless bass, as guitar solo slowly (quietly) surfaces from broad counter-lines, continues as modulating groove develops (synth accents enter).
2:53: Vocal narration over slow falling harmony with melodic bass, drums resume uptempo groove.
3:20: Guitar solo resumes over uptempo groove leading to cadence accents.
3:35: Broad, anthemic groove under guitar solo and vocal narration, punctuated by accented rhythmic phrase.
4:20: Vocal narration over slow falling harmony (reprise) with melodic bass, drums resume uptempo groove.
4:44: Guitar solo resumes over uptempo groove and brass-synth stabs.
5:09: Accented cadence developed (guitar solo continues).
5:42: Broad, anthemic groove (reprise) with guitar solo (continued) and passionate vocal, punctuated by accented rhythmic phrase, vocal ends as lyrical guitar solo continues to ending fade out.

"Feels Good To Me" jacket art
     No touring for "Feels Good To Me" really followed (besides one February 1978 performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test), since almost immediately (near the end of 1977) Eddie Jobson and John Wetton began the formation of U.K., which would soon have Bill and Allan as charter members.

Next: Anarchy in (the) U.K.
Previous Chapter: Jean-Luc Ponty

Go to the Table of Contents... 

The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography
For more detailed information on this chapter, see the Annotated Chronology.

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