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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

12: Bruford - One Of A Kind (1979)

from "Bruford: Rock Goes to College"
Jump to Music Analysis:
Bruford: One Of A Kind

Bruford: One Of A Kind
     After Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford parted ways with prog supergroup U.K., the subsequent reformation of Bruford's solo band (with keyboardist Dave Stewart and bassist Jeff Berlin) would unfortunately only result in one more album. One Of A Kind was recorded in the opening months of 1979 and followed with a few weeks of touring, but Allan's restlessness soon struck again:
     "Bill's music was so close to UK in essence. I called it 'jigsaw' music. As much as I loved working on his albums, it just didn't work for me live. I wanted to get back to the type of feeling that was happening when I was working with Tony Williams...And then when I started working with Gary Husband...I had just been introduced to him and played with him a couple of times and I thought, 'Oh man! I wanna play with THIS guy.' So I decided to form my own band and that's what cut short the Bill thing."  (16, 62)  
     When considering Allan's decision to depart from Bruford (and instead, move towards "looser" settings), it's probably worth noting that Bruford's songs were dominated by exacting, labyrinthine "tricky dick" melodic material, and One Of A Kind was Allan's third album with Bill by this time. Additionally, Jeff Berlin's rhythmically-gymnastic song "Joe Frazier", while not recorded with Allan on album, was already being played as part of Bruford's live repertoire during Allan's tenure. Allan was apparently tiring of this kind of 'precise' playing, and it no longer seemed to be as challenging to him as it might have been in the past. In any case, Bill wryly describes Allan's sudden departure in his autobiography:
     "On yet another 'happy' day, guitarist Allan Holdsworth called me to pull out of a French tour with about four days notice. 'Allan,' I fumed, 'you can't do this. Not at least without leaving me with a workable replacement.' Allan, one of the most spectacularly individual guitar voices on the planet, would be unlikely to produce someone who could begin to come close to what he did. 'Funny you should mention that,' he said, 'because there is this bloke in Slough that I've been teaching a bit, and he could probably do it.'  There was indeed a bloke in Slough. Incredibly, he was willing, able, and available to learn this impossible music, come on this tour, and pretend he was Allan Holdsworth. I'm not sure the deceit was perfect, but we got away with it...To this day, there are those with not very good ears who think he doesn't exist and that 'John Clark' was a pseudonym for an unhappy Holdsworth." (90)
     Nonetheless, Bill was sympathetic to Allan in his 2005 interview with Cristophe Coureau:
     "...he was unhappy - the complaint was, I think, that he was boxed in by the compositions, and he was probably right. I wrote too much and didn't leave enough space. This indicates a lack of trust, as if somehow I could not rely upon the musicians to come up with strong improvised material on the spot. That's partly true, and these studios get very expensive very quickly. I 'directed' Allan as a movie director might direct a movie-star, and he didn't like that much. Plus the clock was ticking... On those records, my own playing was like an afterthought. I just worried about everyone else, and would they show up tomorrow."  (77)
Musical Analysis:
     One Of A Kind included more compositional contributions from Bill's band-mates than in its predecessor. A couple of the songs had just been road-tested with U.K., and Allan's rejected Virgin demo "The Abingdon Chasp" (to be caught up on in the next chapter) was here re-arranged as a Bruford song. These factors make the resulting album a somewhat more organic affair, but at the same time, without Annette Peacock's contribution, it seems a bit more "earthbound". Bill also incorporated more tuned percussion melodies into his compositions than ever before (which was often carried by Allan's guitar in live performances).

     On four tracks below ("Travels with Myself – And Someone Else", "The Abingdon Chasp", "Forever Until Sunday" and "The Sahara of Snow Pt. 1"), I appended edited commentary from Bill Bruford (BB) in conversation with guitarist Randy Roos (RR) during a 1980 interview conducted by Matthew Mandell and Kenneth Fall.

Bruford: One of a Kind (1979)
Recorded January & February 1979
Bill Bruford: Drums, percussion
Allan Holdsworth: Electric guitar
Dave Stewart: Keyboards, synthesizers
Jeff Berlin: Electric bass
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
(All songs written by Bill Bruford except where indicated)
1 Hell's Bells 3:32 (Alan Gowen, Dave Stewart)

     The main rhythmic theme is subdivided into 3 parts which when added together make one 19-beat macro-structure (mainly of academic interest only, it still grooves). Allan has a nicely-sectioned solo which sounds like it might've been assembled from different recording set ups. It also navigates some whiplash groove transitions...

0:00: Synth-brass melody over synth-bass pulses (modulating and applying subdivided patterns of 19 beats per sequence), joined by drum groove, adding ornaments and choir pads.
1:24: Broad (but heavy) guitar figure enters and develops into a solo, supported by changing rhythmic grooves: bass/drum, piano/bass/drum (1:42), piano with double-time rim-shots (1:50), mid-tempo accented power chords with "wah synth" bass figure (2:09).
2:30: Synth melody groove resumes under flute-synth solo, choir pads enter for fade out.

(More about "Hell's Bells" at
2 One of a Kind, Pt. 1 2:20      This two-parter features a variety of rhythmic variations and tempo changes, as well as a couple "tricky dick" moments. The steel drum lines set the mood for this cheerful romp. Allan's solo has a very playful feel, and it seamlessly flows into the ensemble melody immediately following it.

0:00: Mid-tempo power chord groove in 5/4, developed with a syncopated grace note and with synth head melody.
0:24: Syncopated figure A in tuned metal percussion (xylophone/steel drum).
0:41: Guitar solo over mid-tempo groove, modulating.
1:23: Unison ensemble plays syncopated figure A, leading to 10/8 ostinato figure (from head melody variation) with modulating pedal tone, ending in fast cadential figure.
1:56: Opening synth head melody reprised in bass register, leading to final accent chord. 
3 One of a Kind, Pt. 2 4:00 (Bruford, Stewart)

     The open textures in the beginning develop into a nice triplet groove, and then a straight uptempo section. Allan's solo spots are based on a cheerful melodic figure.

0:00: Impressionistic improv texture with various ornaments from keys, bass, drums.
0:48: Clean guitar comping joins as groove develops. Guitar develops into a mildly-overdriven guitar solo as bass groove becomes more ebullient, rhythmically modulating and developing into a looser, triplet groove ("swinging").
2:34: Guitar introduces a melodic motif under brass-synth accents and swing groove, accented cadence.
3:03: Motivic guitar lead continues over uptempo (straight) groove and flute-synth figure (from opening synth head of Pt. 1), ending in variation of fast cadential figure (from Pt.1).
4 Travels with Myself – And Someone Else 6:10      Dave Stewart's various synth tones are featured here in several solos, as well as a clean-toned solo from Allan at the end.

0:00: Synth swells into a slow rock groove driven by flute-synth.
0:39: Piano theme with gentle guitar ornaments.
1:10: Flute-synth in top line, developing into loose piano theme reprise and tremolo bar-bent guitar chords.
2:03: Accented pedal bridge leading to bass solo over glassy synth tones and hi-hat/crash accents.
2:48: Slow rock piano theme in synth with flute-synth solo, accented pedal bridge reprise, modulating.
3:49: Uptempo groove with bubbling bass and synth-brass lead, accented cadences and alternating fast and slow tempos.
5:00: Clean guitar solo over alternating tempos, fading out.
BB: A brief listen to Allan [Holdsworth] on this.
RR: Why did you fade this out?
BB: I know. It was just going! No more space on the LP.
RR: Really? I love this whole thing. Yes, that's nice.
BB: Yes.
RR: This lick coming up here....
BB: [Laughs] That one's a killer! [To interviewers] Sorry.
RR: That's too bad. What happened next? You always wonder. You must have had about ten minutes more, right?
BB: Yeah, it went on for awhile, yes. 
5 Fainting in Coils 6:33 (Bill Bruford: Mock Turtle/Anthea Norman Taylor: Alice, Sam Alder: narrator)

     This song has a very dramatic, epic feel to it, once it gets going. Allan has two solos, one clean, and the other distorted (and joined with an organ background).

0:00: Layered, harmonically-vague electric piano patterns under Alice in Wonderland recitation, joined by power chords.
0:37: Drums join power chords, cadence.
1:06: Clean guitar solo over percolating fretless bass groove and brass-synth stabs.
1:46: Ascending power chords over pedal piano accents.
2:04: Lead guitar figure joins, leading to textural swells over vigorous bass, ascending power chords/pedal piano figure.
3:03: Relaxed groove with organ harmony and melodic bass.
3:25: Lyrical guitar solo, cadence into held organ, cross-fade into flute-synth ostinato.
4:36: Additional flute-synth melody line (with finger-snaps) leads to ascending power chords (melody line in brass-synth).
5:13: Piano solo over relaxed groove with accented bass, brass-synth solo over ascending power chords.
5:55: Guitar picks up lead line as drums ramp up, piano returns with layer of opening (recitation) patterns, leading to ending cadence.  
6 Five G 4:41 (Jeff Berlin, Bruford, Stewart)

     This tune feature some rare slapped bass (in a Holdsworth track) but is a fiery "Lifetime"-ish jam. This is one of the tunes which Eddie Van Halen played on when joining Allan and Berlin on stage in California years later.

     Allan: "I really liked the solo at the end of "In Five G." (7)
0:00: Uptempo slapped bass riff with hi-hat.
0:15: Syncopated power riff, joined by electric piano ornaments, groove modulates upwards.
0:49: Power riff reprised with synth textures developed.
1:22: Guitar solo over syncopated - but more broad - groove, accented cadence.
1:49: Filtered keyboard solo over syncopated power riff, modulating.
2:29: Guitar solo resumes over broad syncopated groove, cadence.
3:03: Guitar solo continues over half-tempo two-chord vamp. Drums add accented ornaments, tempo modulates, fade out.
7 The Abingdon Chasp 4:50 (Allan Holdsworth)

     This reworked version of a 1977 demo for Virgin replaces the original sax melody ("B") with the bass and simplifies the structure (to be further analyzed in the next chapter). Allan overdubs thick guitar harmony lines in some sections and his guitar has a mature solo tone.

0:00: Descending accented fanfare "A".
0:10: Melody line "B" in fretless bass, synth modulating to fanfare variation "A'", then brief piano solo over anthemic groove fragment "B'".
0:44: Reprise of bass melody "B", fanfare var. "A'", harmonized guitar figure over broad "C" groove (some added low guitar accent figures), fanfare "A" (slight variation).
1:35: Synth solo over syncopated groove figure "D", modulating and broadening into "C'" groove variant.
2:10: Allan's guitar solo begins: syncopated groove figure "D" (with "glassy synth), back to "C'" groove variant.
2:34: Acoustic guitar solo in slow cadence.
2:48: Anthemic groove "B''" (full statement) with electric guitar solo.
3:16: Reprise of fretless bass head melody "B" (added synth-flute figures), fanfare var. "A'", harmonized guitar figures over broad "C''" groove, fanfare "A" (slight variation), final synth bubbling.
BB: (electric solo after acoustic guitar interlude) Allan builds nicely on this. It's a very masculine voice here -- [sings along with guitar in deep voice].
RR: It's a pretty melody, right here. I like this next note, where he goes a little bit flat. [Laughter]
BB: Right, right, yeah! We wondered about that one, when it came out. What do you think, Allan. Yaah!
RR: I like that! I like that a lot! Sometimes it's funny about recordings, you know. When you do one, you listen to it, and you think -- I don't know if I like that. Then about six months later, that's your favorite part of the record.
BB: Yes, right.
RR: And you're so glad you kept it.
BB: Yes. This is a guitar choir, in a way. Every note's recorded separately here, you get a very rich guitar sound that way -- and double tracked. 
8 Forever Until Sunday 5:46      Originally performed with U.K. on their prior tour, this song has Eddie Jobson on (uncredited) violin. Jobson's violin melody is very pretty, and Allan does a beautiful exploration of it later in the song. 

0:00: Impressionistic synth chords, joined by head melody in violin (with melodic bass comping).
1:00: Head reprised with drums and developed with gentle guitar comping and sparse electric piano ornaments and brass-synth accents, head reprise in violin.
2:40: Mid-tempo groove with insistent bass, synth power chords leading to synth theme, cadence.
3:30: Syncopated heavy guitar riff with accented piano stabs, leading to guitar solo supported by bubbling bass and synth theme, cadence.
4:21: Head (reprise) with guitar in lead line, developed into a lyrical guitar solo, noble/ominous end cadence.
BB: Allan takes a solo now. [BB sings along to guitar]
RR: Nice bass playing.
BB: Yeah. Jeff's not bad. The other thing Allan's good at is if you give him a good, long legato melody, like the one he is about to play, he plays around it nicely.
RR: It sounds like he's played this melody a lot -- before you recorded it.
BB: Yes, he had played it quite a lot. That worked well that time -- because usually you record first and tour later, which is a drag. But on these several tunes he toured it a lot.
RR: Lovely. Very vocal kind of thing.
BB: Isn't it! He gives it the stuka handle a lot, too. 
9 The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 1 5:18      This two-part song was also originally performed with U.K. on their last tour. It's driven by a hypnotic 7/8 piano rhythm and has an interesting pulsed-synth interlude (somewhat Pink Floyd-ish).

0:00: Swelling synth textures and abstract figures, fading into mid-tempo piano/bass vamp, modulating.
1:36: 7/8 drum groove based on piano vamp, joined by rising bass and marimba accents, secondary piano groove.
2:17: Lead guitar melody enters over a churning groove, bridge cadence.
3:05: Pulsating synth interlude, modulating bass pedal.
4:03: 7/8 piano groove reprise with added marimba solo layer.
4:30: Lead guitar melody reprise, bridge cadence.
RR: Did you do the marimba thing?
BB: Yes.
RR: The marimba's a really beautiful sound in that. There's a mood that --
BB: Yes. [Listening to melody] Double diminished. Half-step, whole step. [BB sings and whistles along] Upper minor third.
RR: Great snare sound. Who wrote this?
BB: Me...(7/8 piano-marimba section after pulsing synth interlude)... this is a rip-off from a Dollar Brand LP.
RR: You're kidding!
BB: Not quite. But in intention it is. Do you know Dollar Brand? There's a tune on an Elvin Jones album called "Tintayana". On an Elvin Jones album with Dollar Brand. The intro to it is a multi-rhythmic piano piece. It's very polyrhythmic. He's really good with the left moving at one extraordinary tempo and the other -- I want to try to get it to boil!
RR: Just all that action underneath.
BB: I wanted to get -- I didn't do enough of that, actually. The guitarists have to get this kind of thing to boil; and in fact, I just ended up doing a multi-percussion track.
10 The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 2 3:23 (Bruford, Eddie Jobson)

     The first thing which stands out about this track is how "four-on-the-floor" it starts out. However the reprise of the melody from Pt. 1 is a nice development. Allan's solo stays mostly within the groove harmony.

0:00: Groove based on even (hammered) accents, joined by clipped rhythm guitar and piano accents.
0:55: Lyrical guitar solo, joined by organ harmony.
2:00: Lead guitar melody from Pt. 1 resurfaces, ornamented.
3:06: Final synth swell.

     Gear-wise, Allan must have found another red Gibson SG to replace the one he lost in the Tony Williams Lifetime days. He is, in fact, seen playing it in the 1979 "Rock Goes to College" video (analyzed below). Actually, parts of Bruford's Feels Good To Me album and some of U.K.'s live radio broadcasts (released on the U.K. "Collector's Edition" box) both have a strong Gibson SG sound to me (of course, Allan can be seen playing the white Dick Knight Strat in the February 1978 Old Grey Whistle Test performance, so I could be wrong). He also continued to use his Marshall 50 watt head with Marshall 4x12 cabinets, all with modded ("bodged") elements. Sometime during this period he also added a 50 watt Hiwatt to his arsenal of amp heads, as well as a Vox AC30 (particularly on the One of A Kind sessions).
Bruford: "One Of A Kind" jacket art
Bruford: Rock Goes to College (2009)
     Probably one of the most interesting archival Bruford releases from this period is the Rock Goes To College DVD and CD, which reunited Annette Peacock with the Bruford quartet at Oxford Polytechnic on March 7, 1979. The 2009 Winterfold label release (essentially an audio mix of the DVD) is broken down below. It's probably worth noting that it's an incomplete performance record (the missing first two songs can be heard here) and Allan is a bit under-mixed in my opinion - great film footage, though. It can also be found on YouTube...

Bruford: Rock Goes to College
Recorded by the BBC at Oxford Polytechnic, England, on March 7th 1979.
Bill Bruford: Drums, percussion
Allan Holdsworth: Electric guitar
Dave Stewart: Keyboards, synthesizers
Jeff Berlin: Electric bass
Annette Peacock: Vocals ("Back to the Beginning", "Adios a La Pasada")
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 Sample And Hold 4:45 (Allan plays the maple body custom Strat (Dick Knight) for the first part of the concert)

0:00: (fade in to) Syncopated, melodic layers groove on keys, bass and guitar, capped by fanfare figures.
0:28: See-saw piano ostinato, bass accents, then uptempo funk groove with aggressive slap bass and keyboard ornaments.
1:09: Power chord bridge, bass and piano dialogue over light rimshot groove.
1:58: Guitar solo over mid-tempo two-chord vamp, alternating with bass/piano texture, cadence accents.
3:04: Syncopated, melodic, layered opening bass groove, developed (guitar joins), fanfare chords relaxing into final cadence.
2 Beelzebub 3:37 (Probably my favorite solo from this particular concert)

0:00: A section: Syncopated head (guitar replaces vibraphone part) with accented bass counterpoint.
0:40: B section: Guitar solo 1 (short lead statement), over a broader rhythm, ending in cadenza and accented figure.
1:01: A section reprise (featuring bass synth), 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.
2:57: A section reprise, ending in accented final chord.
3 The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 1 3:26 0:00: Gong, percussion, swelling synth textures and abstract figures (fuzz guitar power chords), developing into mid-tempo piano/bass vamp, modulating.
2:01: 7/8 drum groove based on piano vamp, joined by rising bass and piano accents, secondary piano groove.
2:41: Lead guitar solo enters over a churning groove, bridge cadence.

(album synth interlude omitted, probably due to time restraints)
4 The Sahara of Snow, Pt. 2 3:43 0:00: Groove based on even (hammered) accents, joined by clipped rhythm guitar figure, piano accents.
0:56: Guitar solo, joined by added organ harmony.
1:59: Lead guitar melody from Pt. 1 resurfaces, ornamented.
3:04: Final accent/rave-up.
5 Forever Until Sunday 6:50 (Synth takes the violin role)

0:00: Impressionistic guitar arpeggios
0:21: Head on flute-synth/bass with light drum groove (gentle guitar comping continues).
1:23: Flute-synth solo, developed cadence, head reprise.
2:31: Mid-tempo groove with insistent fuzz bass, synth power chords leading to synth theme, cadence.
3:22: Syncopated heavy guitar riff with accented piano, leading to guitar solo supported by bubbling bass and synth theme, cadence.
4:14: Head (reprise) with guitar in lead line, developed into a lyrical guitar solo, dramatic end cadence/rave-up.
6 Back to the Beginning 6:19 (Allan switches to the red Gibson SG at this point in the video)

0:00: Impressionistic woodwind-synth lead over celeste/synth textures (Annette Peacock introduction).
0:43: 1st verse: heavy stuttering riff (modulating), vocal enters.
1:18: Cadence, rising accents, cadence.
1:35: 2nd verse, cadence, accents.
2:05: Funky accented groove (w. vocal).
2:24: 3rd verse, cadence, accents.
2:54: Funky accented groove reprise (with added electric piano accents).
3:13: See-sawing synth/bass riff, joined by guitar solo and synth playing two-chord harmony. Cadence, accents.
5:29: Funky accented groove (w vocal).
5:47: Guitar solo briefly resumes over broadened funk groove.
6:05: See-saw synth riff with added triangles and vocal chant from Annette.
7 Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past) 7:32 0:00: Atmospheric textures with piano ornaments, melodic bass and cymbal swells, uptempo hi-hat fades in.
1:24: Guitar melody line surfaces from broad counter-lines, continuing as modulating groove develops.
2:43: Vocal narration over slow falling harmony with melodic bass, drums resume uptempo groove.
3:09: Guitar solo resumes over uptempo groove leading to cadence accents.
3:25: Broad, anthemic groove under guitar solo and vocal recitation, punctuated by accented rhythmic phrase.
4:07: Vocal narration over slow falling harmony (reprise) with melodic bass, drums resume uptempo groove.
4:33: Guitar solo resumes over uptempo groove.
5:00: Accented cadence developed (guitar solo continues).
5:33: 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.
8 Five G 5:17 0:00: Uptempo slapped bass riff with hi-hat.
0:18: Syncopated power riff, joined by synth effects, groove modulates upwards.
0:52: Power riff reprised with synth textures developed.
1:23: Guitar solo over syncopated but more broad groove.
1:49: Filtered keyboard solo (noises/piano accents) over syncopated power riff, modulating.
2:38: Guitar solo resumes over syncopated broad groove, cadence.
3:11: Guitar solo continues over half-tempo two-chord vamp. Drums add accented ornaments.
4:22: Uptempo slapped bass riff reprise, solo.
4:46: Syncopated power riff, joined by synth, groove modulates upwards to end cadence.

     As a footnote to the Bruford years, just after Allan's final May '79 shows with Bruford, he was reportedly involved in sessions for Annette Peacock's next album, The Perfect Release (as per David Wells' liner notes in Peacock's My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook, 2004). These sessions also supposedly included Bruford, Dave Stewart, Jack Bruce and Jeff Beck. However the album's final release featured an entirely different band, and the aborted sessions with Holdswoth and Beck have never surfaced. 

Next: Holdsworth and Company
Previous Chapter: U.K.

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.


  1. I discovered Alan Holdsworth slowly, randomly, record by record. It's great seeing it all laid out chronologically here after decades of enjoying his work and guessing at what was going on with the guy. As a huge Bill Bruford fan, I'm very partial to these albums- I think they're amazing compositionally, and I'm a composition kind of guy. So it's really interesting to read what is obvious in retrospect, that Alan's improvisational style completely clashed with Bruford's precise writing. However, musically speaking, it's a perfect marriage, at least on record. This material stands the test of time, unlike U.K. which, despite its "supergroup" status, always put out really bland material. Yes, the playing is impressive for obvious reasons, but the songwriting just never materialized, and the albums are listenable but instantly forgettable.

    Getting this tour through prog rock history from the eyes of Holdsworth is quite fun and enlightening- so thanks. The guy is like the Forrest Gump of prog / jazz fusion- he weaves in and out of every major band and musician, always briefly!

    1. I actually found out about Allan through the debut album by UK. I thought it was phenomenal! That's what I love about music, it's completely subjective. No right or wrong. Really loved him on Soft Machine's Bundles. He was very versatile. He could play with Prog / Rock.. like the 1973 debut album by Tempest which he was in at the time had some beautiful violin that he played. Such a shame that he didn't do more with it as you was amazing! However, I love all his solo work & collaborations with other Jazz Fusion musicians. Like Bruff, Tony Williams, ... I laughed when you made reference to him being like "Gump" I know he was on everything! So many bands that you wouldn't even think he had interest in genre-wise. I always pictured Allan walking down the street & hearing music coming from some place so he'd drop in & jam with them! He was that kind of guy. He's my all around favorite guitarist & sadly missed especially today on his birthday.