Bill Bruford – ‘Earthworks Complete’ (2019)
If you’re a Bill Bruford fan, these are the good old days. The good doctor is about to come out with brand new music, co-written with Steve Howe. While Bruford has not returned to the drum chair, 2019 has offered a plethora of great drum work from him in the way of reissues.
The Earthworks Complete box set is yet another excellent example of why Bill Bruford was a force to be reckoned with as a drummer, composer and band leader. While there are a few misguided Yes fans who wish Bruford would return to Yes, most know that the world’s greatest progressive rock band was just a small slice of his career.
That’s made clear over the course of this new set, which offers a great overview of an important 20-year period. The box includes all of Bruford’s Earthworks albums along with lots of extras over 20 CDs and 4 DVDs, starting with 1987’s Earthworks. Of course, the original recordings have been remastered. Bruford oversaw the compilation of the audio, print and video material himself. Original artwork by Dave McKean has been retained.
There is the expected previously unreleased material, as well as demos with notes from Bruford. Additionally, Earthworks Complete features video from the 1990s and 2000s, most of it never seen before, and a previously unreleased Earthworks performance from Santiago, Chile.
As a fan, it’s difficult to know where to start, so I jumped to the beginning with the initial Earthworks album. The attention and care put into this recording was remarkable, as sonically these songs sound as if they were recorded today, yet the album has a warmth missing in current-era digital recordings. “Making a Song and Dance” and “Pressure” have never sounded better, as Bruford’s brilliance is already being keenly reinforced.
Moving ahead to the From Conception to Birth album, I am again enchanted by Bruford’s writing and arranging skills. This project gives a peek behind the wizard’s curtain like no other. It’s a brief, yet intriguing look at how Bruford’s demos become full-fledged band arrangements.
If you are a fan of jazz combos, jazz drumming and/or Bill Bruford, the Earthworks Complete set is for you. The four DVDs also give you a first-hand look at his majestic playing. Unfortunately, Bill Bruford isn’t playing live anymore, but it’s great to have this box to relive his work at one of its many peaks.