Gradually Going Tornado

Bill Bruford / Bruford

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Gradually Going Tornado Review

by Lee Bloom

This is intelligent fusion -- intricately crafted, high energy, and technically impressive. Bill Bruford has distinguished himself from the majority of rock musicians with a consistent drive to experiment and challenge himself artistically. He composes innovative tunes with subtle rhythmic twists, often in odd meters, and his drumming is always musical and very precise. This is the third studio release of the fusion group that he assembled in 1977. Gradually Going Tornado attempted to further streamline the group's approach and introduced the vocal work of the brilliant electric bassist Jeff Berlin (heavily influenced by Jack Bruce and Jaco Pastorius). There are four relatively short vocal pieces that, presumably, were designed to add some commercial appeal to the recording. The departure of guitarist Allan Holdsworth is felt; his replacement, John Clark, was brought in to mimic the sound and feel of Holdsworth's playing, and the result is a bit disappointing. Though a masterful technician, Clark sounds too much like a Holdsworth clone. Dave Stewart, formerly of Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, is a wonderfully creative musician and plays a pivotal role in refining the group effort. In the days when electronic keyboards were just beginning to enter the worlds of rock and jazz, Stewart was experimenting with unusual tones; he would run his Hammond organ through a battery of fuzz boxes and distortion units to produce very guitar-like improvisations. Showing the influences of Keith Emerson and Joe Zawinul, his pastoral keyboard harmonies and thickly layered synthesizer textures are quite sophisticated. The eight compositions on Gradually Going Tornado hold together very well. Stewart's influence as a writer is strong and his fans will recognize bits and pieces from earlier recordings. Bruford's "Palewell Park" is a beautiful piano/bass duet. Berlin contributes a funky musical tribute to Joe Frazier. Overall, Gradually Going Tornado, if not Bruford's most successful effort, is certainly among the finest music produced in the progressive rock/fusion genre.

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