Road Test captures the premier U.K. lineup touring their debut album. Good sound quality and solid performances make this bootleg recording simply excellent. In general, most of the compositions are performed much like the studio versions, only warmer and with much more enthusiasm. Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth had just released Bruford's jazz fusion debut, Feels Good to Me, and in line with that album, Road Test comes across more as a jazz-rock/fusion affair than strictly art rock or prog rock. The band covers many cuts from its studio debut, plus "The Only Thing She Needs" and "Carrying No Cross." These two showed up the following year as studio recordings on the inferior Danger Money, the band's second album. On Road Test, "The Only Thing She Needs" includes a superb instrumental finale that highlights the John Wetton/Bruford rhythm section and is reminiscent of their mid-'70s King Crimson workouts. On Danger Money, Wetton and Terry Bozzio were not able to duplicate this sound. Another treat on Road Test is the band's performance of Bruford's "Forever Until Sunday," a composition that eventually appeared on his second studio album, One of a Kind, but never on a U.K. release. Here, Wetton's robust bass lends an appealingly heavy, aggressive quality to the piece not found in Jeff Berlin's studio performance on One of a Kind. The strongest aspect of Road Test lies in Bruford's and Holdsworth's technical prowess. Yes, at times their playing/style comes across as cold, but they are craftsmen and virtuosos in their respective fields. Unlike the studio recordings, here they're able to minimize the cold, stiff quality of their music in favor of a warmer, looser approach. The weaknesses of Road Test are due, in large part, to Eddie Jobson's glittering, Casio-sounding keyboard work and his often light, shallow electric violin sound; these detract from music's power. Wetton's vocals inject a pop sensibility not unlike that of early Asia, foreshadowing a more pop-oriented U.K.
Road Test, November 9, 1978 Review
by David Ross Smith