BRUFORD: ONE OF A KIND (1979)
1) Hell's Bells; 2) One Of A Kind (part 1); 3) One Of A Kind (part 2); 4) Travels With Myself – And Someone Else; 5) Fainting In Coils; 6) Five G; 7) The Abingdon Casp; 8) Forever Until Sunday; 9) The Sahara Of Snow (part 1); 10) The Sahara Of Snow (part 2).
In between Bruford's first and second album came Bill's brief participation in UK, where he was reunited with his former King Crimson pal John Wetton. However, according to the most common version, that participation ended abruptly when Wetton and Eddie Jobson decided to fire Alan Holdsworth from the band — and since Bruford was the one to bring him in, in gentlemanly fashion, for queen and country and all that, he decided to leave as well. And so both of them once again found themselves in... Bruford. Back with Dave Stewart and Jeff Berlin, too, who were only too happy to oblige and throw their talents back on the wagon.
Unfortunately, despite some glowing accounts of this second album, this one leaves me completely and utterly cold. Where Feels Good To Me was a curious blend of fusion and romantic prog-rock, courtesy of Annette Peacock and an overall desire for innovation, One Of A Kind is anything but one of a kind. Basically, it is just a generic fusion album — a high quality fusion album, to be sure, with top-notch standards and all, but completely indistinguishable in character from the average pool of similar albums produced in the mid- to late-Seventies. If you are a qualified pro here, one who «knows» exactly which albums from that time by Weather Report, Chick Corea, Soft Machine, Brand X, etc., bottle that spirit and which ones are simply coasting, you will be able to form a definite judgement here as well. If, like myself, you largely find them all interchangeable... okay, so this is probably not going to be a long review.
Like I said, the standards are high, and one major plus of the record is that Jeff Berlin continues to churn out speedy, complex basslines that suck up most of my attention. On the downside, Stewart's keyboards and Holdsworth's guitars seem to simply revel here in all possible clichés of the genre — stuffy synth tones, soulless speed runs, or (on the «ballad-type» numbers) romantic Santana-esque soloing with a bit of the roaming gypsy spirit. And Bruford himself? Although credited as primary songwriter on most of these tracks, he is, after all, just the drummer, and how can a drummer make a composition interesting if everything else about it is boring?
The only brief departure from the formula is ʽForever Until Sundayʼ, a track originally performed by UK on their 1978 tour and still retaining here a nice, refreshing violin solo from Eddie Jobson (not exactly Oistrakh quality, you understand, but still a great relief to hear after all the unending guitar noodling). ʽFainting In Coilsʼ is also unusual in that it features a mock-theatrical staging of a small bit from Alice In Wonderland at the beginning (with Anthea Norman Taylor, later to become the spouse of Brian Eno, taking on the role of Alice — and the title itself is taken from the Mock Turtle's story), but what the rest of the tune actually has to do with the idea of "fainting in coils" is way beyond me; sounds just like one more forgettable fusion tune to me.
Maybe the worst thing, after all, are those awful keyboard tones: I mean, I could imagine a setting in which the main theme of something like ʽHell's Bellsʼ would be totally realized in its life-asserting optimism (notwithstanding the totally incongruent song title), but with these retro-futuristic fanfare synths blasting it out like a security system alarm gone mad, it's just no good — so thank you, AC/DC, for stealing the title of the song and putting it to much more adequate use the very next year (in a song that actually had some real bells in it, and kicked this record's stale intellectualism all over the place).
Or maybe the worst thing is that all these songs sound the same — not all of them are written in the same key, but all of them set exactly the same mood: not too hot, not too cold, not too sappy, not too harsh — perfect for elevators and mid-level restaurants with a poshy attitude. Anyway, as I said, major fusion fans might not want to take this seriously, but the only honest thing I can do here is award this stuff a thumbs down — what else can be done with a record where not even one tune is endowed with «staying power»?