An important album for its time
Non Spécifié | USA | 01/03/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Much has been said about "Feels Good To Me", so I will try not to restate that in this review. Instead I will note my impressions of the album after listening to it yesterday, for the first time since circa its release.
I think this was an important album for its time. It was certainly an important album for Bill Bruford, and not only because it was his first as a band leader.
Bruford demonstrates here his fearlessness as much as some of his contemporary and formative influences. It is the former quality that justifies the album's title and title track best. I believe Bruford knew he risked estranging the prog rock faithful by invoking American trad jazz and British bubblegum pop in turns.
But his was a brilliant stroke, because he also showed the very high caliber of his musicianship as evidenced by the participation of these players and, most importantly, the relevance of their playing on his album.
On listening to the album now, after all these years, I found the assignment of roles among Allan Holdsworth and Dave Stewart to be a little odd. I kept waiting for a solo from Stewart, but there was not even one. Obviously this was the result of either Bruford's vision for the players' roles and/or Stewart's refusal to solo, perhaps given Holdsworth's astonishing technical prowess. I am a longtime fan of Hatfield and the North, National Health, and to a lesser extent of Gong; but I did imagine Dave Stewart's great relief when playing on "Feels Good to Me" since there were finally other musicians in the band who could play more than competently over chord changes, including the bassist, but especially the guitarist (my apologies to Phil Miller -- he is an excellent writer and has a beautiful lead sound for composed parts, but in my opinion he simply cannot solo well.)
Allan Holdsworth had at this time achieved his second great plateau of instrumental prowess. Bruford can hardly be blamed for featuring him constantly on this album. That said, at whiles I could practically feel Holdsworth tiring of soloing. Even I, a big fan of his work and voice, grew tired of it. An occasional solo by Dave Stewart would have helped this, but alas it was not to be. Still, Holdsworth fans have in this album a fine record of his playing of that period, and in a dignified setting.
Jeff Berlin's weird, but advanced bass guitar voice of that time is notable here. It was nice to note that Berlin, for all his theoretical and technical achievement, was a lick player just like everyone else. There were a few moments when I thought I was hearing Berlin's playing on Patrick Moraz's "The Story of i". Also, I imagine that this project was the start of Jeff Berlin's association with Holdsworth. Several years after this album's release I saw Berlin and Chad Wackerman, I think, back Holdsworth in a gig in NYC. I now see the link. I also see Berlin's presence as a likely contributor to Holdsworth's future habit of hiring American bass guitarists for his own band (ref. Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Haslip in recent years.)
The writing on this album varies in quality. When it's good, it's good enough; it sounds "right" and I don't notice it for good or bad. But sometimes it sounds awkwardly naive. Not primitive, but naive. Since this was Bruford's debut album as a writer and bandleader, and since he had by then spent most of his time as either a session player or band member, essentially, this is not surprising. As others have said, it portends better things to come.
Some of the writing is blatantly derivative. During "Sample and Hold", I thought I was hearing sections of Zappa's album "Roxy and Elsewhere", released three years before Bruford's album. I think it's the piece "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" from which Bruford took the lines. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...
Other comments suggest that Bruford's hire of Annette Peacock for this album is controversial among fans. I think Bruford could not have done better; that this was his most brilliant decision in his attempt to make an original statement; that Peacock's contribution takes the album categorically to a musical area it otherwise could not have gone. If Robert Wyatt had done the vocals instead, the album would have been fine. It would have been that much more Canterbury, more male, more star studded. But Peacock added distinctly mysterious, female, and yes American attributes to the work that lent it a deep cultural complexity it otherwise would have lacked. Surely Bruford was aware of this. I give him top marks for having the guts to hire Peacock. Bruford could have left as his mark an interesting, serviceable debut album, but instead he curated a unique work of artistry, in part because of Annette Peacock's beautiful vocalization and oddball aesthetic. Good for him.
Bruford's kit playing is often noteworthy for its assertion of his signature patterns and voicing. At times I could practically hear him saying "See? Can you imagine "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" without this? You can't -- and it was my doing." He was entitled, of course.
The mixes are all over the place. Some sections are shrill and poorly structured, but others are thick and focused. I think that as Bruford did employ Dave Stewart for advice on harmonic theory, he should have let someone else mix the album alone, without his participation.
All told, I think that any collection of prog albums will be greatly improved by the inclusion of "Feels Good to Me". I'm sorry I waited so long to rediscover it."
A terrific debut by Bruford...
ethersea | Austin, TX | 07/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an eclectic record filled with excellent compositions and, of course, fiery playing...this record and it's follow-up, "One of a Kind," are two of the absolute best fusion records of the 70s...Bruford proves himself to be a fine composer and he, Holdsworth, Stewart and Berlin turn in monstrous performances as well..."