The 1980s were a pretty good time to be a songwriting drummer; Sheila E, Phil Collins and Don Henley all flourished, and probably a few more too.
Not that master Yes/King Crimson sticksman Bill Bruford had any particular desire to match their commercial standing as the decade got underway. He was quite happy gaining harmonic knowledge (with the assistance of keyboardist Dave Stewart), making sizeable contributions to the percussion community and composing incredible pieces of music like ‘Palewell Park’.
In a way, it was the culmination of his work with the Bruford group which had released three studio albums between 1978 and 1980, two featuring the brilliant Allan Holdsworth on guitar.
This track has a special resonance for me as Palewell Park was a childhood hangout, site of many great cricket, tennis and football games as well as a fair few teenage hijinks. Bruford apparently lived nearby during the piece’s recording at Surrey Sound in Leatherhead (also the studio The Police used for their first two albums) and wanted to write a little ode to the area.
Someone on YouTube very aptly described ‘Palewell Park’ as ‘a contemporary piece for piano and bass’. It doesn’t fit comfortably into any genre, but it’s a pretty remarkable composition coming from the pen of a ‘drummer’, and one who doesn’t even feature on his own composition (Stewart played the piano)!
The 26-year-old Jeff Berlin lays down one of the great pieces of post-Jaco bass playing. With just a touch of chorus pedal, he sticks to the pretty treacherous melody in the first half and then stretches out to play a fantastic solo over the changes, a total lesson in melody construction, with no gimmicks.
I wish I could unreservedly recommend the rest of the Gradually Going Tornado album – there are certainly a few other corkers but in general Berlin’s vocals are a bit of a hinderance.
Next up for Bill was a reunion with Robert Fripp and one of the great albums of the ’80s, King Crimson’s Discipline, which we’ll return to soon.