Hi Folks, I’m back with a few more thoughts about my recent Playlist.
Let’s pick it up from where we left off in Part One with these guys. King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man was a game-changer for many of my London contemporaries, me included. I wrote a bit about my first encounter with it in a London drinking club in my book. The song turned heads because – with the possible exception of the Beatles – nobody had hitherto welded together such a wide range of influences , sources and textures into such a satisfactory whole and so successfully. Obviously these people knew something I didn’t, and whatever it was they knew, I wanted to know it too.
King Crimson wasn’t the first group to borrow Dylan Thomas’ beautiful phrase Starless and Bible Black from his radio-play-poem ‘Under Milk Wood’ (1954). In the UK, that distinction had fallen to Stan Tracey, whose song of the same name contained the achingly beautiful saxophone playing of Bobby Wellins. On the surface, King Crimson’s interpretation of the phrase a few years later is a million miles away from Tracey and Wellins, but both scratch at the melancholy and bleakness to which life can, at times, descend.
John Wetton, the bass player and voice of King Crimson 1973-1975, and I became rhythm section writers and groove aficionados somewhere around our album ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic’ (1973). We spent hours examining Herbie Hancock’s early 70s material of which Sleeping Giant from Herbie’s album ‘Crossings’ was a prime example. Check out the way they fall into that bad groove after drummer Billy Hart’s fill at 11’ 07”. Not far from that to Palm Grease with Mike Clark’s brilliant drumming and then on to Sly and the Family Stone’s song In Time. That track is good in many areas and excels in the rest: one area of brilliance is the early work of the human drummer (Andy Newmark) with the new-fangled drum-machine. Andy nails it, and it ain’t easy to nail. David Garibaldi’s clean groove on What is Hip? for Tower of Power contrasts well with the dirt of Tony Williams’ Snake Oil. The guitarist on that, Allan Holdsworth, was about to become an enormous inspiration to me as we grappled with our group ‘UK’, and then two of my own albums ‘Feels Good To Me’ and ‘One of a Kind’. The sound of Allan’s guitar on Snake Oil on his entry at 0’14” is the very definition of nasty.
After the irrepressible Sly Stone’s Dance to the Music the list turns hard left for a few minutes of unaccompanied vocal music. No groove, no rigid bar lines; just pulse and the purity of expression that’s achievable only with unaccompanied voices. After John Taverner’s The Lamb, the spotlight remains on the voice, but the funk is back – this time in the shape of Joan Osborne and the Funk Brothers’ What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted. Their YouTube of this is sacred in the Bruford household and probably in yours too.
Check back in a few days for the final Part Three of this run down of my Inspiration Playlist.