Album review: JACK BRUCE – Live At Rockpalast 1980, 1983 and 1990 (CD/DVD)

JACK BRUCE - Live At Rockpalast 1980, 1983 and 1990

MIG Music [Release date 26.04.19] 2 DVD/5 CD

This multi-disc box set is a fine summary of Jack Bruce playing live from 1980 through to 1990.  Culled from the legendary German TV show “Rockpalast” this 5-CD set also contains 2 DVDs duplicating the shows.  Thankfully, there is little song duplication.

We can luxuriate in a consummate performer who was arguably at his best playing live whether it was in October 1980 (with jazz rock heavyweights Billy Cobham and David Sancious)  or in 1983 which reflects the early eighties zeitgeist and features Bruce Gary from The Knack on drums.

Both these sets invariably major on ‘Theme For An Imaginary Western’, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, ‘Spoonful’ or ‘N.S.U.’ but there is much to like in the 1980 gig (Discs 1 &2).

This starts with a spirited ‘White Room’ with Clem Clempson playing the part of God.  Bruce’s solo albums were in truth patchy but the standout tracks were good ‘uns.  In October 1980 he was a couple of months before the release of ‘I’ve Always Wanted To Do This’ and seven of its ten tracks are bravely featured.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the album wasn’t a commercial success, although ‘Running Back’ and the Cobham instrumental wig-out  ‘X Marks The Spot’ are worth repeating.  ‘Dancing On Air’ may sound a little sub-Level 42 but shows that Bruce could embrace a wide variety of grooves.  Warning: there is a drum solo in the 12 minute ‘Bird Alone’.

Bruce’s next solo album ‘Automatic’ provides six tracks on discs 4 and 5 recorded in November 1983.  On album the only continuity is Pete Brown’s co-songwriting, Bruce otherwise deploying exclusively the proto-Fairlight computer/synthesiser.  The Rockpalast gig retains David Sancious (keyboards, guitar).

Bruce’s later performance in October 1990 in Cologne (Disc 3) is solo and stripped back, a real opportunity to focus on just voice, keyboards and harmonica.  The setlist is another career overview but majoring on the post-Cream work.  Bruce’s then current solo album – ‘A Question Of Time’ – only provided one song – ‘Flying’.

This box set is completed by an adequate biography/booklet, if not specifically focused on the Rockpalast gigs or contemporaneous background.  Altogether, though, this is another excellent release from the German TV archive.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall


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