A New Day 1998 / Talking Elephant 2022
Master of melodious stroke hits a personal vein on the only platter under his own name.
All the layman may need to know about Clive Bunker is the fact that he played on JETHRO TULL’s "Aqualung" – but the drummer left the ensemble soon after one of the most important records in the history of rock had been issued, in order to start a family. Only his retirement didn’t last long, so the English musician would be heard on such classics as Gordon Giltrap’s "Fear Of The Dark" and in concert with artists like Steve Hillage who are beyond the uninitiated’s horizon. What’s shouldn’t lie aside of it is this, simultaneously accessible and intricate album, where the veteran, prompted by the “A New Day” fanzine to finally venture out solo, collated cuts he’d amassed over the decades into a single narrative and invited a few old friends to preserve the numbers for posterity.
Of course, aficionados’ ears will first of all be lent to the platter’s calm-to-storm finale “Strange Riff” which features Clive’s former colleagues Ian Anderson and Martin Barre adding, respectively, flute flutter and six-string riffs to his thunder, yet it’s other instrumental pieces – the exotic “Chichchicastenango” and “Penang”: the amplified echoes of the “Dharma For One” groove from 30 years earlier – that find Bunker sculpt soundscapes and tunes out of toms, bells and gongs and display the entire scope of his impressive percussive skills over a tribal chant. Overall, though, this offering is not about showcasing the drummer’s talent as a performer; the focus here is on his mastery of composition, and the effervescent songs “Swayo” and “Wrong Programme” – served up in Clive’s unassuming, if alluring, voice over Jim Rodford’s bass and Dave Lennox’s ivories – highlight his melodic forte, the former challenging the two-tone champions for magnetic vigor and the vibes-sprinkled latter elevating ska to the skies.
There’s wondrous, organ-oiled heaviness in “Fantasy” that refracts the ’60s innocence through the prism of experience and fills it with solemnity which Andy Glass’ guitars render translucent and infectious choruses make arresting enough to seamlessly segue into the intense title track’s orchestral rapture. Still, Bunker’s equally adept in introspective balladry, addressing people’s perception of him in the delicate swing of acoustically driven “Certain Feeling” and the flamenco lace of “Good Times” – optimistic but dramatic and staying with the listener as the record’s aftertaste. So while the tongue-in-cheek “Monotone Thing” delivers on its resonantly pale promise, the rock ‘n’ roll of “Do We Know Where We’re Going” stresses Clive’s nuclear energy.
The result is unexpectedly delightful – perhaps, slightly dated, yet charming: a perfect portrait of this great musician.