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UK

UK

 

Eclectic Prog

4.07 | 420 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars In retrospect the first album by the short-lived Progressive supergroup resembled an attempt by John Wetton and Bill Bruford to resuscitate the recently deceased KING CRIMSON, with another violinist in lieu of David Cross and a more sympathetic guitarist replacing the often intractable Robert Fripp. On paper it looked good, and the debut album sounded thrilling when first heard in 1978. But the passage of time has been less than kind to it, revealing not only the fatal stresses within the quartet but the larger cracks in the ideology of Progressive Rock at the end of the 1970s.

Blame the lopsided pool of all-star talent: an attempt to balance a pair of dedicated Jazz-Rockers (Bruford and guitarist Allan Holdsworth) against two aspiring pop stars (Wetton and Eddie Jobson), without any blueprint for a workable fusion. It all came together brilliantly in the opening "In the Dead of Night" suite: one of the more exciting highlights of late-Golden Age Prog. If only the rest of the album had as many memorable hooks (incredibly catchy, despite the odd time signatures), or the same lush symphonic climax, in years to come providing a sonic blueprint for embryonic Neo- Proggers.

But I don't know many fans who ventured far beyond it, into the often empty virtuosity of Side Two. The balance of the album leaned more toward the polite Bruford/Holdsworth style of English Jazz Rock, implausibly grafted onto Jobson's clinical synth patches and Wetton's typically beefy bass guitar lines. And the singer's smoky baritone sounds distinctly uneasy when forced into the jazzier cadences of "Time to Kill", "Nevermore", and "Mental Medication".

At the start of the 1970s bands were encouraged to cross-pollinate opposing forms of music, just to hear what might happen. But as the decade advanced and the adolescent music business matured into an industry, the final goal became more commercial than creative, spelling an end to Prog Rock's original idealism. Seven years earlier the same friction that split UK in two might have produced something really special. You can still hear the occasional spark, but the expected detonation never happens.

Give the effort three stars at best, in recognition of the talent, not the results.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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