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DANGER MONEY

UK

 

Eclectic Prog

3.74 | 253 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Toward the end of the seventies a to-hell-with-this-till-death-do-us-part-stuff musical promiscuity broke out within the extended progressive rock family to the point where it seemed like every related cousin and in-law was jumping into bed (metaphorically speaking, of course) with whoever caught their fickle fancy right and left. It was a fog machine-fueled free-for-all and U.K. was just one of a horde of bastardized, ill-fated unions that emerged from the orgy. Bill, Alan, Eddie and John shacked up just long enough to make a debut LP, and then Bruford & Holdsworth got cold feet and moved out of the love nest in an indignant huff. (Contractual commitments at that period of time were about as binding as a modern-day fist bump, evidently.) Eddie Jobson and John Wetton didn't shed a tear or take very long to go trolling and find another willing swinger and, obviously ignoring any petty restrictions implied by the group's moniker, seduced a youthful-but- charismatic California stick boy by the name of Terry Bozzio into leaving Frank Zappa's band and relocating from sunny Marina Del Rey to the balmy beaches of Britain. Considering the patch-it-up-on-the-fly circumstances that led up to the recording of the group's second and last album, it's a surprisingly engaging effort that's smarter than your average bear.

When one takes into account the abilities and experience of the personnel involved, one would expect the musicianship and composing skills to be top shelf and they are but, as in far too many cases in the prog genre, the lyrics are about as thought-provoking as a Hallmark birthday greeting card. Personally I'd rather be perplexed by the abstract poetry of Jon Anderson or Pete Sinfield than to wallow through the kind of inane shmuck presented hereupon. I can accept that not everyone's a Gabriel or even a Townshend in this subjective area but when I feel patronized and taken for granted by simply reading over the words printed in the liner notes it seriously detracts from the experience. I mean, come on youse guys, at least spring for a rhyming dictionary! A crab-infested, disgruntled Bay City Roller could've penned better. For heaven's sake, say something interesting! (Thanks for letting me rant. I just had to get that off my chest. Off camera: "Oh, nothing sweet'ums, just talking to myself.")

The massive, towering introduction to "Danger Money," the suave opener, contains just the right amount of monster movie dissonance and the ominous décor is alluring. The song features a smooth combination of conflicting time signatures that manages never to lose its rock momentum and that's due in no small part to the talent and acumen of Terry Bozzio on the skins. Some drummers just have an uncanny knack of injecting their own individuality into their percussive attack and this lithe dude is one of the best. Jobson's keyboard work becomes a one-man-show when they reach the halfway mark and he makes an impression because of the fat, satisfying settings he utilizes and when Terry and John join in from time to time it only gets more intense. But then you have to deal with screwy lines like "I'm three thousand miles from home/ I'm so tired and I'm all alone/it's a good thing that I'm single/wish I could swing all night long" and you feel embarrassed for them. The tune ends with the band going out the same mystery door they came in. Not bad. Not bad at all.

"Rendezvous 6:02" has a silky, almost-Latin undercurrent that flows like a picturesque Portuguese river and a spicy instrumental bridge in 10/8 that builds spectacularly to a flashy climax. Here Wetton's fine vocals and fluid bass lines lift the number up and over the banal words he has to sing. ("Was that a face I saw?/No, just a trick of light/it's getting clearer now/but moving out of sight." Excuse me?) The tune's overall crisp ambience goes a long way in helping you to ignore that ugly indiscretion. "The Only Thing She Needs" is next and Bozzio finally gets a chance to show off a bit before the trio do a jerky- but-tight tango together and dive headlong into the spirited meat & potatoes of the track. While they unwisely keep Terry down in the mix somewhat you can still tell that he's burning some holes in the studio's drum baffles. The kid is a well-oiled machine. The song's sleek midsection displays another furious prog ascension that eventually levels out into a dated New Wave rhythm that, alas, ultimately erodes the tune's integrity despite Eddie's commendable keyboard runs. And then there are more unbelievably imbecilic lyrics to contemplate like "now she sings a different tune/golden tones out of the blue." Yark.

"Caesar's Palace Blues" oozes out of the gate with a thick-as-molasses dirge in 5/4 that is cool and sweet, indeed, but has very little in common with the pop beat they segue into. It's nothing to write your worried mother about but it is saved from the threshing room floor by Jobson's heroic and scintillating electric violin that makes this cut stand out from what has transpired so far. Bozzio also shines brightly as he lays down a powerful groove wide enough to drive a cement truck through with room left on each side. (I'll mercifully spare you from the droll, narrow-minded lyrics about the ills of Las Wages. Use the lowest level of your imagination.) The album's inevitable nadir comes in the form of "Nothing to Lose," a let's-write-a-hit-and-get-rich-on-royalties attempt that showcases a loping intro that morphs into a tepid rock beat and is a preview of the kind of prog-influenced commercialism that John would strive for with Asia. The words are so stupid here they make what's come before seem like Dickens. "Now I can really break it/now I don't have to fake it/forget it then I don't need it/if it ain't hot I'll leave it," he manages to warble with a straight face. The repeating refrain of the song's title is catchy, no doubt, but not in a good way. It's fodder for nightmares.

"Carrying No Cross" is the highlight of the record. Eddie's ethereal opening is quite effective, and then they evolve into a King Crimson-ish passage where Wetton's striking, lonely man vocal style elevates the mood to another level altogether. The middle instrumental movement arrives from beyond the horizon like an approaching hurricane and Jobson's elaborate construction in which he successfully meshes Hammond organ with his strong synthesizers is astonishing. They climb to a malevolent, threatening plateau where Terry rumbles underneath the fray with a fevered passion. Suddenly Eddie breaks out with a solo piano piece that makes your hair stand on end for just a few magical seconds, then they reprise the movement's initial theme before dropping down gracefully for a simple keyboard/vocal ending. "Just void, empty spaces, nothing to show/no point of reference or place to go," John sings. (That forgettable phrase goes a long way in expressing my unimpression of the album's lyrics in general.) Musically speaking, though, this is the kind of fertile topsoil I wish Emerson, Lake & Palmer would have plowed into circa '79 instead of playing their destructive, indulgent "I'll show you who the REAL star of this show is!" head games. (Note: Fans of that extraordinary group will like this album more than most, mainly because of Eddie Jobson.)

Had these fellows managed to stay together for more than a nanosecond they might have hired a lyricist and turned into something grand. But before you could say "music television" Terry had flown back to La-la land, married a singing Playboy bunny and formed the eye-popping flavor-of-the-month Missing Persons band; Wetton had started putting together yet another supergroup and the multi-gifted Jobson had hired on to play with Jethro Tull's world-touring ensemble. So, buckaroos, it just goes to show that while these fantasy-fulfilling prog bacchanals seemed like sumptuously sinful adventures to indulge in they rarely resulted in anything lasting and, more often than not, left indelible stains in the shag carpet. Having said that, though, "Danger Money" isn't a wasted investment of your time or your finances. There are some genuinely sublime musical moments to be enjoyed and you could do a lot worse when sampling music from this wild era. 3.2 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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