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UK

UK

 

Eclectic Prog

4.07 | 438 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It took quite a bit of time for me to warm up to this record by the supergroup that comprised Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Jobson, John Wetton and Bill Bruford. This here is no obtuse experimentation a la Henry Cow ... indeed I do believe it to be a relatively accessible prog-rock album (no, it's not Asia, either!). The problem probably has its roots in my distaste for the uber-shiny guitar sound of Holdsworth and the sharp synths favoured by Jobson. As such, while I do readily affirm that is quite a crucial purchase for any progger to make, it's not a record I pull out too often. When I do, I'm always rewarded.

The opening trio of segued songs In The Dead Of Night/By The Light Of Day/Presto Vivace And Reprise contains some superb playing and shifts in mood from all participants concerned. Holdsworth lays down a patented solo during the initial attacking segments, while the moody mid section is distinctly Crimsonesque, as Jobson builds a beautiful synth solo around Wetton's fading voice. The third part of this piece commences with an excellent Keith Emerson impression from Jobson, before Wetton brings the song cycle full circle. Throughout it all, Bruford is ... Bruford.

Thirty Years is another intriguing proggy fusion track with stellar turns from Holdsworth and Jobson ... it's a lot of fun to hear them cook over the already smokin' basic grooves laid down by the monster Bruford/Wetton rhythm machine, but once again, the temptation to modify the sounds into something a tad more "organic" is strong. This trend continues through the rest of the album ... Alaska is one that takes a while to get going, but by its conclusion Holdsworth and Jobson are engaging in some sort of titanic struggle (imagine John McLaughlin competing for space with Keith Emerson on the same solo spot!), the vocal segment of Time To Kill is none too impressive ... sounding almost like a Steely Dan throwaway, but there's more solo delight from Jobson, this time on violin (surely this album contains some of his best ever moments).

It comes as a real thrill when Holdsworth commences Nevermore with some dazzling acoustic guitar runs, but it turns out to be just a tease, as another Steely Dan meets symphonic prog tune unfolds. Don't get me wrong, the playing can be quite magnificent ... it's the choice of sounds that I need to get my head around. The occasionally funky Mental Medication is full of more glorious efforts from the two soloists bringing the album to a strong conclusion, that eaves us wanting more ... unfortunately it wasn't quite to be.

I do rate UK's debut higher than the even more fusion-orientated Bruford project (the first two albums Feels Good To Me & One Of A Kind, also feature Holdsworth) that was to follow very soon after UK splintered leaving behind this unique gem. I've yet to hear the follow-up that Wetton and Jobson recorded with ex-Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio. Chew on this if you get the chance. ... 76% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |

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