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Eclectic Prog

4.11 | 693 ratings

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The Mentalist
4 stars UK was formed at a point in time when it was decidedly "uncool" to be seen listening to progressive rock music. At that time, the band was touted (somewhat derogatorily) as a "Supergroup", comprising, as it did, of two ex members of King Crimson, one ex member of Soft Machine and one ex member of Curved Air/Zappa.

In hindsight the formation of UK can be seen as the first sign that in order to survive the looming musical wasteland called "The 80s", progressive rock musicians were going to have to rethink and ultimately compromise their own personal musical visions. UK was a compromise of sorts - Bruford was never entirely committed, and Holdsworth hated the whole keyboard-dominated set-up from the word go.

When the 80s finally did kick- in, the thoughts of every prog musician turned to survival, (and who can blame them),and we wound up with bands such as Asia and GTR. The 80s brought us the spectacle of law suite and counter law suite being lobed back and forwards by three separate factions, all desperate to own the brand name of 'YES'. In typical 80s fashion the brand name became more valuable than the actual product, and the product became more valuable than genuine creativity.

UK can be seen as a pre echo of what was to come for the creative musician working in a music industry that had become increasingly hostile towards creativity - the first tentative sign that in order to survive, prog musicians would need to pull their resources and, ultimately, compromise.

Fortunately for us, the coming together of Wetton, Bruford, Holdswoth and Jobson for whatever reasons, brought forth an inspired and unique album. The opening three-part track In The Dead Of Night a song in 7/4 about a hired assassin, has one of the most arresting openings of any song I can think of. Indeed, the attention-grabbing staccato riff, and Alan Holdsworth's awesome, sinuous guitar solo, heard later in the song, have become some of the most iconic of all prog rock moments, inspiring many a band, such as, Planet X, The Flower Kings, It Bites, David Sancious, and Steve Vai.

The second part By The Light Of Day is a welcome moment of repose after the intense and at times bombastic opening section. Highlight is the beautiful violin solo by Eddie Jobson, which sings sweetly over a backdrop of rippling synths.

Presto, Vivace and Reprise is a stunning piece of virtuoso writing and playing by Jobson. It's well seen he had just finished his stint with Zappa, as this piece is not unlike some of Zappa's compositions - 'The Black Page' or 'St Alphonso' for instance. Curiously enough, the timbre of the piece, especially when Holdsworth doubles the synth lead line on guitar, sounds uncannily like that of Zappa's '82 band. The rest of the songs on the album are of an equally high standard. Nevermore in particular, is a stunning, atmospheric song with very evocative lyrics. The interplay between Holdsworth and Jobson during the solos is breath-taking.

It is definitely a unique album with a very identifiable sound. If you're a keyboard buff and like the sound of the old Yamaha CS 80 then you must get hold of this album. Jobson really knew how to get the most out of this mighty beast.

You have been reading the ramblings of ThE mEnTaLiSt.

The Mentalist | 4/5 |


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