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UK - Danger Money CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 429 ratings

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5 stars The story of UK is unfortunately a short one as the band came to a demise way too quickly. It is the band that released only 2 full length studio albums, even though several live recordings have been released over the years as both of UK's albums became classic progressive rock staples. Between the first and second albums, half of the band (Alan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford) went their own ways to create another group with Bruford eventually rejoining King Crimson, while the other half (John Wetton and Eddie Jobson) returned along with Terry Bozzio to create a second album, "Danger Money". At the times of release, both albums were not huge sellers, but have since become treasures re-discovered by progressive aficionados and the albums were recognized for their innovative and heavy prog. The main thing UK had going against it was the fact that their 2nd album was largely ignored because of the public's disdain for progressive music, and the move of many progressive bands toward more accessible music.

In "Danger Money", we see the band get nudged a bit toward that same accessible trap, but they only moved that direction very slightly. They prepared a somewhat radio ready song called "Nothing to Lose", and hid it on the album amongst other, more complex, and non-radio-ready tracks. But, for the proggers and fans, that was okay because the other tracks packed a lot of the dazzling punch that the debut album had. Bozzio, who was a fellow band member with Frank Zappa's group with Eddie Jobson, quickly proved his ability to meld with the complex compositions of the band.

A compromise that stemmed from a disagreement between Jobson and Wetton about the length of the tracks was reached by having 3 tracks at 5 minutes or less and 3 tracks over 5 minutes. After the release of this album, that compromise couldn't be found, so Jobson and Wetton would go their own ways, of course with Wetton later forming "Asia" and it's more radio friendly sound. However, for this album, there was still something to prove, and, even though the tracks are more melodic than they were in the debut album, there is still plenty of space for complexities in the instrumental sections.

The album starts off with a death-march kind of introduction that has a plethora of crazy synth riffs, somewhat similar to "Alaska" on the debut album. This sound bookends the track with the longer middle section being more upbeat, and even though it is a tricky rhythm and there are changing meters in the vocal sections, the structure of the lyrical piece of this track is a bit more catchy than before. The track grabs your attention however as it works as a showcase for all three musicians. "Rendezvous 6:02" is a bit more laid back and airy and also seems to move a little bit further into an accessible verse and chorus structure, but the instrumental section is filled with flourishes from Jobson and has a more jazzy feel. When it's finished, it comes across as a beautiful almost ballad-like track that still has a lot of substance. "The Only Thing She Needs" brings Bozzio out in the spotlight with some amazing and tricky drum riffs that start the whole thing off and then still has plenty of gaps that he fills perfectly. The ending of this track brings in Jobson's crazy electric violin playing that was also huge on the debut album and creates a jam that rings in your head long after the track ends.

More virtuoso violin playing happens in the shorter "Caeser's Palace Blues" that shows Jobson shredding the violin almost like a Steve Vai would on his guitar. "Nothing to Lose" is the one notably weak track here as it was made for the radio, but it still sounded better (and still does) than most of the fodder heard on the radio. The real kicker on this side of the album is the 12+ minute "Carrying No Cross" which features an almost "Starless"-style, emotional vocal from Wetton after which Jobson pulls out all of the stops with a wild and extended instrumental section, where he plays his synths, organ, piano and other secret weapons in a state of frenzy. This track still stands as one of the best progressive epics out there, and if you are looking for a track that gives you the same pleasure and amazment that you get when you hear King Crimson's "Starless", then this is the track. And the other plus, of course, is that John Wetton participates in both of these epic tracks.

After this 2nd amazing attempt from UK, the band disbanded with Wetton forming radio-friendly prog-pop band "Asia", Bozzio teaming with his wife Dale for the synth-pop band "Missing Persons" , and Jobson doing solo albums and playing as a temporary keyboardist for Jethro Tull. Later, the band would reunite for short one-off concerts and such, but this amazing lineup will never see the light of day since both Wetton, and his usual stand in, Greg Lake, have both passed on. But those who saw them live or listened full of amazement to the two UK studio albums and their live albums know that it would be difficult to match the virtuosity and talent of UK. Even though many don't consider the 2nd album to be as awesome as the first, I have always thought both albums were some of the most essential prog albums of the era. The debut did set a high bar, no doubt about that, and to me, it is one of my rare six star albums, but I still consider "Danger Money" to be essential, and any other band would have been proud to release this album, so, five stars it gets.

TCat | 5/5 |


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