Wednesday, June 22, 2016

U.K. - 1978 "U.K."

U.K. is the self-titled debut album by the progressive rock supergroup U.K., released in May 1978 through E.G. Records and Polydor Records. It features John Wetton, Eddie Jobson, Bill Bruford, and Allan Holdsworth. "In the Dead of Night" and "Mental Medication" were both edited for single release. The album was well received by FM album rock radio and by the public during the summer of 1978. The LP sold just over 250,000 copies by 1 September 1978, with further sales thru the balance of the year.
In 2015 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the 30th best progressive rock album of all time.

This band represents a vital piece of the wonderfully incestuous history of English progressive rock. As any fan knows, members of the UK prog scene tended to move freely from one band to another, creating all sorts of interesting cross-pollinations to the point that the genre's evolution looks something like a geneaology chart.
Just to mention two examples: John Wetton, formerly of King Crimson et.al., stopped by here before going on to join the prog-veteran supergroup Asia, while Bill Bruford brought credentials of Yes, King Crimson and others to this outing. He also has had many other stops since.
This is an excellent album that does not deserve its relative lack of attention (both today and when it was released). It takes progressive rock in a new, jazz fusion-oriented direction that can be seen to have led to Brand X, among others.
As a teenager, I purchased UK in the 70s on vinyl. It really took me two decades to develop a full appreciation for its complexities, to the point that it now ranks as one of my great progressive albums of all time. If you have any affinity for this type of music (or great music in general), you won't regret adding this album to your collection.

If you're a progressive rock fan, this disc is a treasure. Almost thirty years after it's initial release, this album still sounds fresh and leaves a stunning impact. When I first heard this I was listening to a lot of heavy guitar oriented music and the ethereal layered keyboards of Eddie Jobson made me form the initial opinion that this was mellow. After hundreds of repeated spins this has become one of my favorite discs, and even though there are many quiet passages it's far from mellow. It just takes time to appreciate the depth of this music. Clocking in a little over 46 minutes, this disc is full of smooth as glass segues and matchless music with all band members contributing and/or collaborating in the songwriting duties.

Eddie Jobson's keyboard playing and occasional electric violin work is spot on. John Wetton has a haunting vocal tone that is perfectly suited for this type of music and his bass playing is awesome. Bill Bruford, the master percussion player, pulls off many syncopated, impossible, drumming maneuvers with ease. Allan Holdsworth is one of the most original guitar players ever and his playing throughout this disc is amazing. It's a shame that this lineup of U.K. lasted less than a year, but they created, in my opinion, one of the best prog-rock discs ever.

In 1978 four extraordinary musicians came together to form the outfit known as U.K.. Bill Bruford and John Wetton, from King Crimson, joined Eddie Jobson, of Roxy Music, and fusion guitarist Alan Holdsworth to create this dark, brooding but powerful recording. Progressive rock fans held onto the hope that this could prove to be a new direction for the genre. Unfortunately, it proved to be more of a last gasp as the band split in two following this debut. Only Wetton and Jobson remained and presented two uninspired follow-up recordings. This disc, on the other hand, is exceptional and is well worth adding to one's collection. It presents a creative and innovative marriage of progressive rock to that of jazz-fusion while borrowing greatly from the direction laid out by Wetton, Bruford and Robert Fripp in their last collective efforts with King Crimson. Highly recommended.

In some ways UK represented both the last hurrah of progressive music's golden age, and the standard by which all other supergroups that followed would be judged. The impeccable technical precision, complex yet modern arrangements, and dynamic live performances made them an overnight legend whose reputation has far outlasted their brief existence. No other supergroup, progressive or otherwise, has had such an immediate and lasting impact.

The band was formed in 1978 by bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford, both fresh from the USA tour (and accompanying live album) of KING CRIMSON. Keyboardist & violinist Eddie Jobson had also played on the KC tour and album, but was better known for his brilliant work on a string of ROXY MUSIC albums, as well as their seventies live album, "Viva!". Wetton briefly secured guitar wiz-kid Eric Johnson for the band as well, but Johnson's own project (the "Seven Wonders" solo album) and the legal wranglings that were accompanying it would cause Johnson to quickly withdraw and be replaced by another guitar virtuoso, Allan Holdsworth, who had worked with SOFT MACHINE and GONG, in addition to his solo work before joining UK. This was the first in what would become a series of lineup changes before the band would disband for good less than two years later.

The star-studded lineup had no trouble securing a record deal, and Polydor released their self-titled debut on the E.G. label that same year, which is often credited as the first successful rock supergroup studio release ever. The music is characterized by layered synthesizers, jazz-inspired guitars and bass, and in general by exceptionally high-quality musicianship. The band followed the release with a lengthy promotional tour.

Bruford would release a couple of albums under the BRUFORD BAND name following this tour, and would eventually return to the KING CRIMSON lineup for their "Discipline" release in 1981. Holdsworth also appeared on the BRUFORD BAND releases, and would later issue a series of solo albums in addition to a wide range of session appearances. Terry Bozzio (FRANK ZAPPA, GROUP 87) would replace Bruford, and the trio would release the band's second and final studio album a year later ("Danger Money"). Without a replacement for Holdsworth, this album suffered due to overcompensation on violin and keyboards, and the band disbanded following after the Japanese leg of the promotional tour. A live album of that tour would be released shortly after, but the band was finished. There were rumors of a reunion in the nineties, but despite the fact that most of the members would work together on occasion following the band's demise, no UK collaboration would occur. Wetton would go on to commercial success with ASIA, and Bozzio would likewise strike it rich with MISSING PERSONS.

UK generated a brilliant flash of publicity when they formed at the end of the progressive music decade. But the fickle and rapidly changing tastes of the public, record label pressure to commercialize their sound, and other more lucrative opportunities all combined to bring about a rapid end to a fascinating lineup. GTR, ASIA, and many others would travel down the supergroup path in UK's wake, but none would do it with more style.

UK deserve a place in the Archives for the impressive resumes of its various members, the essentially classic self-titled debut they issued in 1978, and the influence they had over an entire generation of top-notch progressive and rock musicians by piloting the concept of a super group of musicians being brought together for the sole purpose of capitalizing on each other's sounds.  
  Tracks Listing

In The Dead Of Night (Suite):
-1. In The Dead Of Night (5:38)
-2. By The Light Of Day (4:32)
-3. Presto Vivace And Reprise (2:58)
4. Thirty Years (8:05)
5. Alaska (4:45)
6. Time To Kill (4:55)
7. Nevermore (8:09)
8. Mental Medication (7:26)

Total Time: 45:14

Personnel

    Allan Holdsworth – guitar
    Eddie Jobson – keyboards, electric violin, electronics
    John Wetton – bass, lead and backing vocals
    Bill Bruford – drums, percussion

6 comments:

  1. http://www86.zippyshare.com/v/t1FbTE6M/file.html
    http://www86.zippyshare.com/v/iGeqlZGt/file.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for posting this fine classic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks very much for this and for the Andy Summers & Robert Fripp albums, too

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nice Write-up on a great band.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great album and great guitar playing by the inimitable Allan Holdsworth. I purchased this album in the late-1970s on cassette tape. Thanks for uploading.

    Thomas

    ReplyDelete