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Polydor PD-1-6146
Released: April 1978
Chart Peak: #65
Weeks Charted: 15

Bill BrufordJohn WettonU.K. is the great white hope for progressive music this year. Fortunately, the group can't miss: in its basket are eggs from all over the progressive community, and they're all hatching. This band developed out of the last King Crimson, as drummer Bill Bruford (who also worked with Yes) and bassist/vocalist John Wetton (Family, Roxy Music) were determined not to throw away a good thing. Ultimately, they gathered in the electronic keyboards of Eddie Jobson (Curved Air, Roxy Music, Frank Zappa) and the flowing guitar of Allan Holdsworth (the Soft Machine, the Tony Williams New Lifetime, Gong and the awe of the whole fusion sphere). Each one of these players can lay a somewhat serious claim to being the best in the world at his instrument, so their agglomeration obviously warrants a close listening.

U.K.'s first record is, unsurprisingly, a treat to the ears on every level. Jobson's synthesizers are the key. Whether he's playing great, roiling, oceanic masses of convoluted melody, he's never facile or petty. His "Alaska" gives a good purview to his skills; an opening fanfare, all synthetic, bursts into the kind of colossal rhythmic assault unheard since synthesizers became guitar surrogates. To keep his electronics from dominating altogether, he sets up a brisk ostinato on the next song, "Time to Kill," holding forth on his second instrument, the electric plexiglass violin.

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The textures of Jobson's chords are echoed by Wetton's over-dubbed vocals and occasionally by Holdsworth's viscous guitar. Holdsworth is in rare form as a soloist, rocketing about in high-speed, rococo, be-bop fashion or searing the air with steep crescendos. The rhythm section provides more than a rhythmic focus: Wetton's throaty, reverberant bass complements the ringing highs of the guitars and synthetics, while Bruford's drumming sparkles with imaginative but tightly reined metrical alterations.

Though the group was a long time in the making, U.K. was recorded in relative haste. The material is a bit queasy yet -- a few loose ends, an occasional gratuitous dissonance -- but the moving parts are surprisingly well meshed for a debut album. And the petty disappointments don't keep U.K. from dominating the whole of the progressive field in 1978.

- Michael Bloom, Rolling Stone, 8/24/78.

Bonus Reviews!

U.K. is a sort of progressive version of Foreigner; that is, it's a bunch of fairly well-known Big Names out of the Yes/Genesis axis regrouped and ready, if you believe the hype, to play the best music of their careers. That music, unfortunately, turns out mostly to be the usual art-rock clichés: percussive electric-bass ostinatos, ridiculously baroque synthesizer decorations of the most basic blues riffs, and the like. The rest is just bad soundtrack material for a grade-B sci-fi film, despite the presence of Eddie Jobson, who demonstrated a mildly adventurous bent during his tenure with Roxy Music. Hacks making a last dash for the cash, you see, sound pretty much alike no matter what genre they're fooling with.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 8/78.

John Picarella: "What the guys in U.K. apparently don't understand is that it's not impressive or difficult to rock out in 9/4 -- it's impossible." C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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