Monday, March 30, 2009

UK - UK 1978

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.

reviewed by Bob Moore

Track listing

1. "In the Dead of Night" (Jobson/Wetton) 5:36
2. "By the Light of Day" (Jobson/Wetton) 4:40
3. "Presto Vivace and Reprise" (Jobson/Wetton) 3:06
4. "Thirty Years" (Wetton/Jobson/Bruford) 8:02
5. "Alaska" (Jobson) 4:38
6. "Time to Kill" (Jobson/Wetton/Bruford) 5:00
7. "Nevermore" (Holdsworth/Jobson/Wetton) 8:09
8. "Mental Medication" (Holdsworth/Bruford/Jobson) 7:24

Note: The first three tracks belong to a suite entitled "In the Dead of Night."


* Eddie Jobson: Electric Violin, keyboards and Electronics
* John Wetton: Voice and bass
* Allan Holdsworth: guitars
* Bill Bruford: Kit drums and percussion


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