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UK - UK CD (album) cover

UK

UK

 

Eclectic Prog

4.10 | 540 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Tapfret
4 stars Context and perspective changes with the passing of time, and indeed the passing of lives. John Wetton was an artist who I had admittedly taken for granted over the years. Despite being a key element of one of the most important phases of one of the most important progressive rock discographies in King Crimson, the focus always seemed to be on them being "Fripp's Band". The same could be said, perhaps even more so for UK. With the virtuoso playing of Holdsworth, Jobson, and Bruford, it was not until his death in early 2017 that I really focused on his part on UK's self- titled debut. And as I also discovered with the 1973-1975 era of KC, so too was it obvious with UK what in integral part of the music I was giving little or no appreciation too.

The project itself could easily be described as being far more groove oriented than a large portion of King Crimson's work. That is not to say the compositions consist of uniformly pedestrian beats, the verses are largely in non- standard time, even a purported 21/16 (I have not counted it myself). There is also a smattering of bizarro syncopated, staccato "what?!?!" breaks that season the grooves with a nice spice. The overall groove is decidedly jazz- fusion, though containing a spatially wide phonic. The instrumentation and recording is considerably modernized (when considering the context of the time period) in respect to the artist's previous projects, particularly in regard to keyboard sounds. Unfortunately, at times the chosen keyboard sounds appear poppy in a manner that does not completely fit. Attention to clarity seems to be the rule in the recording. This was a requirement for the quiet, mellow parts that provided a contrast that was begining to be phased out of the rock sub-genre scene in the late 70's.

For Wetton's part, his bass playing held the aforementioned groove with incredible precision. Of particular note are the underlying bass on Jobson's violin solo of Time to Kill and the alternating solos of the closing number, Mental Medication. Vocally he is a mixed bag that is an acquired taste for most, but a recognized, if underappreciated staple for seasoned prog fans. There always seems to be what can be best described as a character of purposeful uncertainty. Not uncertain of notes or timing, but a texturally haunting overtone that occasionally manifested directly into lyric on King Crimson songs like Fallen Angel. But the lines of Thirty Years, "Feelings of missed opportunity....sand castles washed away", with the seemingly dysphoric melody underscore that purposeful uncertainty sensation in a literal sense, imparting a new poignancy to that character. Not to overuse the word, but the passages are haunting. This sensation is imparted again in the quiet opening sequences of Nevermore, with wide low-to-high note intervals detailing his accuracy; and Mental Medication with its more legato, resolute melody. The verses are filled with his unique alternating gravelly tenor with falsetto swells. A contrasting style that would become a more familiar to the rest of the rock world with his Asia work, but added an unexpected dynamic to the diffuse styles of his UK bandmates.

UK was at the precipice of being a masterpiece. Unfortunately, there were moments of Jobson's keyboard sound, although musically amazing, just stuck out way too much as "Pop". Otherwise this is one of the finest examples of cohesive complexity and technicality in progressive rock. And having listened to this with particular focus on Mr. John Wetton, it is obvious that he was the mortar that held the brickwork together. It is a prime example of being able to find something new in something very familiar. For John Wetton, a masterful example of his quality. For the album, and excellent addition to any collection and one that I listen to with a renewed appreciation. 4 stars

Tapfret | 4/5 |

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