Back to reviews index

U.K.: U.K.

Beat Instrumental, 1978


POLYDOR 2302080

The record company, if no-one else, seems to have put a great deal of faith (i.e. money) into this unlikely supergroup: twenty grand on a keyboard system for Jobson and, by Polydor's standards, pretty heavy press promotion. Whether it will prove to have been money well spent is another matter, however. Money well spent in record company terms means an album that charts fast and stays there, jostling for position with Abba, Rod Stewart and the Eagles. It also means that some sort of commitment will have been sought for the musicians to stick around for at least three albums. And that, judging from the mercurial histories of the individuals concerned - and the fate of super groups in general - is quite an expectation.

None of which has anything whatsoever to do with the quality of the music on this album, of course. Old-time fans of King Crimson will perhaps feel most at home with this fusion of many styles: the emotional bellowing of John Wetton punctuates long instrumental passages, solos from Jobson and Holdsworth skitter wildly, and Bruford's drums are correctly workmanlike. The atmosphere is British all right -gloomy, for the most part, with fierce, majestic outbursts in impossible time signatures. It's difficult music, difficult to play, difficult to listen to. Numerous faint-hearted concert-goers crept out of the Rainbow at the end of U.K.'s tour and headed for the bar, their faces betraying a mixture of embarrassment and irritation. They knew it was superb, but it wasn't instant enough.

Some of the tracks are accessible on first listening, however. The opener, In The Dead of Night, with its curious, hopping beat, has a great vocal from Wetton, and a powerful Holdsworth riff. It goes without saying that his solos are as breathtaking as ever. Jobson lays down a glittering carpet of synthesizer and electric piano, occasionally switching to violin. Another track which stands a fair chance of lodging in the memory banks almost immediately is Time To Kill on the second side, Jobson joining Wetton to provide some harmony on the vocal.

Obviously there's more to say about the album: isn't it just too flashy on occasion? This was the flaw which bedevilled Bruford's Feels Good To Me set, and possibly the one which kept it out of the charts. U.K. is a better offering altogether, but whether the punters will be persuaded into forking out for it is another kettle of fish. The music won't make you feel instantly cheerful, aggressive, relaxed or even satisfied. It just isn't that simple. But it is melodic, full of feeling and power, disturbing in its intensity, and worth any number of bland, greasy, takeaway U.S. jazz-rock boreins.

Transcribed by Per Stornes
Updated: February 1, 2001
Scheduled update: None

Back to the top of the page