Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
U.K. was a short-lived supergroup that formed at the wrong time. Bridging the gap between King Crimson’s groundbreaking early- to mid-’70s work and Asia’s more commercial approach to progressive rock in the ’80s, with bassist/vocalist John Wetton as the common thread, neither radio stations nor the general public cared about this type of music during their brief existence in the late-’70s. Their music can be challenging but it’s also very melodic, and the musicianship is simply incredible. Joining Wetton on their 1978 debut was his former King Crimson bandmate Bill Bruford on drums, violinist/synth player Eddie Jobson and guitar genius Allan Holdsworth. I wrote about their two studio albums in my Two And Through post in 2014, and I’ve excerpted the parts about the debut below.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
It’s no secret that I love progressive rock. Before I even knew it was a subgenre I was a fan of 70s giants Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. In the ‘80s it was bands like Asia, Rush & Marillion, and from the ‘90s through today a prog renaissance has been taking place. There were a few eras, however, when “Prog” was considered a derogatory 4-letter-word, the first of these coming in the second half of the ‘70s when punk bands did everything in their power to topple the stadium-conquering dinosaurs, many of which were prog bands. The short-lived U.K. were the bridge between the mid-‘70s edition of King Crimson and the commercially successful Asia in 1982. Singer/bassist John Wetton & drummer Bill Bruford, both members of that Crimson lineup, teamed up with former Roxy Music/Frank Zappa violinist/synth player Eddie Jobson and jazz/fusion guitar god Allan Holdsworth to form U.K. Their self-titled debut has a dark, heavy, metallic (but not “metal”) feel, with icy synths & Bruford’s hollow-sounding drums warmed by Wetton’s powerful yet soothing vocals (which he would later bring to Asia). There are also elements of synth-pop artists like Gary Numan & Ultravox, but the odd time signatures and extended running times keep it firmly in prog territory. “In The Dead Of Night” is the ideal introduction to this album, but once that draws you in you’ll want/need to hear the rest of this brilliant record that really has no contemporaries.
I’ve met a lot of fellow prog fans who love U.K., but I have a feeling they’ve been overlooked by many potential fans simply because they existed at a time when prog was at a commercial & critical low point. They should certainly be mentioned in any conversations about the greatest progressive rock acts of all time.
I’ve met a number of people who love U.K., all of whom are devoted prog-rock addicts like myself, so I know I’m not alone in my love for this group. I even have a t-shirt with the album cover which always elicits positive feedback whenever I wear it. I hope to hear from other U.K. fans but I’m equally interested in hearing from people who have never listened to them before. Don’t give up on the two longer tracks above, as they cover a lot of musical ground after their quieter intros.