Released: April 1978
Chart Peak: #65
Weeks Charted: 15
U.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.
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.
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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