U.K. - Danger Money


Year of Release: 1990
Label: E.G.-Caroline
Catalog Number: EGCD-39
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:06:00

Danger Money is one of my favorite Emerson, Lake & Palmer albums. Yeah, yeah, ok. It sounded funny when I first though of it.

This final studio release by U.K. is a good representation of what ELP might have sounded like had Keith Emerson had a bit more melody in his soul and a bit less fire in his fingers. This is not meant to slight Keith's songwriting abilities, nor to impugn the considerable skills of U.K.'s keyboard man, Eddie Jobson. Rather, I consider it an apt observation, recognizing the unique strengths that they have each brought to their work.

The English "supergroup" U.K. consisted of the afore mentioned Eddie Jobson on keys and violin, the well traveled John Wetton on bass and vocals and American drummer extraordinaire Terry Bozzio in the third seat. As was the case with many progressive rock latecomers of the 1970s, U.K. barely managed to get off the ground before being shot down by the twin forces of punk rock and disco. They did however manage to put out two fine, but very different sounding studio releases and the obligatory live album within a space of two years.

Danger Money, released mid-year in 1979 (Polydoor, 2302089), just in time to secure them a spot on the bill with Jethro Tull's arena tour that winter, is in my opinion, a necessity for any fan of British symphonic prog. It bears strong similarities to ELP in many ways. There is, of course, near constant displays of instrumental virtuosity. There are many instances of the angular, dissonant, everything but the kitchen sink, style of composition familier to any ELP fan. There is Terry Bozzio and his drummer gone wild, how much can I get away with style, similar to that of Carl Palmer, and finally, the rich tenor voice of bassist/vocalist John Wetton, sometimes interchangeable with Greg Lake.

Other influences are heard, to be sure. The title track of the album contains,? shall we say, a direct quote from King Crimson's Red. As John Wetton played a role in that Crimson work, let's notice, but not condemn it's appropriation too harshly.

At the time of its release, I recall a few voices claiming that this was an attempt to garner radio play by, and I still have to laugh out loud at this, going "pop" with this album's songwriting and sound. Listening to this disc in 2004, it is just as clear now, as in 1979, that this release could only be considered a step towards pop music by comparing it directly with, say Tarkus for instance. Ok, there are no 20 minute songs, and there are a few instances of 4/4 time. Good Lord! Up against the wall, traitors!

Set now in it's proper context, Danger Money is by any definition, a great release, and one you should own. A collection of six songs, the shortest is "Nothing To Lose" at 3:50, with the longest, the tour de force, "Carrying No Cross," clocking in at 12:15.

Being an aficionado of keyboardists, I will tell you right now that this release casts Eddie Jobson as a worthy rival for the title of king of the keyboard, with the oft mentioned Mr. Emerson. His playing is absolutely spectacular from beginning to end, and he is not alone in that.

Terry Bozzio's drumming is not only a joy to hear, powerful and crushing in its authority, but was, in 1979 anyway, quite a sight to see as well. Ever see a man play drums standing up, running in place on his double bass drum pedals? Without screwing up? I have.

This leaves us with John Wetton to consider. His vocals are superb on this work, though his lyrics are nothing to get excited about. His bass lines are spare, but meet all the requirements, and he is credited along with Eddie Jobson as co-writer on all six tracks.

Now, the songs themselves. Of the six tracks, we get two that scale the heights of greatness, two which are "merely" excellent, and two (what a disappointment) that I regret I can only describe as good. One could surely do worse than this.

In order, we start with "Danger Money," a nice bit of work, but not one that will knock your socks off. It comes complete with dissonant B-3 and Ian Fleming like lyrics. On many releases, this song would be a stand out, but in the company of the other tracks presented here it falls a bit short. Next comes a favorite of mine, "Rendezvous 6:02," a beautiful number with flowing lines and haunting waterfalls of notes that will float through the listener's mind. Add a big fat, spooky synth solo, reminiscent of that in ELP's "From The Beginning," and you have a track that you will find yourself returning to again and again.

Next comes one of the two masterpieces on this release, "The Only Thing She Needs." U.K. packs more punch and excitement into this short (by progressive rock standards) tune than many acts do in their entire repertoire. This song has EVERYTHING I need in it. This and a bowl of Grape Nuts will keep you flying for days. I won't spoil the experience of hearing this tune for the first time, free of preconceptions, but I'll give two hints to whet your appetite. Shhh!, don't let everyone in on it! This cut starts with one of the most complex, difficult drum beats that one man can possibly play without overdubs or electronic trickery. I swear! I saw it played with my own eyes. Quiet now! I'll whisper the second hint now. You're going to hear one of the best conceived and best executed B-3 solos ever recorded at the end. Ok? Oh yeah, everything in between is pretty awesome as well.

Next is "Caesars Palace Blues," an opportunity for Mr. Jobson to rip it up on his clear lucite violin, and for John Wetton to sing about America's favorite pastime, and I don't mean baseball. The fifth track is another less-than-sterling tune, and the weakest track on the release, "Nothing To Lose." When anyone accused U.K. of going soft, this is what they were pointing to. Nevertheless, this track features an extended violin solo, changes of meter and tempo, and yet another classic, stylish B-3 solo. Again, I would say of this track, like "Danger Money", that lesser talents could tout this as one of their best numbers.

Last, but in no sense least, is the highlight of this album, the highlight of the band's career, and one of the best examples of gonzo, wall-to-wall keyboard excess since "Tarkus," the closer, "Carrying No Cross." I, gentle reader, spend endless hours and days searching for material of this quality. It is, I will say again and again, shouting from the roof tops, a work of diabolical artistry. This is the albums epic, and within this music is the spark of greatness, the promise fulfilled, the masterwork of U.K. Yes, I am laying it on a bit thick, but this is one of those times the hyperbole is well deserved. Give me odd meter, ever changing, twisting, snakelike progressions, and layers and layers of B-3, piano and synths, striking me down as if by a bolt of lightning. Give me all this, or give me death.

Whew! I'm breaking into a sweat just thinking about it.

There is no room for divergence on this issue. Leave now, get in your car. Go out and buy this CD. Now, I say!!!


Tracklisting:
Danger Money (8:12) / Rendezvous 6:02 (6:02) / The Only Thing She Needs (7:53) / Caesar's Palace Blues (4:42) / Nothing To Lose (3:57) / Carrying No Cross (12:20)

Musicians:
Eddie Jobson - violins, keyboards
John Wetton - bass, guitar, vocals
Terry Bozzio - percussion, drums

Discography:
U.K. (1978)
Danger Money (1979)
Night After Night (1979)
Concert Classics, Vol 4 (1999)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 7th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Score:
Artist website:
Hits: 1079
Language: english

  

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