Eddie Jobson is a legendary figure in the world of progressive rock. Proficient on both the keyboards and violin, Jobson played with several prog/art rock bands in the 60s and 70s including Frank Zappa's band, Curved Air, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, and others. However, Jobson may best be known for his work with UK; one of prog-rock's true "supergroups." With an original lineup of Bill Bruford on drums and John Wetton on bass (who had both come from King Crimson), plus Allan Holdsworth on guitar and Jobson on keys and violin, UK developed a cult status following their 1978 self-titled debut that exists to this day. Though Jobson does have some solo albums to his credit, the bulk of his work for the past 20-some-odd years has been in TV and film scoring. Now, Jobson has returned with a new band - UKZ. Much like it's late-70s predecessor, UKZ is undoubtedly a supergroup. This illustrious band consists of guitarist Alex Machacek (BPM, solo artist), drummer Marco Minnemann (Paul Gilbert, KMB, solo artist), Warr 10-string touch guitarist Trey Gunn (King Crimson, solo artist), vocalist Aaron Lippert (Expanding Man, Godboxer, solo artist), and Jobson on keys and violin. After a long gestation period that often saw the band members writing and collaborating remotely, the band has produced their first release - a promising 4-song EP entitled Radiation (Glo Digital).
The title track is the most well-rounded song on the disc, making it a perfect choice for the opener. It's a heavy, modern, progressive rock song that's chock-full of all the staples of the gene; heavy riffs, odd meters, radical mood-swings, you name it. Machacek takes a great solo on this one, filled with smooth legato lines and sweeps. What's really interesting here, is the guitar solo flows seamlessly into a distortion-laden violin solo courtesy of Jobson. Given Jobson's guitaristic licks and tone, it's hard to tell at first where the guitar solo ends and violin solo begins. Couple all this with gritty lyrics sung by Lippert through a transistor radio-like tone, and you've got a great prog tune. Next up is a synth-heavy ballad called "Houston," which shows a completely different side of the band. Gunn single-handedly provides the rhythm section in this song with some subtle, percussive touch guitar work. The vocals are strong and right out front in the mix on this one.
The polyrhythmic "Tu-95" was released early as the teaser track from the disc, and for good reason. This is a heavy prog instrumental that basically throws the kitchen sink at you. Packed full of turn-on-a-dime meter and mood shifts, this is an "out there" tune that I can see being an acquired taste for non-prog heads. Machacek provides the EP's final track - the solo jazz guitar piece "Legend," which features some beautiful chords and voice-leading.
After listening to this EP from beginning to end, my initial knee-jerk reaction was "I wish there were more songs like 'Radiation'." The four songs presented here differ radically from one another, and it's often hard to find a common thread. My suspicion now is that is exactly Jobson's point. Perhaps Jobson is using this short release to showcase the many facets of his new band; to give listeners a small taste of the varying directions this supergroup is capable of going in. I hope that's the case; I'd certainly like to see a full album from UKZ in the future.
UKZ - Radiation (Glo Digital)
Aaron Lippert - Vocals
Trey Gunn - 10-string touch guitar
Eddie Jobson - Keyboards, Electric Violin
Alex Machacek - Guitar
Marco Minnemann - Drums