U Totem [USA]
Updated 9/7/01

U Totem (91)
Strange Attractors (94)
U Totem is the combination of the 5UU's and the Motor Totemists Guild. They are very good. Their style reminds me of Messaien or Lutoslawski. The best description I can offer is they are what Henry Cow wanted to be. The levels of control in this band is astonishing. The compositions are chordally dense and can, at times, be as dark as Univers Zero! There are 5 people in U Totem. They play keyboards, percussion, flute, bassoon, bass, male and female vocals (the female singer is IMHO *better* than Annie Halsam from Renaissance - I compare them because they sound similar). I only have their self titled CD but there are several earlier things avaliable (from Wayside) from when they were 5UU/MTG. They are avant but not obnoxiously so, the music makes sense (to me). VERY PROG. To hear a band this adventurous producing work in the 90's is reassuring.
Strange Attractors disappointed me. Maybe because their self-titled is one of my favourite albums, and a real eye-opener as far as getting into RIO music goes. This is as complex, if not more so, but it relies more on cheesy synth-sounds, and that's the biggest gripe I have with it, especially since what I loved about their first one was the classical orchestration, which is less present here, and unsuccessfully mixed with that darned synthesizer. Seems James Grigsby concentrated fully on the story (intricate but uninteresting) and forgot about the songwriting (leaving David Kerman completely without writing-credits). A lot of magical moments though, but if you're getting only one of U Totem's albums, you should definitely go for the first one. Emily Hay delivers as usual. And you already know about 5uu's and Thinking Plague, right? -- Daniel
[See 5uu's | Motor Totemists Guild | Present | Thinking Plague]

Ubieda, Gerardo [Venezuela]
a.k.a. Odra Reg ("Gerardo" spelled backwards)
Updated 6/7/06

God's Garden (04)
Gerardo Ubieda

I've never heard this Venezuelan drummer's old band Tempano so I have no comparative reference. I suspect Gerardo Ubieda's 2004 release on Musea, God’s Garden, is somewhat less commercial, more quirky and perhaps not as South American in sound. It is also a really tasty, cleanly recorded session of complex instrumental rock-fusion. Ubieda sets the tone but lets his fine band of guitars, keys, bass and horns take the spotlight while he kicks out the polymetric percussives. This CD has a kind of freedom you get with a solo album, that liberation of fine musicians in a smaller, less contrived setting just letting it go. Not that the music is freeform or improvised, it isn't. But like the best moments of, say, Bruford's 1979 incarnation, it doesn't matter either way because it's so good. -- David Marshall

[See Tempano]

Click here to order from Musea Records.

Updated 1/9/09

U.K. (78)
Danger Money (79)
Night After Night (79, Live)
A supergroup that is truly deserving of the title. Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford are their usual, more-than-competent selves, John Wetton's performance is thankfully much closer to his work with King Crimson than Uriah Heep. But it's Eddie Jobson, fresh from working with Roxy Music, who's the star of the show. On the fabulous first album, his electric violin playing and use of the polyphonic CS80 synthesizer steals the show. But not only is the playing good, the songs are well written, too. "Thirty Years" is an eye-popping exercise in dynamics, with a lovely intro with liquid synthesizers which leads into the heavy main section with powerass/guitar riffing an a hot violin solo. The 13-minute, three-part "In The Dead Of Night" is the kind of musical intricacy prog fans live for, especially the fast ending section. And "Nevermore" is a luscious jazzy piece with wondrous guitar interludes by Holdsworth. One of the best albums from the progressive dark ages.

Danger Money features an altered lineup (Holdsworth and Bruford out, Terry Bozzio in), but no significant change in sound, save the lack of guitar. This album likewise has much to recommend it. Though the writing overall isn't quite as good, the playing is just as hot as ever. Best track: "Carrying No Cross," with some of Jobson's best keyboard work since Curved Air's "Metamorphosis." -- Mike Ohman

I have the self-titled UK album which features Bill Bruford on drums, John Wetton on bass and vocals, Allan Holdsworth on guitars and Eddie Jobson on keyboards and violin. Each of these guys are noted musicians, as you probably know. Despite the talent involved, the music is merely average (what is it about these supergroups, anyway?) and not very exciting. Bruford turns in his usual excellent performance and Holdsworth's solos are up to the standards set on his solo albums. Jobson and Wetton are also up to snuff performance-wise though Wetton's voice isn't as good as his singing on the King Crimson albums. There just doesn't seem to be much synergism among the players and that keeps the music from really gelling. Certainly, there are much worse albums out there and this album does have several delightful moments but it just seems this could be so much better. The eight songs range from three to eight minutes in length, averaging about five minutes. Overall, not bad and I'm sure many of you would go a bundle on this. I pull it out for a listen now and again but just can't help feeling it could have been so much better ...
Unlike most UK fans, I prefer their second release Danger Money to their first, self-titled album. The song "Carrying No Cross" is a favorite of mine. Wetton (of King Crimson, Asia) on bass and vocals and Eddie Jobson on keys (and violin) were on both studio albums. Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio and Allan Holdsworth were also in this band.
Danger Money is much better than the first one. It will appeal to ELP fans with Jobson's incredible keyboards.
I didn't hear anything from their first album, with Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford, but Danger Money, with John Wetton, Eddie Jobson, and Terry Bozzio, is pretty good. A bit on the depressing side though, but not really in a beautiful way, like Marillion.
Bill Bruford, John Wetton, Alan Holdsworth, Eddie Jobson. How could it go wrong. The first album was great. After that Bruford and Holdsworth left, and they got Terry Bozzio of Zappa fame to sit in. I hear that this album was more commercial, but I've never heard it.
[See Asia | Bruford | Bruford, Bill | Curved Air | Holdsworth, Allan | Jobson, Eddie | King Crimson | Roxy Music | Uriah Heep | UKZ | Wetton, John | Zappa, Frank]

Ukab Maerd [USA/France]
Updated 2/14/11

The Waiting Room (10)
Ukab Maerd - Chuck Oken Jr. and Gayle Ellet. Or Laurel and Hardy. It's really pretty hard to tell due to the digital mangling. But if this is the promo photo they want to present to their fans, who am I to argue?

Ukab Maerd is a side project of Djam Karet members Chuck Oken Jr. and Gayle Ellet. Ukab Maerd is "Baku Dream" spelled backwards, a reference to Djam Karet's 2003 release A Night for Baku. For their first album The Waiting Room, they are joined by French electronics luminary Richard Pinhas (of Heldon) who contributes Frippian guitar loops that act as a backdrop against Oken's drums and Ellet's electronic keyboards and guitar of his own.

The Waiting Room turns out to be pretty easy to describe ... it sounds most like earlier, more experimental (as in "less new-agey") Tangerine Dream, with a fair amount of Fripp and Eno thrown in for good measure. The second part is due to Pinhas' guitar loops, but in most places they're so subtle they're hard to separate from the synthesized sound washes. Some call this style ambient, but to me one of the requirements of ambient is that it can go into the background and be successfully ignored. I do not find The Waiting Room to be ignorable ... there's so much interesting stuff happening that I really want to pay attention to it. Probably not actual fare for a waiting room (I'm not sure I would have the same sentiments about Eno's Music for Airports, which actually might sound pretty good in an airport). This ain't rock by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly progressive and very interesting for those of us who know how to listen to this style. The recording is also much better than those old '70's recordings in its clean, high-presence recording quality and lack of (unintentional) noise.

The bottom line is that if you're a fan of Tangerine Dream or Fripp and Eno, or more specifically, Richard Pinhas, Heldon or the more "ambient" offerings from Djam Karet, then this will be right up your alley. I think this is a great album, and will happily recommend it to any fan of the style. -- Fred Trafton

[See Djam Karet | Henderson, Mike | Herd of Instinct | Pinhas, Richard]

Click here for Ukab Maerd's page on the Djam Karet web site (click on "Present" door)
Click here for Ukab Maerd's MySpace page
Click here to order The Waiting Room from CD Baby

UKZ [UK/USA/Austria/Germany]
a.k.a. UZ or Ultimate Zero Project
Updated 6/16/11

Radiation (09, EP)
Ultimate Zero Tour: Live (10, 2CD Live)
UKZ - Aaron Lippert (vocals, a Belgian citizen living in Boston), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar, USA), Eddie Jobson (keyboards, UK), Alex Machacek (guitar, Austria) and Marco Minnemann (drums, Germany). As you may guess from this obviously "Photoshopped" band photo, this is a "virtual band" recording their music by long-distance.

Original entry, 1/9/09:
After 26 years since his last proper "band" album (Jobson/Zinc's Green Album) and 22 years after the demise of the great UK, Eddie Jobson has resurfaced with UKZ. [They will have a] debut concert in NY this month and a CD-EP (what, you expected more than 4 songs after only 26 years?). It's not available quite yet, but below is a YouTube link [see below] with a teaser from the title track (say that fast and it sounds like a Cat Stevens album!), which sounds rather heavy and more like Porcupine Tree than U.K with Eddie's part rather subdued - but good!

Other than Eddie, most of you know Trey Gunn from King Crimson but the other band members are pretty much unknown - I did see the guitarist Alex Machacek play with Terry Bozzio and Patrick O'Hearn here in Austin as the "Out Trio" some years back. -- Ted Thomas

Update 5/17/09:
UKZ's Radiation EP was released in March, and they have played a couple of live gigs which includes performances of UK songs and even a cover of "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" (with guest Tony Levin). Click on the YouTube link below and then check out the "Related Videos" section for some decidedly amateur-quality (read: "bootleg") videos from some of these gigs. They're set to play a major gig in Japan in June. No word yet on whether or when a full-length album is in the offing. -- Fred Trafton
Update 6/16/11:
For what it's worth, I did get a copy of the Radiation EP and have listened to it several times. I like it ... as Ted Thomas said above, it's "more like Porcupine Tree than U.K", but especially the title song is excellent. The other songs seem a bit filler-ish, and I'm just surprised that Jobson didn't try to extend this killer line-up into a full album ... or two. But it doesn't seem like that's going to happen.

Jobson and a set of "revolving musicians" (meaning "whoever I can get to sign up to do a particular show") performing under the name Ultimate Zero Project undertook a selective world tour to play music from UKZ and UK. UZ, in my opinion, isn't different enough from UKZ that it deserves a separate GEPR entry, so I'm lumping them together here. A live 2CD album of the UZ tour was released entitled Ultimate Zero Tour: Live featuring quite a few famous surprise guests, including John Wetton and Tony Levin. It's pricey at around $44.00 and most reviewers have said the sound quality is atrocious. I haven't heard it personally, and at $44.00, I'm not likely to unless somebody gifts me one. I'm not holding my breath.

A personal opinion (aren't all opinions personal, really?): after releasing only a 4-song EP and an expensive questionable-quality 2CD live album, Jobson either thinks very highly of himself or he doesn't really care about selling his music. Maybe both. As icing on the cake, his web site also now features a "Zealots Only" area that you can only enter after paying a membership fee. No thanks. It just seems like a counter-productive attitude. Unless, as I surmise, he just doesn't care. As a major UK and Eddie Jobson's Zinc fan, I used to care. But not so much any more. -- Fred Trafton

[See Curved Air | Jobson, Eddie | King Crimson | Roxy Music | Wetton, John | UK]

Click here for UKZ's web site
Click here for a YouTube video of the title track from UKZ's debut release

Ultimate Spinach [USA]

Ultimate Spinach (68), Behold and See (68), Ultimate Spinach (69)

Late sixties flower-power hippie group from Boston, with a fairly non- commercial sound and some definite proto-progressive leanings (incorporating some classical, jazz and baroque elements, unusual instrumentation, long instrumentally oriented tracks in multiple parts). Mostly of historical interest, the lyrics, and some of the more mainstream tracks, tend to be very dated sounding.

Umphrey's McGee [USA]
Updated 3/28/09

Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (98)
Songs for Older Women (99, Live)
One Fat Sucka (00, Live)
Local Band Does O.K. (02)
Local Band Does OKlahoma (04, Live)
Anchor Drops (04)
Safety in Numbers (06)
Bottom Half (07, 2CD)
Live at the Murat (07, Live)
Mantis (09)
Umphrey's McGee - (Not in photo order) Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar, synthesizers, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals), and Ryan Stasik (bass)

I've frequently seen Umphrey's McGee compared to The Grateful Dead in that they're mostly a live band with their own semi-fanatical following that never plays a song the same way twice. Well, perhaps in those ways they're like The Dead, but musically they're not even in the same universe. Judging from Mantis, their latest studio release, I'd compare them more to The Beatles or Toto with a few hints of Pink Floyd thrown in, but with a harder rock edge, and far more progressive, though in a slick, "LA sound" sort of way. The studio technique on this recording is incredibly professional and crystalline. Though they're famous for improv, Mantis surely sounds heavily composed with instrumental parts that trade the melody around from one to the next, and well-planned vocal harmonies, plus a few sections with enough "breathing space" for improvisational soloing built in. But this album certainly has very little hint of a "jam band" sound. Of course, this is based only on Mantis, I haven't heard their previous efforts. But after hearing Mantis, I must say I'd jump at the chance to hear more of this amazing band.

Umphrey's McGee has a liberal policy regarding recording their concerts, so there's TONS of live recordings freely available for download from their web site. The quality is a bit variable, but they're mostly pretty good, so you can get loads of UG if you want it. The Mantis CD itself acts as a key for unlocking more downloadable material from their web site, an interesting marketing scheme (buy the physical media to get access to more free stuff!). Umphrey's McGee is progressive in more ways than their music.

In short, Umphrey's McGee is a real diamond twinkling in a sea of broken-glass wannabe bands. Highly professional musicians playing amazingly interesting music recorded perfectly and distributed with an eye towards really pleasing their fans. You can't ask for more. Highly recommended!

Finally, I should mention the packaging of Mantis, a nice "gatefold record album" cardboard fold outer jacket that preserves the look and feel of the vinyl days, but miniaturized to CD size. There's even an inner paper dust jacket for the CD. Nostalgic and eco-sensitive at the same time. Nice. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Umphrey's McGee's web site
Click here for Umphrey's McGee's MySpace page
Click here for Madison House Publicity to download publicity photos & current band info

Un Known [Japan]
Updated 9/9/01

Lost U.K. Tape Live (98)
U.K. is for "Un Known". Or "United Kingdom". Or that band with Bruford, Wetton, Jobson and Holdsworth. Get it? Un Known is a U.K. cover band. This is a CD of live recordings from the Tokyo club "The Silver Elephant". The album cover looks like the other U.K.'s Night after Night album with the four members of Un Known replacing the previous pictures, and the back of the CD looks like the back of U.K. (the first album) with the island of Japan replacing the island of Great Britian. Pretty fun, actually, but you have to be a U.K. fan to get these in-jokes.

Un Known is centered around violinist/keyboardist Junko Minobe (Azoth, Cinderella Search) who takes the role of Eddie Jobson from the original band. The performances are competent by all, but somewhat lackluster. I have to ask myself why I would want to hear this if I could put on the original albums? Still, they are primarily a performing band, and it is probably fun to see them still playing these old classics in the 21st century. They do this tribute show once or twice per year.

Word is that Un Known is trying to expand their horizons a bit, and are currently rehearsing King Crimson and Bruford songs to add to their repertoire. -- Fred Trafton

NEWS: Guitarist Masayuki Adachi of Azoth has made the Un Known CD available by mail-order from his web site. Click the link below. -- Fred Trafton

[See Azoth | Cinderella Search]

Click here for Un Known's web site, but unless you have a Kanji-capable browser and can read Japanese, it won't do you much good.
Click here to mail order Un Known CD from the Azoth web site

Under The Sun [USA]
Updated 2/7/05

Under The Sun (00)
Schematism - On Stage With Under The Sun (05, Live recorded 2001, not yet released as of 2/7/05)
Under The Sun

At the time I saw Under The Sun live at NEARfest 2001, I hadn't yet heard their CD. Their concert, while fairly entertaining, had a quality of sameness between the songs that began to wear thin after awhile. In spite of this, I noted that the drummer and bassist were incredibly tight and complex ... it was the vocals and instrumentals that started to sound all the same. This was also one of those concerts where the sound man kept inching the volume up until it was hurting my ears. I didn't quite have to use the earplugs, but it was only about one dB away from this point.

It wasn't until I later heard the music on their CD, and it did not suffer from this "sameness" problem at all. Actually, the music was fairly varied, sounding a bit like simplified Yes (and with celestially spiritual lyrics accentuating that similarity), but with a bit of Flower Kings type psychedelic style, and the harder edged (read: "progressive metal") leanings that seem to be inevitable for any band on the Magna Carta label. But not too much to be objectionable. I can unreservedly recommend this CD, though it will probably go over better with neo-proggers and '70's symphonic fans than, say, fans of RIO or even prog metal.

News 2/7/05: In September of 2001, keyboardist Matt Evidon and drummer Paul Shkut left the band. They recruited a new drummer, Jim Hardiman, and worked as a trio for awhile. They were unsatisfied with the promotion they received from Magna Carta records and were without a label for awhile. As of February 2005, Hardiman has left the band and Shkut has returned, and the trio is working on a new CD for their new label, Progrock Records. In the meantime, the band's live NEARfest performance has been mastered for a live CD called Schematism - On Stage With Under The Sun which will be released soon. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for the Under The Sun web site

Underground Railroad, The [USA]
Updated 12/13/07

Through and Through (00)
The Origin of Consciousness (05)
The Underground Railroad
(Top) Kurt Rongey (keys, vocals), (Left) Bill Pohl (guits, guit synth, bass pedals, vocals), (Right) Matt Hembree (bass) (Bottom) John Livingston (drums)
(Photos by the band, Collage by Fred Trafton)

These guys are one of the "local prog bands" for me (they're based in Fort Worth, Texas which is near where I live), but I don't think that's why I believe they are among the best of the new progressive bands out there today. UR are simply some of the finest musicians I've ever heard, and amazing composers as well. They also happen to be a bunch of pretty fun guys.

Kurt Rongey (keyboards) and Bill Pohl (guitar) have both been around awhile as solo artists. Bill Pohl plays on Rongey's albums and drummer John Livingston played on Pohl's solo Solid Earth, but they didn't try to get together as "a band" until they recorded an 11-minute version of Egg's "Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now)" for Mellow Records' To Canterbury and Beyond - A Tribute to the Canterbury Scene compilation CD. This inspired them to continue working together in the studio to produce what would become their debut CD, Through and Through, which is also in the Canterbury vein.

Kurt brought some early mixes of Through and Through with him to NEARFest 2000, and handed one to NEARFest organizer Chad Hutchinson. Chad was so impressed that they were the first band to be booked for NEARFest 2001. (This is the official version, and it's true as far as it goes. There was also some politics involved, which make it an even more interesting story, though if I told it, I'd unnecessarily piss off several people, so I'll just let you guess). I saw them there, where they played most of Through and Through plus some new compositions, including "The Creeper", a sequel to "The Doorman".

On Through and Through, The Underground Railroad have created a sound all their own, but with echoes of National Health, UK (especially the first album with Allan Holdsworth), Echolyn and some homage to Foxtrot-era Genesis as well. This is "real progressive" to my ears, with plenty of virtuosity, emotion and drama from all the musicians, and especially in the centerpiece guitars and keyboards. Through and Through is a classic progressive rock album and needs to be in every prog fan's collection.

Just before their NEARFest performance, The Underground Railroad lost their bassist, Matt Hembree, and he was replaced by bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Mike Richardson. This was the line-up that played at NEARFest and in some subsequent local concerts, including the GEPR-sponsored Cattle Prog festival in Dallas, Texas. However, Mike was never that fond of prog and wanted to branch out to other musical styles. Matt Hembree was again recruited to fill the bassman's slot, and it was with this line-up that UR launched their Ridglea Prog Nights weekly progressive rock concert at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas. Mike was frequently still there to run the mixing board, which was great since he knew all the songs so well.

An aside about Ridglea Prog Nights: This was a weekly progressive rock showcase at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas. It took place nearly every Sunday night from October 2003 thru the beginning of 2004. There were two acts each week. One was usually UR while the other was another Dallas/Fort Worth area progressive band. We were treated to performances by a number of excellent acts including The Minefield, Nerveworks, 99 Names of God, Thirteen of Everything, Heroic Verse and more. To this was added a great real-time computer generated visual effects show projected on a large screen by a local Dallas prog fan, Larry Cross. Sadly, attendence was sparse for these gigs, and the Ridglea was finally forced to cancel this event. But it was incredible while it lasted.

And, while all this was going on, UR was continuing to promise fans a follow-up album, entitled The Origin of Consciousness. I have heard all the songs from it many times during the Ridglea concerts, and knew it was excellent stuff. But the recording sessions (mostly being done in home studios except for the drums) progressed very slowly. Many of the band members had day jobs and other musical interests which slowed the process. But now I can report that The Origin of Consciousness is complete! It was well worth the wait. The fact that these guys are friends of mine notwithstanding, this is one of the best prog albums I've ever heard, by anybody, any time. The concert versions of these songs were really good, but they pale by comparison to the recorded versions. Bill's guitar sounds as if he's playing on strings made of mercury instead of steel, and Kurt's keyboard work feels like it could only be accomplished by a guy with an extra pair of hands. There are also several "classical" piano solos which would put even Keith Emerson's to shame. Kurt's vocals are also much better on this album (which I attribute to good studio technique ... he doesn't sound this good live ... sorry, Kurt). Matt also has killer bass parts on several songs, though I can't call them "solos" as such ... just parts of the songs where the bass line is really noticable. The composition of the songs is just outstanding, very complex without sounding like it's just trying to be complex for its own sake ... every note is necessary to make the musical statement the song is trying to make. The only slight mar, to my mind, is the overly meandering and just plain too lengthy guitar solo in the middle of "Love is a Vagabond King". I know it's supposed to be a guitar showcase, but sometimes it feels like Bill has run out of musical statements to make in this solo and is just murmuring the musical equivalent of "uh, so, y'know, ummm". Well, the best albums have less excellent moments, and this minor complaint should not stop you from immediately ordering this album!

Because of the projected lead times, the band elected not to release The Origin of Consciousness on The Lasers Edge label this time around, but have decided to self-release it. Surf over to their web site (link below) and order it directly from the band. The Origin of Consciousness is even better than Through and Through and has even fewer echoes of outside sources (though the influence of Allan Holdsworth on Bill's style can still be heard easily enough). Wonderful stuff, and I can't recommend it more highly. Essential.

Oh, yeah, they also just played at ProgDay 2005 to what I assume was a delighted audience. Too bad I couldn't be there. -- Fred Trafton

Mind-boggling and wonderfully recorded cerebrock of the highest order. I'm a little surprised no other fans have offered a write-up on these guys ... is it the singing? (which works well in the music). Is it the unabashed indulgence? The lack of musical reference points? Who knows -- all I know is The Underground Railroad is easily one of the best modern progressive units in the world. Their new stuff has a thin layer of Canterbury dust and a few avant-garde flavors but mostly it's a fast-moving keyboard/guitar smorgasbord not to be missed by lovers of the next level. -- David Marshall
[See Pohl, Bill | Rongey, Kurt | Xen]

Click here for The Underground Railroad's web site (and to order The Origin of Consciousness)
Click here to order Through and Through from The Laser's Edge
Click here to read about a local Underground Railroad concert in the Gibraltar Webzine

Underwater Traffic [USA]
Updated 8/19/02

Return to the Deep (97)
Underwater Traffic - Trevor Lloyd (vocals, keyboards, electric violin), JoEllyn Musser (modern dance, keyboards, backing vocals), James Musser (vocals, guitar, guitar-synth, bass, drums, keyboards, flute, harmonica, percussion), Cory Lombardelli (bass, guitar, keyboards) and Rob Ahlers (drums, keyboards, backing vocals)

Let's see ... how to describe Return to the Deep? Retro? Definitely, but not very informative. Psych? Yeah, but also kinda misses the mark. Hippie music? Yep, that feeling of "peace, love and understanding, dude" pervades the music, but it doesn't really describe the sonic breadth of this album. UT calls their style "Future Rock", which is interesting, but isn't going to help a reader much in getting an idea of what it sounds like. Really, it's not mostly what I would call "progressive" at all, though I think this album would find wide appeal among GEPR readers in spite of this, which is why it's in here. There are certainly progressive touches, and several pieces that can only be described as prog/fusion, but generally I think this album would have had several FM radio hits on it if it had come out in the mid '70's. "Classic Rock" ... yeah, now we've hit on the category. It's about rock's spiritual roots, but played with modern studio and arrangement sensibilities. No particular instrument stands out as being the most important, though Musser's guitar is spectacular in its crunch, intricacy and sheer variety, while always staying laid back and unobnoxious. With its 73:05 running time, this CD has plenty of music in it and is a cornucopia of styles. I can only describe it by taking a number of the songs and describing them individually.

"In the Garden" has a gloomy '60's sound, very much like The Doors. But then comes "It's Only a Dream" which is fusion, sounding quite like Mahavishnu Orchestra with its searing violin/guitar parallel lead. "One Sunday" changes the mood again with its heavy psych, reminiscent of early Gong, and later on in the album, "Writing on the Wall (Song for Arthur C. Clarke)" is even more so with its Daevid Allen-like smooth, lamenting vocal, a Hillagesque guitar solo and spacey keybords, though these are a smooth breathy digital timbre rather than Tim Blake's analog bleeps and sweeps. Woah, pass that doobie over here, Arthur.

"The Bomb" is an old-fashioned protest song about ... well, I guess it's obvious. But the tune with its funky clavinet lead is so bouncy it almost sounds like a parody of itself ... I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take it seriously or if it's a bit tongue in cheek. "Insanity" is a tune I would call progressive, almost 80's Crimsonish in its fast interlocking note sequences, though it also has a fusiony sound, but with some screaming rock guitar fills. Very cool.

Towards the end of the album, "Astro" sounds like a Bach piece being played by Toto until it takes off into its improvisational section, with a very nice fretless bass line percolating underneath. "Undercurrent" is a brief, spacey atmospheric (or perhaps I should say "Oceanic") synth piece, followed by "Sea of Samsara", which is once again a fusiony piece, though with lots of psych/rock and prog elements in the guitar. An observation: these folks really like water a lot ...

The bottom line is that this is an easily recommendable album in spite of not fitting easily into a musical pidgeonhole. Or maybe because it's unclassifiable. If you think you'd only like music with symphonic Mellotrons washing over everything or prog-metal guitars playing a thousand notes per second, then perhaps you should stay away from Return to the Deep. But if you can turn down the "not wierd enough to be prog" voices in your head, there's some very satisfying compositions on this CD, and you should give it a try. At least, stop by their web site and listen to some of their sound clips and decide for yourself. Peace and love, man! -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Underwater Traffic's web site

Uni Sono [Finland]

Unisono (75)

Uni Sono is a moderately interesting jazz fusion release featuring Pekka Pohjola, with a keyboardist (Olli Ahvenlahti?), a drummer (Vesa Aaltonen, I think), a sax player and a guitarist. I'd rate it below The Group and Pohjola's earlier work (i.e., up to and including "The Mathematician's Air Display") in terms of musical interest. -- David Wayne

[See Group, The | Made in Sweden | Pohjola, Pekka | Wigwam]

Unifaun [Sweden]
Updated 12/27/09

Unifaun (08)
Unifaun - Bonamici (keys and vintage sound design) and Nad Sylvan (voice, guit, bass, keys, drums)

Original Entry 12/14/08:
You can't really call Unifaun a "Genesis tribute band" because they don't play any songs by that band. But if you aren't turned off by a band that, while playing their own compositions, tries to sound sonically and compositionally (and, yes, vocally as well) exactly like Genesis, then Unifaun will tickle your fancy.

You could hardly ask for a more realistic imitation of where Genesis might have gone if they had stayed together -- and stayed progressive. The vocal stylings alternate between dead-on imitations of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, and sometimes a synthesis of the two, so you're left scratching your head and asking, "it sounds like Genesis all right, but which vocalist?"

The instrumentals are just as similar, from Hackett-like attack-suppressed guitars to Banksian Hammond and Mellotron.

OK. So, as everyone else has said on every other prog web site, they sound exactly like Genesis. I happen to think they sound like pretty good Genesis. If you're the sort of person who uses the words "rip-off" to describe bands a lot, it will be no problem for you to use these words for this album. I prefer to think of it as "homage". And I sure do miss that Genesis sound, so I liked this album. This album is co-released on the Swedish Progresss Records and also the American Prog Rock Records, from where you can order this album (link below). Or you can download it from Mindawn (OGG and FLAC links above). -- Fred Trafton

[See Agents of Mercy]

Click here for Unifaun's Soundclick page (which they also call their "Official Web Site")
Click here for Unifaun's MySpace page
Click here to order Unifaun from Prog Rock Records

United States of America [USA]

The United States of America (68)

I believe this is Joe Byrd's first album. This album has the original version of "Garden of Earthly Delights" which Snakefinger covered on one of his solo albums. Tripped out stuff. Actually has the title cut for his second album on this one The American Metaphysical Circus.

Perhaps the most technically advanced recording of 1968. Led by electronic musician Joseph Byrd, the band uses synthesizers, electric violin, ring-modulation, electric harpsichords fuzz-bass and electric drums in a way never attempted before. Very arty and influential, and of historic interest to prog-heads. There's also some pretty damn good music here! Not as dated-sounding as one might think. -- Mike Ohman

[See Byrd, Joe and the Field Hippies]

Unitopia [Australia]
Updated 4/11/09

More Than a Dream (05)
The Garden (09, 2CD)
Unitopia - (Not in photo order) Mark Trueack (vocals/hand percussion), Sean Timms (Keyboards/Vocals/Mandolin), Matt Williams (Acoustic & Electric Guitars/Vocals/Banjo), Shireen Khemlani (Electric and Acoustic Bass/Vocals), Monty Ruggiero (Drums/Percussion), Tim Irrgang (Tuned and Un-Tuned Percussion) and Mike Stewart (Soprano, Alto & Tenor Saxophones/Flute/Clarinet/Percussion/Keyboards)

Here's another band that's been on my "to do" list for a long time. Since More Than A Dream's release in 2005, as a matter of fact. Now that they've released their second album The Garden to wide acclaim, I think it's time to get Unitopia listed in the GEPR. I still haven't heard the new album, but the artwork by the new prog album cover genius Ed Unitsky alone makes me want to buy it (click here to see it). But for now, I'll only be talking about Unitopia's debut album More Than a Dream. Tha album cover is boring, but the music is quite good.

It's pretty clear that these guys (and one gal ... bassist Shireen Khemlani) have done their prog homework as far as who they've listened to. The album begins with "Common Goal", starting with a somewhat predictable (but always cool) Mellotron progression against a bass drone ... you know they've heard a few prog bands in their lives. But they mix together prog styles from all over the progressive landsacape. On the song "Fate", the introductory sax solo sounds just like Gong's Didier Malherbe, only to be followed by the main body of the song, a prog/pop section that could be right off of Alan Parson's Project's Pyramid. Then fade to a synth drone for the 12:52 mini-epic "Justify", beginning with some nice prog-metal crunchy guitars and cool Hammond jazz progressing to a chorus once again in the APP mold ... though the vocal harmonies here remind me of Glass Hammer. Unexpectedly, this turns to a Rhodes solo with a funky slap bass line before reprising the metal guitars and a screaming Hammond solo. Then, would you believe a quiet acoustic guitar with vocals over the top? By the end, they've added violin and an ethereal female "ahh-ahh" vocal line before finishing up with the guitar/organ theme again. Amazingly, they can take all these styles and make them fuse into a new style they've made their own.

Think you've got this figured out yet? No, wait! The next song, "Take Good Care" kicks off with an orchestra, very reminiscent of The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed. But this is an 8:36 song, so it can't last long, right? Right! The next section of this song is ... would you believe Aboriginal beat music? Well, Unitopia is an Australian band, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This part of the song wouldn't be at all out of place on a Peter Gabriel album (or Kate Bush's The Dreaming) with its enviro-conscious lyric. It's just odd that this follows the Days of Future Passed orchestral intro. Not bad, just unusual.

That's enough of a blow-by-blow for me. Other sections remind me of Steve Hillage, Pink Floyd, Farpoint and even Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds or the London Symphony Orchestra version of The Who's Tommy (both really great albums if you've never heard them, though probably "not prog" in many people's minds ...). I do have to mention that "Slow Down" would, like several other parts of this album, fit in fine on an Alan Parson's Project album.

The bottom line is that Unitopia lives up to their name ... a Unified Utopia of progressive rock styles blended into a new style they've made their own. I just made that up ... I have no idea what the band thinks Unitopia means. I only know that I wholeheartedly recommend this album, and judging from comments I've read about the new album (The Garden), they've only gotten better. I'm looking forward to hearing it. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Unitopia's web site
Click here for Unitopia's MySpace page

Univers Zero [Belgium]
Updated 4/8/10

1313 (77, aka Univers Zero)
Heresie (79)
Ceux De Dehors (80)
Crawling Wind (83, EP)
UZED (84)
Heatwave (86)
The Hard Quest (99)
Rhythmix (02)
Implosion (04)
Live (06, Live)
Relaps: Archives 1984-86 (09, Live/Previously unreleased recordings)
Clivages (10)
Univers Zero - Igor Semenoff, Reginald Trigaux, Daniel Denis, Dirk Descheemaeker, Michel Berckmans

Univers Zero stands unique among bands. From Belgium, Their sound combines elements of progressive rock along the lines of Magma / King Crimson with a dark and gothic chamber music style, plus some evident Bartok influences. In recent years, Cuneiform reissued all of their five regular LPs originally released between 1978 and 1986, leaving only the 1983 EP Crawling Wind yet unspoken for. Their first album 1313 is the most acoustic and obviously chamber influenced of all, using violin, viola, cello, bassoon, harmonium, spinet, bass, guitar, and percussion. Their second album Heresie uses pretty much the same instrumentation, but is infinitely darker - Wayside's '87 catalog said it best: "This may be the most sinister rock LP ever recorded." I couldn't agree more. On their third outing Ceux Du Dehors ("Those of the outside") they turned up the electricity a bit more and in general it could be said that this was the turn of a new page for the band, with greater use of dynamic intensity and more prominent role for guitar and drums. UZED continues onward in the same direction, this time using saxes and some synthesizers to further develop their unique vision. The final album Heatwave features an extra keyboardist, and hence a very prominent role for synthesizers, although the general mood of the music remains essentially unchanged. For those not yet tuned into them, I'd recommend getting started with UZED or Ceux Du Dehors. The percussionist and bandleader Daniel Denis has since released two solo albums, and original guitarist Roger Trigaux formed the band Present, all of which are available on Cuneiform as well. Other UZ band members have appeared on some of these albums.

Ceux Du Dehors is a mix of dark chamber music and Magma-esque rock. Mellotrons, Hammond organ, bass, drums and guitar play alongside viola, harmonium and woodwinds. Complex and symphonic, yet with a chilling nightmare atmosphere permeating every minute, quite outstanding. UZED adds synthesizers and cello to the mix and is more "modern" sounding. Full of changes, unpredictable twists and turns that make for very exciting listening. This may be their best. Heatwave delves ever deeper into the gothic horror atmosphere, thanks to an even stronger use of creepy synthesizer sounds. The sidelong "Funeral Plain" is a high point. -- Mike Ohman
One of the very most innovative Belgians around, this band defined Bartokian and moody chamber rock, and Heresie may be one of the most DOOMIEST SINISTER albums ever. Love 'em to death!
Post minimalist dark chamber ensemble featuring Daniel Denis. A good choice for those interested in exploring more complex music. Intense and scary music -- recommended!
UZED is one of my favorite albums of all time. They play mostly classical instruments. UZED is very rythmically interesting. I have Heresie also, and it's pretty dark. 1313 has a pretty strong Stravinsky feel to it. I can't recommend this band enough. If you like contemporary classical, you must buy at least one of their albums.
The new studio album Clivages is finally here! I've only heard a little of their previous studio work, but I saw them at NEARFEST in 2004, so I knew what to expect. This album did not disappoint. It's basically modern classical music with drums. Very good if you like that sort of thing, and I do. Totally intellectual music ... you won't be moved to headbang or play air guitar while listening to this. Unless you're really weird.

Totally cool for fans of this band and their ilk. Recommended for them. If you read GEPR because you like Dream Theater, Ozric Tentacles or Yes, this isn't even in the same galaxy. Be warned. -- Fred Trafton

[See Art Zoyd | Denis, Daniel | Julverne | Present]

Click here for the Official Univers Zero web site
Click here for the Univers Zero page at Cuniform Records

Universal Totem Orchestra [Italy]
Updated 5/17/01

Rituale Alieno (99)
This band is connected to their compatriots Runaway Totem not only by their name, but also by the fact that drummer Uto Giorgio Golin and bassist Dauno Giuseppe Buttiglione, here joined by vocalist Ana Torres Fraile, keyboardist Marco Zanfei and a large group of guest musicians, used to be the rhythm section for Runaway Totem. Like Runaway Totem, Universal Totem Orchestra have their roots in a rather guitar-heavy version of zeuhl, but on Rituale Alieno (Black Widow Records BWRCD 022-2) they mix this with a gamut influences ranging from symphonic rock to world music and beyond. For example, "Il viaggio di Elric" initially wanders through a spacey jam section, but then comes to a sudden focus, as Fraile's operatic voice traces a grand melody over a spare but elegant backing of viola, classical guitar and harpsichord-like keyboard. A zeuhl-styled male choir then appears, responding to Fraile's call with a lower register melody line. The rhythm section kicks back in, electric guitar picks up a limber solo cue from the choir melody, keyboards first lay down a jazzy groove and then add a symphonic swell as the song rises to a peak - only to crash down into quasi-industrial rhythms and keyboard effects, as the choir gives the theme one more go. Similarly, "Ipernatura del tempo centrale" begins with an abstract, tabla-driven section, moves to melodic fusion with burning keyboard and guitar solos, and finally settles into a repetitive groove with a churning bass ostinato, far-out synth sounds and one of those "excuse me, my brain seems to be stuck on repeat" chants that are characteristic of zeuhl. The 21-minute "Saturno" is the most straightforward zeuhl burner on the album, but even here the band throw in various diverting bits (Gregorian chanting, anyone?) and switch riffs often enough to keep things compelling. While not all songs are equally successful in creating a smooth, coherent whole, and some sections don't escape the trap of over-repetition, overall Rituale Alieno provides an amazingly eclectic amalgamation of familiar styles that leaves a highly original impression. Powerful rhythm section, multifaceted keyboard work, excellent vocal arrangements and especially strong compositions (the delicate opener "Pane Astrale" is truly a beautiful piece of music) all help to make this one of the best releases of 1999. Zeuhl fans are the obvious target audience, but fans of a more complex prog in general should find a lot to appreciate here. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Runaway Totem]

Universe [UK]
Updated 6/18/05

Universe (91, Recorded 1971)
The Wheel (93, Recorded 1970-72)
British prog, only issued in Norway

Universe [USA]

Universe (77)

University of Errors [USA]
Updated 12/26/09

Money Doesn't Make It (99)
e2x10=tenure (00)
Ugly Music for Monica (03)
Jet Propelled Photographs (04)
Live in Chicago (Bananamoon Obscura Vol. 5) (05)
Daevid Allen's University of Errors: Plays The Soft Machine (09, DVD)
University of Errors -

University of Errors is Daevid Allen's US band. They have recorded four albums; the last, Jet Propelled Photographs, being a collection of Soft Machine songs written during Daevid Allen's brief tenure with them, and now re-recorded and reimagined for University of Errors.

The only University of Errors I've heard is their live DVD from the Gong Family Unconventional Gathering, a festival of Gong-related bands which took place in November of 2006. University of Errors played most of their set with songs from Jet Propelled Photographs plus a couple of other early Daevid Allen pieces ("Stoned Innocent Frankenstein" from Bananamoon and "Fohat Digs Holes in Space" from Camembert Electrique). I'll admit my bias here ... I'm unfamiliar with Soft Machine, and my favorite Gong was the era when Tim Blake was playing synthesizers and Bloomdido was playing sax and flutes, so the music on this album is either unfamiliar or from albums that aren't my favorites. So, I must say I wasn't deeply moved by this music. It was OK ... the musicians are all good and precise, and I always love hearing Daevid Allen's glissando guitar work and vocals, but I must say I wasn't completely engaged by this DVD. I found myself looking for excuses to change to another DVD ... but if you're more into these earlier pieces than I am, you may find this well-recorded and spunky live performance quite exhilarating. -- Fred Trafton

[See Daevid Allen | Gong | Gong Global Family | Soft Machine]

Click here to order available titles from Amazon
Click here for the University of Errors web site
Click here for U of E's MySpace page

Uno [Italy]

Uno (74)

Osanna offshoot. Solid hard prog like Osanna.

[See Osanna]

Uovo Di Colombo, L' [Italy]
Updated 5/8/02

L'Uovo Di Colombo (73)
Better than Alluminogeni, are the band L'Uovo Di Colombo who's similarities are evident, but the music in this case is much more original and their creativity definitely stands out. Easily one of the best in the classical rock genre, L'Uovo Di Colombo's self-titled release was released limited edition in Japan so is rather rare on CD, although not as rare as the original LP.
The album has a ELP sound with a good singer and a good drummer. When the band was dissolved Ruggero Stefani went to play in Samadhi and Elio Volpini with Etna and then Flea.
There is no denying that Italy produced a veritable glut of strong progressive rock albums in the 1970s, but not every egg laid under the Mediterranean sun was golden. L'Uovo di Colombo's one and only release is one of those albums whose musical worth pales besides the reputation it has garnered. A drums-bass-keyboards trio with a singer tagged on, L'Uovo di Colombo is led by Enzo Volpini's quite impeccable keyboard work. He displays a few classically-influenced mannerism of Keith Emerson, yet within song structures that are pretty straight-forward rock tunes that really don't stray anywhere beyond the basics, even if the band seem capable and ever poised to take it to the same level as the likes of Le Orme were already inhabiting. The up-beat instrumental "Turba" does sport a few Moog streaks and finger-twistingly nimble electric piano runs, but its riffy, blues-based spine mostly resembles the rough early prog sound of Gracious' first album. "Vox Dei" and "Consiglio", particularly, are close to the British heavy organ rock style, with emphasis on Toni Gionta's vocals and the deep bass lines of Volpini's brother Elio, yet adorned with more typically Mediterranean melodies and a few multi-keyboard flourishes. "Anja" features another skyscraping vocal melody typical of Italian symphonic rock and Volpini erects equally lofty ramparts of Hammond and synthesizers around it, but the instrumental development is stunted by an early fade. Similarly, "Visione della Morte" throws in everything from shiny acoustic guitars and pretty flute melodies to a drum solo, but lacks cohesion to make it more than the sum of its enticing parts. Like its namesake, L'Uovo di Colombo stands up quite well, but mainly because the unruly parts of the music have been excised. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Etna | Flea | Reale Accademia Di Musica | Samadhi]

Ur Kaos [Sweden]
Updated 11/13/01

Ur Kaos (87)
A Terrible Beauty Is Born (90)
Av Sprucket Ut Är Valt Ett Inuiti (00)
Ur Kaos is in essence project of three Swedish guys (Lars "Lach'n" Jonsson, Johan Hedren and Mats Paulsson), who show some signs of life, whenever they produce enough material for a record. Some of you may remember Johan Hedren as a member of Kultivator, RIO-zeuhl-Cante-prog powerhouse whose sole album Barndomens Stigar is a must own. Ur Kaos, however, hasn't that much in common with Kultivator, or maybe, when looking from quite a long way away.

As opposed to ZUFR and Lach'n Jonsson solo work Ur Kaos are destined to make research further out within musical Universe. This is atmospheric, contemplative counterpart of ZUFR and Lach'n Jonsson. Quasi-religious in content, almost mystic, as there are some quotes from The Book of Jeremiah as well as quotes from Swedenborg, legendary mystic of their country. Their moniquer could be translated as Pre-Chaos or something what predates Chaos, or has yet to be turned into Chaos (certainly not bad idea). Fascinatingly strange and unusual, as it is the music.

Ur Kaos is perhaps the most vivid of otherwise very spooky Ur-releases, and the least droning and meditative. Chordal and melodic material is well known from Lach'n's releases, albeit here put in different context. In essence, album is based on repeating pattern (by bass, keyboard, etc.), which is soon accompanied by other instruments playing different patterns or lines, what produces strange counterpoint. Different musical material is therefore submit to careful layering, and at their ends, tracks become layered very densely. If particular sequence repeats itself for little longer than necessary, fiery injection follows soon and freshens the atmosphere. But darker entities are always present, humming and hovering near artists. This is great atmospheric avant prog, which can rock from time to time. Actually, well balanced between earthly and gravitation-less, this is first Ur-releases to get. Unusual and therefore unique.

A Terrible Beauty Is Born is less intense with outbreaks than predecessor, so above mentioned balance sorta desintegrates. More meditative, but when quirks outbreak, they sound weirder than on debut. It can be also more agressive, quite agressive actually, which is strange, but true also. From time to time interesting polyrhythms may be heard and quirky harmonies appear where one would not expect ‘em. In fact, this album is quite melodic. A track or two has something what could be cosidered pop-line, if there would not be harsh sonic treatment. Seemingly inspired by late sixties/ early seventies innovations in contemporary classical (Stockhausen, Riley, etc.), and perhaps not so far from best german Krauters. Album is packaged in rather modern production, as it was released at the begining of the nineties after all, but it continues to be quite obscured, still undeservably so.

A decade had to elapse and Bauta unleashed its last release, if we forget the Songs Between project. Av Sprucket ... is a "nova" in the constellation of Bauta label and related musicians and is (again) lovely darkened and another stunning release. It glimpses the band in somewhat modern atmospheric scapes, with strange post-industrial feeling and twisted minimalism. Definitely not an easy listen. Judging by the vocal performances of Johan Hedren, this could be compared to later releases of Dead Can Dance, however, the entire result being stranger and less friendly to listener. Maybe a bit like Controlled Bleeding. Hints of mischievous dub, middle-east ethnic music, swedish folk, (wicked) viking hymns, contemporary classicalisms, and much more but troublesome to detect and appearing from nowhere for three seconds, more or less and return whence, like they'd never appear at all, and much of the mentioned usually packaged in a 1-3 minute ditty. Oddly weightless, even more feathery than Songs from Dying City, Ur Kaos or Terrible, less convoluted, practically simplistic, but again not simple ... I'm not sure if not a consequence of lysergy-led meditation, which sometimes produces great results, but quite often transmits on the dready side of things. Qlippoth isn't very far, with each of the 21 "ditties". Drifting aimlessly and immemorably, nonetheless originally.

Though for those who appreciates "difficulties" in music only, all three Ur Kaos releases are important and recommended tickets to the world of Otherness. -- Nenad Kobal

[See Jonsson, Lach'n (Lars) | Kultivator | Na Margon | Songs Between | Zut Un Feu Rouge]

Urban Sax [France]

Urban Sax 1 (77), Urban Sax 2 (78), Paradise Lost (82, with Pierre Henry), Fraction Sur Le Temps (86), Spiral (90)

16-50 member sax orchestra, with up to 27 saxophone players, large choir, five percussionists, four guitarists and two keyboardists. One of the percussionists was Mirielle Bauer, previously with Gong.

[See Delired Cameleon Family | Gong | Lard Free]

Urbaniak, Michal [Poland]

Michal Urbaniak's Fusion (74), Atma (74), Fusion III (75), Inactin' (75), Paratyphus B (75), Body English (76), Ecstasy (78), Serenade for the City (80)

Urbaniak is a jazz violinist, his three "fusion" albums are excellent examples of mid-70's fusion that sounds as fresh today as it did when it was new. most feature the amazing Urszula Dudziak on vocals on some tracks, who's voice has such a range it sounds like a moog synthesizer at times. Also features Larry Coryell and others. Great stuff, full of fire and intensity.

Urbaniank now lives in the USA but is apparently the musical pride of Poland. The correct spelling of his name is with L/, an L with a slash going right through it.

Uriah Heep [UK]
Updated 3/26/02

Very 'Eavy ... Very 'Umble (70)
Salisbury (71)
Look At Yourself (71)
Demons and Wizards (72)
The Magician's Birthday (72)
Live (73)
Sweet Freedom (73)
Wonderworld (74)
Return to Fantasy (75)
High and Mighty (76)
Firefly (77)
Innocent Victim (77)
Fallen Angel (78)
Conquest (80)
Abominog (82)
Head First (83)
Equator (85)
Live at Shepperton '74 (86)
Live in Europe 1979 (86)
Live in Moscow (88)
Raging Silence (89)
Different World (91)
Sea of Light (95)
Spellbinder Live (96)
King Biscuit Flower Hour Live (97)
Sonic Origami (98)
Future Echoes of the Past (00)
Acoustically Driven (01)
Electrically Driven (01)
The Magicians Birthday Party (02)
Uriah Heep (1971) - Top to bottom: Mick Box, Paul Newton, Ken Hensley, Iain Clarke and David Byron

Historically, British rockers Uriah Heep have always been a group that crossed over into a few musically genres, namely hard rock/heavy metal and progressive rock. While never a darling of the music critics, Heep have still continued to forge on with a loyal following thirty- two years after their inception. The one constant throughout the bands history, guitarist Mick Box, formed Uriah Heep from the ashes of the band Spice with lead singer David Byron, and keyboard player/guitarist Ken Hensley from The Gods. The bands first album, titled Very ‘Eavy ... Very ‘Umble (self titled for the US release) in 1970 was a hard-hitting collection of bruising organ drenched rockers complete with simplistic yet meaty guitar riffs and multiple vocal harmonies. While contemporaries Deep Purple chose a more blues based direction with their brand of hard rock, Uriah Heep mixed their metallic sound with doses of progressive rock and boogie. A few of the tracks from that album, especially the song "Gypsy", remain concert staples to this day.

The band's second album, Salisbury, showed the band hitting their stride, as the songwriting skills of Hensley, Byron, and Box starting meshing quite well together, especially on the epic title track, which combined many elements abundant in progressive rock at the time. Featuring long solos (especially a screaming wah-wah solo from Box), complex arrangements, brass, layers of keyboards, and sophisticated harmonies, this song mixed well with the more straightforward and heavy songs that preceded it on the album. Continuing along the same path with the bands next album Look At Yourself, Heep managed to write another classic, the lengthy and dramatic "July Morning." Once again the group managed to include heavy rockers, atmospheric prog, and upbeat boogie influenced numbers. It was a formula that worked well, and record sales and successful tours followed, but internal conflict arose and the band was in search of a new drummer and bassist.

By the time the legendary album Demons and Wizards was released, drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Gary Thain had joined the fold. Complete with a Roger Dean album cover, Demons and Wizards proved to be the bands first major success. Featuring the trademark raging organ and chunky guitar work, the album boasted the bands first single "Easy Livin'", as well as the classics "The Wizard", "Traveller in Time", and "Rainbow Demon." The two new members had found a home, and the classic Uriah Heep line-up was secure. The band followed up with another classic album, The Magicians Birthday (featuring another Roger Dean cover), which contained another long list of classics highlighted by "Sunrise" and "Sweet Lorraine", proving that there was some great songwriting behind this group of loud rock and rollers. At this point the band decided to do their version of Purple's Made in Japan, releasing Uriah Heep Live in 1973, a stunning live document of a truly powerful unit. Two more studio releases followed, Sweet Freedom and Wonderworld, when the cracks once again started to show. Bassist Gary Thain had developed a drug problem that hindered his ability to perform, but it wasn't until a gig in Dallas, TX in 1974 where the bassist got electrocuted onstage that really signaled the end. He never full recovered from the incident, and combined with his personal problems he was asked to leave the band. Thain passed away less than a year later of a drug overdose at age 27. Former King Crimson, Family, and Roxy Music bass player John Wetton was brought in to fill the bass spot in 1975 for the subsequent Return to Fantasy and High and Mighty albums and tours. However, the material the band was creating was not measuring up to the success of the earlier albums, and internal conflict once again arose. Singer Byron was having problems with alcohol, which caused friction with band-leader Hensley, and the vocalist was fired in 1976. Around the same time bassist Wetton announced he was leaving the band to pursue other musical ventures, which later included UK and Asia.

By this point the band were in need of a new lead singer and bassist, and found them in former Lucifer's Friend vocalist John Lawton and David Bowie bass player Trevor Bolder. This new line-up recorded the successful Firefly, Innocent Victim, and Fallen Angel albums. These albums contained many of the same Heep elements, but a much more pronounced role on melody was exhibited. At this time Ken Hensley had taken over much of the writing, which displeased some of the other members of the band, namely singer Lawton, which led to his exit in 1979. For the next three years the band would see numerous personnel changes, with their lone release Conquest not making much of a dent on the charts. Many of the bands fans felt the album, while having some great songs, lacked some of the firepower that the band was noted for. New singer John Sloman and new drummer Chris Slade made quick exits after the release of the album, as well as cornerstone Ken Hensley, who felt the need to move on to other projects, which first included a stint in southern rock band Blackfoot.

A whole new line-up appeared for the Abominog album in 1982, which proved to be a rebirth for the band. Mick Box was joined by the returning Lee Kerslake, Bob Daisley on bass, keyboard player John Sinclair, and singer Peter Goalby. The album was a decent seller in the US, and spawned the radio hits "The Way That It Is" and "On the Rebound." The bands sound had changed quite a bit by this time, as they added better production values, symphonic synthesizers, catchy hooks, yet still retained the metal edge. A similar formula followed on Head First and Equator, but by this time Daisley had left the band to rejoin Ozzy Osbourne, and Bolder returned fresh from Wishbone Ash. Countless tours followed, which resulted in Goalby and Sinclair leaving the band in 1986.

In the last ten years the revamped Uriah Heep has kept a steady line-up that includes singer Bernie Shaw from Grand Prix and Preying Mantis, keyboard player Phil Lanzon, Kerslake, Bolder and leader Mick Box. The group has released a solid string of studio albums, Raging Silence, Different World, Sea of Light, and perhaps their strongest album to date Sonic Origami, all to international acclaim. In fact, the bands blend of sophisticated metal mixed with symphonic prog rock and catchy hooks has actually won over many of the critics who bashed them thirty years ago. With twenty studio albums and a wealth of live releases, Uriah Heep has stood the test of time and many line-up changes to be held in the same breath as bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, and Yes. All these bands are still going strong, and continuing to put out enjoyable music that crosses over many genres. -- Peter Pardo

[See Asia | Family | King Crimson | Lucifer's Friend | Roxy Music | UK]

Click here for the Official Uriah Heep web site
Click here for historical Uriah Heep info (the official site links here for historical info!)

Utopia [Germany]

Utopia (72)

Primarily a Lothar Meid solo album, this does sound very close to the kind of things he was doing with Amon Düül II. Recorded with members of Amon Düül II as well as Embryo, Cherubin, the Ralf Nowy Group and Popol Vuh. This album features an alternate take of "Deutsch Nepal" from Wolf City with vocals again by weirdo Rolf Zacher. The song "Alice" sounds surprisingly like Kevin Ayers.

Although Utopia may have been Lothar Meid's idea, in conjunction with Olaf Kubler (ex-Passport saxophonist and Amon Düül II's producer) and Jimmy Jackson (Embryo's keyboardist), the album features all the members of Amon Düül II that recorded Wolf City. Much of the music is quite different from Wolf City, too. "Alice" and "Las Vegas," for example, are light and jazzy. "What You Gonna Do" sounds partly like these songs and also partly like something from Carnival in Babylon. "Jazz Kiste" shows the Passport influence. But then, Utopia also features a different mix of "Deutsch Nepal" from Wolf City, plus "The Wolfman Jack Show," "Utopia No. 1" and "Nasi Goreng" which are much more typical of Amon Düül II. Although jazzier, Utopia is, in most respects, an Amon Düül II album. The Spalax label CD reissue even the band Amon Düül II and the title Utopia. Technically incorrect but, for half the album, accurate. -- Mike Taylor

[See Amon Düül II | Embryo | Passport]

Utopia [USA]

Todd Rundgren's Utopia (74), Another Live (76), Ra (77), Oops Wrong Planet (77), Adventures In Utopia (80), Deface The Music (81), Utopia (82), Swing To The Right (82), Oblivion (84), POV (85), Trivia (86), Live In Japan '92 , + Compilations/Anthologies

Formed by Todd Rundgren, the original lineup of Utopia sported no fewer than three keyboardists. The first album was a classic of Stateside prog, with intense, unrelenting musical interplay best displayed on the 30-minute track "The Ikon." An absolutely essential album. Another Live was recorded with a slightly altered version of this six-piece lineup (different drummer and synthesist), and is a somewhat uneven single live LP. The first half is made up of three excellent new songs, including the acoustic "The Wheel." The B-side is more scattershot: starting off with "Mr. Triscuits," a great jam. Then follows a few weird cover songs: "Something's Coming" from West Side Story, and the old Move song "Do Ya". The album is rounded off by a couple of Todd solo songs: "Heavy Metal Kids" and a surprisingly weak rendering of the classic "Just One Victory". By the time RA came out, the group was reduced to a four-piece. Since Rundgren intended the band as a musical collective, we get a chance to see each member's personality. Rundgren tackles the heaviest and most political stuff ("Hiroshima"), keyboardist Roger Powell flirts with metaphysics ("Sunburst Finish"), bass player Kasim Sulton is the sensitive one specializing in balladry ("Eternal Love." while drummer John Wilcox is the maniac specializing in weirdness ("Jealousy"). This album has much to recommend for the prog-head, "Communion With The Sun" especially, but also "Hiroshima" and "Sunburst Finish." The 18-minute "Singring And The Glass Guitar" is a very entertaining "electrified fairytale" that apparently became quite a spectacle when performed on stage. Oops! Wrong Planet was indeed a mistake considering what came before it, full of preachy political songs and bland pop. There still are some good songs here: "The Marriage Of Heaven and Hell," "Love In Action." Adventures In Utopia is much better, though only two tracks are explicitly progressive: "Caravan" and "The Road To Utopia," the latter being a dead ringer for Yes. The other albums are more pop and techno-rock than prog. Deface The Music is a dead-on Beatles parody--novel but not essential. Swing To The Right is more soapbox preaching a la Oops!. The song "One World" is actually good live, but you'd never guess it from the grating version here. Utopia is a full-length LP augmented by an EP, almost all pure pop-rock, but one of the best albums since Adventures. Oblivion and POV are mixed bags of technoid rock and pop. Trivia anthologizes these last three albums, adding a brace of new songs. -- Mike Ohman

Todd Rundgren's Utopia released a long string of albums, beginning with a very progressive sound with no less than three keyboardists, but later streamlining down to a 4 piece and moving into a more mainstream pop/rock direction. Best (most progressive) albums are: Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Another Live, and Ra. Little of interest beyond these first three.

If you're hooked after listening to the above recomendations, try Oops, Wrong Planet, Initiation, or Adventures In Utopia. Lots of straightforward pop to wade through, but some decent prog tunes can be found. And since Rundgren's pop is often as good as it gets, these aren't that bad an experience, anyway.

[See Rundgren, Todd]

Utopian Fields [Norway]

Utopian Fields (89), White Pigeon, You Clean (90)

Norwegian progressive band that are quite vocal, and remind me a bit of the German band Anabis with the obvious influences of Pink Floyd and Wishbone Ash. Maybe not truly progressive but I quite liked their self titled debut which came with a poster.

Norwegian band that delivers 70's flavored progressive rock with a wider than usual array of influences, with a 90's style production. Difficult to draw comparisons with anything in particular, but the overall sound is very accessible, but not neo-proggy. Very philosophical-quasi religious lyrics, an excellent vocalist, and strong playing by all. Both highly recommended.

Uz Jsme Doma [Czech Republic]
Updated 11/2/00

Uprostred Slov (In the Middle of Words)(90)
Nemilovany Svet (Unloved World)(91)
Hollywood (93)
Pohadky Ze Zapotreby (Fairytales from Needland)(95)
Jaro, Peklo, Podzim, Zima (Spring, Hell, Fall, Winter) (96, w/ Martin Velisek)
The Ears (99)
Inspired heavily by Etron Fou era Face Aux Elements and Plastic People of the Universe (Czech new wave/experimental rock legends), UJD are one of the cornerstones of modern "opposing" sound. -- Nenad Kobal
I've seen this band live in 1993. They were a 5-piece (guitar/keyboard, sax, bass, guitar, drums) and did a very convincing show. Their music is hardly to describe (as usual), very eclectic but clearly related to British/French RIO-stuff. Take Henry Cow or Etron Fou Leloublan a bit faster and heavier, some punk-elements, some Czech melodies, heavy polka, sometimes very sweet singing, Czech vocals and some No Wave (Contortions) you would get an idea of this music. Their first (only on LP) is maybe the best one, with a broad variety of styles and ideas and a very good sound, it shows the band at their best. The later CDs don't show a big change or improvement. -- Achim Breiling
Click here for Uz Jsme Doma's official web site
Click here for a good fan site

Úzgin Üver [Hungary]
Updated 9/24/01

93 (93)
99 (99)
2000 (00)
Úzgin Üver is a "strange" avante-garde 4-piece band from Hungary that features plenty of instruments (i.e., violins, guitars, recorders, bagpipes, synths, pianos, saxophones, strange sound effects, flutes) along with some wordless female voices at times. Very 70's like. All I have heard is the 93 and 99 and I like them very much. There are no track names and no titles to the songs. Fans of Aktuala will enjoy this. A good mixture of mediterranean/middle-eastern/arabic style progressive. One of the better progressive releases of the 90's (IHMO) if not one of the more unique. Highly recommended if you want something that sounds different and 70's-like. -- Betta

Uzva [Finland]
Updated 5/17/04

Tammikuinen Tammela (00)
Niittoaika (02)
Uzva - Lauri Kajander (Guitar), Heikki Rita (Clarinet), Heikki Puska (Guitar, Accordion), Pekko Sams (Bass), Olli Kari (Drums, Percussion), Lari Latvala (Violin)

If it wasn't for the quality of the recording, you could easily think that Tammikuinen Tammela (Ylösmatka Records YMCD1) was recorded about 25-30 years earlier than the year 2000 it actually appeared. Uzva's debut hails succesfully back to the warm, dry and jazzy sound of early 1970's Finnish prog bands, especially to those of Tasavallan Presidentti and Pekka Pohjola's early solo work. A six-piece, Uzva employ unusual (for modern prog) instrumentation of bass, drums, twin guitars, violin and clarinet, occasionally backed by french horn, trombone, cello and steel pans, with the only keyboard instrument being a sparingly used accordion. Their instrumental music is based largely on acoustic guitars over which the violin and clarinet weave and intertwine gorgeous, folksy melodic lines; fluid and trebly electric guitars can mainly be heard as rhythm and solo instruments during the lengthy solos which intersperse these sections. Some of the solos have a semi-improvised air about them. A special mention must go to the rhythm section for creating a well-nuanced, loose feel without compromising on the propelling pulse that keeps the music together, particularly during the longer jam sections; the drummer is especially good at colouring his patterns with percussion and buzzy rolls. This music has pastoral, almost earthy beauty, which largely rests on the quality of the melodies and the subtle variations in instrumentation that get as much mileage out of them as possible while giving it an almost symphonic sound. For most part Uzva are quite successful, making the album work as a single, coherent six-part suite of music. The only problem is perhaps the sense of sameness halfway through the album, where some of the jams tend to ramble on a bit. We have to wait until the final part for some wilder electric guitar work, as well as amusing quirkiness with the sudden appearance of a chirpy bright steel pan melody and some intense, bouncy interplay between various instruments. Overall, however, Tammikuinen Tammela is an excellent example of original music being made out of convincingly retroish ingredients. In contrast to the aggressive, electric bombast of many modern prog bands Uzva's genial, largely acoustic lyricism is all the more distinctive.

The first two long compositions on Niittoaika (Silence SLC 011) continue with essentially the same kind of mixture of folk, jazz and understated rock, only with slightly more melodic, symphonic and dynamic depth. The first one, "Soft Machine", drags on a bit too long with its jazzy vamps and thinly-spread melodies, but "Afrodite" is a nicely concise retread of the pleasant harmonic country roads of Tammikuinen Tammela. The third and final track, "Drontti", for the first time fully flaunts Uzva's Mike Oldfield influences (they have performed the whole Tubular Bells in concert) with spiralling marimba patterns almost straight out of Incantations. However, the song gradually sheds its homages and metamorphoses into a much more powerful work than anything else in Uzva's repertoire, exploiting the full dynamic range from the usual acoustic preciousness to hints of darker dissonances and climaxing with an absolutely thundering crescendo driven by heavy march drums and distortion guitar. Not only are the various instruments used for maximum sonic range (including some positively eldritch humming from the normally-benevolent accordion), but the band also orchestrate with a more symphonic, sectional style, sounding more than ever before like a small but powerful orchestra than just an augmented guitar band. It confirms the band are capable of expanding and elaborating their sound without compromising its pastoral heart. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Hmm, these Finns wants us to be extremely cool while listening to their album and soon afterwards. This album certainly demands of listener to be in certain psychosomatical condition. Not for any occasion, but when you're in the right mood, it may prove to be a revelation. Line-up consists of guitar/acoustic guitar, guitar, accordion, violin, clarinet, bass, drums + guests on english horn, cello, trombone (Marko Manninen and Erno Haukkala of Höyry-köne / Alamaailman Vasarat fame do the honour), steel pans and acid box. I hear also flute and keyboards, but for these two instruments credits are not given.

All heard could be defined as a sort of progressive folk with jazz, funk and blues interminglings and sometimes protracted into chamber music. In brief but fatal moments almost chamber-folk (yes, yes, I'm having fun defining indescribable). On the other hand Uzva's music reminds me very much of early Begnagrad (circa Tastare), which I don't believe anyone outside of Slovenia have heard except perhaps possible excessively interested tourists. I guess these guys must have been listening to early Begnagrad via telepathy or did some astral projections onward south, ha-ha. While accordion is rarely very exposed, clarinet has similarly prominent role as by Begnagrad initial recordings and its melodic lines strongly resembles Begnagrad's "Bogo Pecnikar". Album contains six tracks: intro and five regular parts (I. - V.) of very varying measures (3-15').

Recordings seemingly represent area of Tammela in January (Tammikuinen). Tammela, I surmise, must be posited near Baltic sea, as music doesn't sound to be very cold. A lot of warm harmonies appear, performed either by dual playing of violin-accordion or accoustic guitar-accordion or violin-clarinet, etc ... Bass "goes" alone when playing introducing or interlocking parts and succeeds in doing so. Rhythms can become quite leapy from time to time. For the most of time acc. guitar and clarinet lead ensemble through numerous themes. Very irrepetitive in general, this is the main reason why Uzva's debut at least at first five listens proves to be extremely uneven. There are only few themes which are repeated four times in the unchanged form. Distinct riffs are not likely to disentangle themselves easily from theme-chain (theme-collage), thus tracks are somewhat immemorable. This music, it seems, simply could not land, as if Claude Debussy would have written it, of course if he would had taken into account wider Eurofolk-music specifications. "Part V." (the most solemn of all tracks) introduces trombone and keyboards, and for half a minute you have a feeling you listen to Yes or ELP (well, almost).

Tammikuinen Tammela is in fact an acute slow-grower, which means that in average demands even more listens than other albums do. When you take into account that you can't listen to it at every occasion, it may take you a year or even more before you become a friend with it. But with each listen you'll feel more enthralled. If anything else, this album will arouse your fascination over itself. Regardless of this, I consider this item to be quite necessary, not only because it resembles (deliberately or not) early Begnagrad stuffs, which are not likely to nest in your collections very soon. It has sort of inner fire which can not be grasped without difficulties. Can't help but recommend it. Excellent progressive wintry music. -- Nenad Kobal

I've only heard the second album, Niitoaika, which consists of three long compositions. As has already been mentioned, Uzva is full of acoustic instrumentation and can hardly be called "rock" at all in most parts, but is a nice, mellow mixture of jazz and folk. There's some guitar, but it's all clean electric, not a distorted power chord to be heard anywhere ... and never dull for a moment. In a few words, it's instrumental, pastoral, organic and very pleasant listening. These Finns have really got the touch (I just reviewed Uzva's countrymen and label-mates Hidria Spacefolk last week, and they're great too). Highly recommended. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Uzva's web site
Click here to order from Wolfgang Records (select the Silence. Records sub-label)