Cherry Red 2015
Secret journey of a soul survivor who used to ride the dragon wings and catch the pearls to drop them now.
“One more mountain I must climb – I’ve scaled so many in my time,” sings John Wetton in “Battle Lines,” and his solo career has always seemed a struggle for defining the artist’s core personality. More so, it’s always demonstrated a gloomy underside to his multicolored endeavors with ASIA – despite memorable melodies and stellar company including Ringo Starr whose tellingly titled co-write “Real World” sits in the thick of these two discs spanning all of Wetton’s albums – which can be traced down to KING CRIMSON’s “Starless” and “Carrying No Cross” by U.K. That’s where John’s voice, a black velvet kind of vocal, pulls you in, and that’s how the catchy chorus of “Heart Of Darkness” from the post-millennial "Sinister" is connected to the effusive, if internally sad, “Caught In The Crossfire” off Wetton’s 1980 debut under his own name.
There might be a brave face looking out of the “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” which anchored 2003’s "Rock Of Faith", or the light “You Against The World,” but the latter, coming on "Arkangel" in 1999, reveals John’s perpetual quest for saving grace, while that record’s title cut, smoothed with a Robert Fripp guitar wave, and the piano-led “Hold Me Now” bare Wetton’s vulnerability. All these points create perfect logic here, with a smart sequencing of pieces running from the expectancy-building “The Circle Of St. Giles” to the pacifying “After All,” yet the danger is never far away from the rumble of the veteran’s bass that barges in the sentiment of “The Last Thing On My Mind” and keeps the tension via the heavy, though infectious, pop of “Another Twist Of The Knife” to the very end. It’s there, at the bottom of apologetic hymn “You’re Not The Only One” and “I Can’t Lie Anymore,” whereas “Who Will Light A Candle?” turns the shadow of doubt into an orchestra-elevated hope.
A cautious optimism delicately colors “Second Best” and the transparent “Walking On Air” as if to contrast the riffs staging belligerence in “Raised In Captivity” that lent its name to Wetton’s most recent outing, but its progressive edge isn’t as sharp as the folk-focused lyricism of “Steffi’s Ring” from the same platter on which Geoff Downes, John’s regular co-conspirator, shines with a faux-flute solo. The sharpness reaches its mountainous scale when “Rock Of Faith” builds its tribal groove into a highly spiritual edifice whose opposite is the acoustic lullaby “Emma,” and this juxtaposition of moods has always been a binding characteristic of Wetton’s oeuvre – not even and sometimes odd, albeit alluring and gripping. A sign of a true artist, perhaps, so may his search run long.