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John Wetton - John Wetton & Geoffrey Downes: Icon II - Rubicon CD (album) cover

JOHN WETTON & GEOFFREY DOWNES: ICON II - RUBICON

John Wetton

 

Prog Related

3.41 | 24 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Iconic!

Icon II - Rubicon is the second collaborative effort by John Wetton and Geoff Downes who first worked together in Asia in the early 80's. Compared to the first Icon album, Icon II - Rubicon is certainly more "iconic" and might well be the finest set of songs that Wetton and Downes have ever written together, at least since the first two Asia albums that were released more than 20 years earlier. I think they have matured as songwriters and certainly as lyricists and there is nothing as banal as Heat Of The Moment or Don't Cry here.

The Icon projects, like Asia's albums, are primarily song dominated and do not involve long instrumental sections or many solos. However, there are a few tasteful keyboard and guitar solos throughout the album, always well integrated into the songs. On guitars we find none other than John Mitchell from Arena who is also a member of John Wetton's backing band (as can be seen on the excellent live DVD Amorata). Mitchell is a very talented guitarist, but in Icon's music guitar plays only a supporting role behind the dominating keyboards and vocals. In that sense Icon might be compared to Asia's third album Astra, the first Asia album after Steve Howe left the band. But the sound of Icon is much more organic due to the inclusion of several acoustic instruments and a much more timeless keyboard sound (often piano, symphonic synthesiser and some flute-like sounds) compared to the thin, more electronic sounds of the 80's.

To Catch A Theif and Tears Of Joy are folky songs with violin and gorgeous female vocals alongside Wetton's. John Wetton's voice is stronger than ever. Shannon is even folkier and could have come straight from a latter day Fairport Convention album (and they have made some very good albums recently!). This song also features (something that sounds like a) mandolin to great effect. The Hanging Tree (not the Arena song) has some tasteful percussion in addition to regular Rock drums. The sound palette is surprisingly rich and the sonic quality of the album is pristine.

It is hard to pick favourite tracks since the quality of the music is quite evenly spread over the album. But the opening and the closer, as well as the mostly acoustic, and very symphonic (some would say bombastic) ballad Reflections (Of My Life) are probably the best moments along with the Folk inspired songs mentioned above. The least good songs for me are Finger On The Trigger and The Glory Of Winning which are the songs most resembling the banal side of Asia with overly melodic and overly accessible choruses. The latter has some redeeming keyboard parts, however, and Whirlpool too has some tasteful instrumental work.

The conclusion is that Icon II - Rubicon is a very well made album from most perspectives. It is certainly better than the first Icon album and it will most certainly appeal to fans of Asia and possibly Arena. However, it is not the kind of music that will take the average Prog fan by storm. Still, I think this is a good addition to any Prog collection and up to par with Asia's better albums.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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