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John Wesley - Under The Red And White Sky CD (album) cover

UNDER THE RED AND WHITE SKY

John Wesley

 

Crossover Prog

4.14 | 14 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Under The Red And White Sky' - John Wesley (7/10)

Released in 1994, 'Under The Red And White Sky' was devised and endorsed by Steve Rothery (of Marillion fame) to showcase the talents of one John Wesley, a gifted singer/songwriter that rose to wider spread attention when he was enlisted as a guitarist for prog giants Porcupine Tree. While certainly a listen separate from the bands and work he might be more well-known for, the solo work of John Wesley is something that any fan of Porcupine Tree (or someone looking for high quality singer/songwriter music) owes it upon themselves to check out.

Having worked my way backwards through this man's discography (from most recent to the debut) 'Under The Red And White Sky' appears to be one of the couple of Wesley releases that really distinguishes itself as being something both relatively well executed and intimately written. Especially for a essentially one-man effort, it is rare (and yet a pleasant surprise) that a songwriter's first steps treading in the waters of recording would be among his finest. Here, it isn't necessarily that the songs themselves are outwardly superior to those on following albums like 'The Emperor Falls' (although in many cases, that rings true.) What really makes 'Under The Red And Blue Sky' shine out for Wesley is the passionate performance he presents the compositions with.

I have always thought of John Wesley as a strong singer and musician, but some of his music seems to get stuck in the rut of a strict by-the-numbers adherence to the song structure; rarely letting the music really ring out. Here, Wesley's voice really soars; further intensified by some great instrumental arrangement to make a well covered (although certainly not dense) soundscape. Instrumental cameos from the Mellotron (among others) demonstrates that John Wesley is indeed rooted in the progressive scene, although his style may sometimes suggest otherwise.

While 'Under The Red And White Sky' doesn't seem to have much bearing in terms of overall album flow, the music does range from the rocking to the soft, although many of the songs seem to fit into little 'archetypes' that Wesley seems to have set for himself ('acoustic, sensitive love song,' 'soft rocking blues number' etc.) With this in mind, Wesley seems to have found a style that works for him; a musical outlook he scarcely seems to wander out of. While the inherent lack of true variety may turn some off of this man's work, his down-to-earth approach to making music comes as a real source of refreshment in a world where flash seems to be valued over substance.

The true highlight of the album does not rest in any song in particular (although some tracks such as 'None So Beautiful,' 'Rome Is Burning,' and 'Silver' stand out to my ear) but moreso the lyrics themselves. The first few times listening to this album, it felt like it was content to slip into the background while I was working. However, giving the lyrics a real listen instantly captivated me; with his words, John Wesley tells stories.

While John Wesley's musical scope may seem limited, the man is very good at what he does, and it is clear that he approaches his music with passion and a really sincere, heartfelt attitude. This man is a poet with a guitar.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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