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John Wetton - Battle Lines [Aka: Voice Mail] CD (album) cover


John Wetton

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5 stars Quite possibly one of the greatest albums ever. It is not be a prog rock album but what it is is a fine rock album. In my opinion there is not a single weak track on this record. Each track flows from one to the next in what seems like the perfect order for this record. A must for any John Wetton fan or even any fan of AOR music.
Report this review (#63294)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A fine album. The presence of rock musician/producer Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, Joe Satriani...) is maybe the reason of the great sound on this album. For the songs, it's a good mix of straightforward rock and beautiful ballads.

The album starts with a little soundscape from Mr Robert Fripp (!) that opens the way for the catchy "Right Where I Wanted To Be". One thing to say... the opener on every John Wetton album really blows. "Battle Lines" is a great ballad - very emotional. The only track I find weak on this album is the following track "Jane" - it's kinda cheesy and unfortunately prefigures the style that will prevail on the following releases. "Crime Of Passion" reminds me of the Asia years. "Sea Of Mercy" and "Space And Time" are probably the most straightforward rock songs on this album. "Hold Me Now" is another beautiful ballad - in the style of "Battle Lines" but even more emotional. "Walking On Air" is a relaxing mellow track again - minimal music and gentle vocals. "You're Not The Only One" closes the album with another ballad - a great way to end this fine album.

Rating: 91/100

Report this review (#71022)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars An outstanding masterpiece of melodic-rock !!!! Very catchy melodies in 10 beautiful timeless songs. The songs on "Battlelines" are mostly melodic-rock/AOR based and well-structured. A CD which you can play again and again all over the years. With no doubt, this is JOHN WETTON's best and most compact release so far. "Battle Lines" is a 'MUST HAVE' for every melodic-rock-lover in the world and - of course - recommanded for every fans of "good-old" 80's ASIA and John's incredible & charming voice. An album for the "Melodic-Rock TOP 10 Best Ever Album-Charts" Wonderful stuff you can't ***** 5 stars guaranteed !
Report this review (#79660)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Your girlfriend doesn't like prog ? Try this one. Of course, you won't tell her that the only prog element here is Robert Fripp's name in the credits.

Seriously, Battle Lines is the most unchallenging album I have heard in years. Everything here is purposely mellow to the core and very easy on the ears. So is it bad ? No it just needs to be taken for what it is : a pure entertainment product.

The album contains ten songs, all short and very well crafted, carried by the distinctive and beautiful Wetton's voice and top notch guest musicians. The songs are carefully divided between five ballads and five light rockers. For the ballads, think of early Asia (i.e. "The Smile has left your Eyes"), for the rockers remember Steve Winwood's album Back on the high Life and you'll have a pretty precise idea of what you'll find on Battle Lines. No filler but no standout either, even if I have a soft spot for the album title's eponym song.

A perfect musical background for a mundane aperitif with not too close friends. If a gap happens in the conversation, John Wetton will fill it neatly and politely. Thanks, John .

Report this review (#120494)
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Right where he wanted to be

This is not John Wetton's first solo album, but it was the first one he did after his participation in Asia. Wetton eventually left and Asia soldiered on with John Payne on vocals and after a collaboration album with Phil Manzanera, Wetton's solo career begun for real with Battle Lines. Robert Fripp appears on this album, but Battle Lines has clearly more to do with Asia than with King Crimson. Indeed, Battle Lines can be seen a continuation of late 80's Asia in the 90's. This is hardly a Prog album and as such it is bound to disappoint anyone expecting it to be. However, Wetton is a very talented songwriter and this album features a good set of songs. He is right where he wants to be musically, but it is mostly not right where I want to be, I'm afraid!

Still, the only songs I have a problem with here are the two ones with girl's names appearing in the choruses - Jane and Sand In My Heart (Mary Ann). Despite being released in 1994, Jane also has a strong 80's sound that I'm sure will make many Prog fans cringe. The opening track is also a bit too catchy for my taste. Otherwise the songs are generally good, but mostly rather unexciting.

The title track is in my opinion a great song! This was the only song from this album that I knew before from various live recordings. For example, from the excellent concert DVD Amorata and the even better Steve Hackett DVD The Tokyo Tapes on which Wetton sings. Another song here that I really like is the beautiful keyboard based ballad Walking On Air.

Despite the presence of a couple of very good songs and the generally high quality of the song writing, Battle Lines is only recommended for fans of Asia and John Wetton. For the average Prog fan this is not the best place to start.

Report this review (#231348)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars It's all about setting the right level of expectations...

Most of us here are well familiar with the great studio album trilogy of the 73-74 King Crimson lineup and some of us are also fans of the two late '70s U.K. albums. Wouldn't it have been swell to hear more of that great music on a John Wetton solo album? Well, you can pretty much forget all that on Battle Lines since 1982 was the year that Wetton discovered his niche in the AOR genre which he's been relying on ever since!

Does this mean that Battle Lines is a bad release? No, not at all. In fact, this is easily the best collection of tracks that Wetton has released since the famous Asia debut. Just keep in mind that this album has nothing even remotely prog related on it and you'll be just fine. I happen to enjoy this type of music when it has just enough momentum to it and Battle Lines certainly delivers the goods in the somewhat cheesy songwriting department. Most of these tracks will make you realize the Wetton has no intention of leaving the '80s since this release sounds almost exactly like the early Asia recordings. The material tends to lean heavily on the softer ballad-driven side of the band's repertoire with Right Where I Wanted To Be being as bombastic as this material will ever get.

If you're a fan of Asia and know their debut, Alpha, Phoenix and Omega by heart then this is definitely a great follow-up purchase for you. If you're looking for that wonderful bass player and singer from the '70s, who could mesmerize us with his vocals and skillful playing, then you'll have more luck exploring all the great live King Crimson records that have been reissued over the last decade. John Wetton has no intention of reinventing the wheel with his material so keep those expectations at a reasonable level and you'll find Battle Lines to be a pleasant little album well worth a few spins.

**** star songs: Right Where I Wanted To Be (4:56) Battle Lines (5:25) Crime Of Passion (4:43) Hold Me Now (5:58) Space And Time (4:07) Walking On Air (3:10) You're Not The Only One (5:02)

*** star songs: Jane (4:19) Sand In My Hand (3:50) Sea Of Mercy (4:40)

Report this review (#591485)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The passing of John W. has affected me deeply, so I went back and gave a spin to some of his work, that may have not been on the top of my list over the years. "Battle Lines" turned out to be an unexpected pleasant surprise. Initially released under the name of "Voice Mail" in 1994 in Japan only, it was re-released internationally as Battle Lines with the same musical content but different artwork, and again in 1996 with the additional bonus track: "Battle Lines" (acoustic version). I read an interview w/Ron Nevison in 2015, a famous producer, he was the producer and engineer on this release. Here's a short quote from that interview, on how he felt about the record:

"There were two albums I did in the early '90s that got swallowed up because of Kurt Cobain. One of them was an album with John Wetton that didn't do well. John has a sound. We did a wonderful record, I still believe it is a great album. Those albums never saw the light of day because everybody ran to Seattle. So, there are things that don't work out. I was very disappointed in how those were received. That's what happens in the music business."

Initially I just about dismissed it as a too mainstream effort, especially if you are fan of the famous KC trilogy of albums he was a part of. After a more concentrated effort to actually "listen" to each track, I came to a conclusion that it is not such a bad effort after all. I happen to agree w/the producer on the statement that; John has a sound. Now whether you like it or not, it IS his sound, and as much as we all want him to replicate some of the KC or U.K. that we like soooooo much, we need to accept the fact that it was a certain period coupled w/the input from the rest of the musicians at THAT time.

The musicianship is top notch, given John's standard throughout his career it is hardly a surprise. The personnel on the recordings is quite impressive; Steve Lukather / guitar; Robert Fripp / guitar & devices; Simon Phillips / drums ... just a mention a few.

If you have access to it, give it another chance, you might like it a little more than the first time around.

Report this review (#1693237)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review N 365

John Wetton was an English bassist, singer and songwriter. He was a professional musician since the late of the 60's. He was a man with a musical career absolutely unique, rich and enviable. He was member of many progressive rock bands and he also participated in several musical projects of so many artists. I absolutely agree with the expression put on John Wetton's biography on this site: 'a man who has been in more bands than most of us has had hot dinners'.

So, John Wetton reached the fame in the progressive rock due to his participation in some of the best progressive rock bands and worked with some of the best progressive rock artists too, such as Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, U.K., Wishbone Ash, Steve Hackett. And he was also one of the founders of the super group Asia. So, all over his extensive career, he participated in some of the best progressive rock albums. It included King Crimson's 'Larks' Tongues In Aspic' of 1973, 'Starless And Bible Black' of 1974, 'Red' of 1974 and the live album 'USA' of 1975, UK's self-titled debut of 1978, Roxy Music's live album 'Viva!' of 1976, Steve Hackett's live album 'The Tokyo Tapes' of 1998 and Asia's self-titled debut of 1982, only to mention some of the most important albums in which he has participated.

John Wetton was, in my humble opinion, one of the best vocalists and one of the best bass players of the progressive rock music. He had a style of bass playing very own and very powerful, which makes of it very distinct and unique.

'Battle Lines' is the third solo studio album of Wetton and was released in 1994. It's the European release of 'Voice Mail', the original album released in Japan in 1992. The two versions have the same content but have a different cover.

'Battle Lines' has ten short tracks and we can say that musically the album has some similitudes with the earlier sound of Asia. John Wetton invited to participate on this album a handful of musicians. So, the line up on the album is John Wetton (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards), Bob Marlette (keyboards, grand piano, synthesizer and programming), Michael Landau (guitars), Michael Cartellone (drums), Claude Gaudette (keyboards and programming), Robert Fripp (guitar and devices), Simon Phillips (drums), Steve Lukather (guitar), Dave Boruff (alto saxophone), Robbie Buchanan (grand piano), Jed Leiber (keyboards and programming) and Paul Buckmaster (arrangements for orchestra).

In the 80's John Wetton shifted his focus slightly to what could best be described as 'Prog-Pop' or possibly 'Arena- Prog'. With 'Battle Lines' Wetton shifted even further into the pop realm with his brief foray into the realm of adult contemporary music in an attempt to attract some new listeners and perhaps make himself a bit more accessible. While not as adventurous or as interesting as Wetton's more progressive material, 'Battle Lines' is certainly more accessible. The material is still unmistakably John Wetton but it lacks to it a bit of the adventurousness of his earlier career. As a 'Prog-Pop' album, 'Battle Lines', is a bit a disappointment for all his progressive fans. But on the other hand, 'Battle Lines', is thoroughly enjoyable from the start to finish. The only 'throwaway' or 'filler' track to be found here is 'Jane' which would not have sounded out of place in the 80's, but it's somewhat troubling considering that 'Battle Lines' was released well into the 90's. By the other hand, Wetton's voice is thoroughly enjoyable as always. While he may not be the best singer, what he lacks in vocal quality he far more than makes up for in the overall passion of his vocal delivery. His vocals particularly stand out on the title track, 'Battle Lines', and on 'Hold Me Now'. In reality, the album succeeds as a very melodic showcase for Wetton's voice. Even though there is no Geoffrey Downes the album is very keyboard heavy. Most of the songs are built upon piano or keyboard as opposed to guitar. Highlights include 'Crime Of Passion' co-written with John Young, 'Hold Me Now' and the title track, which is one of the best songs John Wetton ever wrote.

With subsequent releases John Wetton would start to return to his more progressive roots to the delight of his fans. But this album shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Taken in the right context this album is thoroughly enjoyable as anything else John Wetton has ever recorded. If there's a knock on the album it's that the majority of the songs are the same mid-level tempo. So, some credit must be given for John Wetton to try a genre he wasn't known for performing.

Conclusion: 'Battle Lines' is really a great rock album with very good songs containing some incredibly beautiful and romantic passages and where the qualities of the songwriting are almost of the high quality. The precision and the quality of the production are also irreproachable. I really like this album. However, I have a problem to rate it. At first sight, it deserves 4 stars, but I can't rate this album with 4 stars. Why? Because 'Battle Lines', is an album with very few progressive lines. With the exception of the participation of Robert Fripp and the two first songs 'Right Where I Wanted To Be' and especially 'Battle Lines', which is, in my opinion, a fantastic song, the rest stuff aren't progressive, and we can never forget that we are in a progressive rock site. Although, if you aren't a progressive fundamentalist and if you like a good melodic rock album and you also have some extra money to spend, I strongly recommend this album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2437720)
Posted Saturday, August 15, 2020 | Review Permalink

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