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

JOHN WETTON & GEOFFREY DOWNES: ICON

John Wetton

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4 stars This is clearly the best album since "Battle Lines". John Wetton teaming again with Geoff Downes to get a bit of the Asia sound without Asia. I recently discovered that Geoff Downes just left Asia and that plans have been made for an "Icon" album number two. Considering this inspired album and the totally uninspired last album from Asia ("Silent Nation"), I really can understand...

The album starts in a standard way for John Wetton since "Battle Lines" - a short beautiful instrumental "Paradox" followed by a great rocker "Let Me Go". "God Walks With Us" takes the listener to a more spiritual dimension. "I Stand Alone", "Hey Josephine" and "Please Change Your Mind" are typical Asia tracks - those are not the songs I prefer, I tend to find them a bit cheesy. "Meet Me At Midnight" is a beautiful acoustic soft track in the vein of "Walking On Air" or "Arkangel". "Far Away" is another song with a nice melody - very emotional song inspired by John's son. "Sleep Angel" is another beautiful ballad - a very sensitive love song. "Spread Your Wings" is another soft emotional song. And finally the closing track... "In The End" - a pure gem. I heaven't heard such a magical piece in a long time - it is THE closing track every album should have. John Wetton asked Annie Haslam to sing the parts of the song that were out of his vocal range and the duet works really well. And the cello from Hugh McDowell on the outro is simply genial...

Rating: 80/100

Report this review (#71054)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars The smile has left their eyes

John Wetton and Geoff Downes first worked together in Asia in the early 80's. Icon is the result of a new collaborative project by the two men. This is hardly the kind of music that will blow the average Prog fan away, but we have here a mostly fine set of songs in the typical Asia/John Wetton tradition. The Icon projects, like Asia's albums, are primarily song dominated and do not involve many instrumental sections or solos. However, there are some tasteful keyboards and guitars throughout the album. 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 he is not allowed to express himself quite like he does on Arena's albums. On Icon, guitar plays only a supporting role behind the dominating keyboards and vocals.

The distinctive vocals of John Wetton are strong and Downes keyboards are competent and sound more timeless compared to the sound he had in Asia and Yes in the 80's. The keyboards are often just piano and some symphonic synthesiser. There are even some discrete classic sounds like Melotron and organ! The sound of Icon is more organic compared to that of Asia due to the inclusion of some acoustic instruments like acoustic guitars and violin on some songs. Icon leans heavily towards the ballad side of things and the type of songs involved here are often similar to Asia songs like The Smile Has Left Her Eyes. The album would have benefited greatly from a harder edge and couple more of the up tempo songs. Most of these songs sound quite similar to each other and in the end not enough diversity is displayed. Towards the middle the album tends to lose its momentum. The lyrics are not quite as banal as things like Heat Of The Moment or Don't Cry, but I still find some of the lyrics objectionably generic.

The closing track features a guest vocal by Annie Haslam from Renaissance and some very tasteful flutes. In The End is a good song, but it is too late to save the album from being somewhat below good despite very competent song writing and performance. Therefore, I can recommend this first Icon album primarily to fans and collectors of Asia and John Wetton. If you like the ballad side of Asia and John Wetton's solo career, you will not be disappointed by Icon.

The second Icon album would be a large improvement over this first attempt in my opinion. Only two (and a half) stars for Icon #1, however.

Report this review (#220609)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars This is wonderful album. It's very kind rock music with prog elements. And as long as this artist is listed as prog-related, I'm gonna rate it like that.

I'll start unusually from the end. "In the End" is song which pleased me the most. Beginning with just piano, calm synths and some strings, then Wetton's little bit raspy voice starts (he's prog rock veteran after all, behold fellow rockers). But this long awaited surprise is Annie Haslam. She as a sharp contrast to his vocals is right choice. Song is nice and has some interesting variations.

OK, let's get back to business. First track is opened with strong rock sound. In fact this song is all pure rock, I don't see much prog sounds here, if any. Maybe they are here and I'm just hearing bad, or don't know what to look for.

I almost forgot, I don't wanna do track to track review. So just last few points. "God Walks With Us" has tasty melody which I haven't heard for a long time (in other songs), some organs join party here.

It's a good album. And I'm aware it's not so good from prog rock side (3-4), but from rock it is much better (4-5), so I'm giving it 4 stars as a good average. It's really good one and not just pure prog is worth of listening, Queen has their qualities also, right ?

It's a beautiful album.

Report this review (#231502)
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Having dropped out of the Asia wagon since the station stop from John Wetton there's a couple of decades , I do not expect much from the record production of Geoff Downes. But without me nostalgic for that period of prog, reactivation of the collaboration between the two men could not leave me indifferent.

Their record is called Icon, which is a nice title, and starting with "Let Me Go", a song that Asia might have forgotten to put on his first album back in the majestic inspiration, if not original. With "God Walks With Us", still nothing new under the sun Asian or on the bottom or on the form but an exceptional emotional power enhanced by a guitar solo that works, performed by the impeccable John Mitchell (Arena) . Intro to major organs on the following title, "I Stand Alone", which unfortunately does not avoid the trap of melodic ease unpleasant reinforced by the apparent sentimentality of "Meet Me At Midnight" impression, but swept by the air costs unstoppable "Far Away," the kind of candy would have been able to write the Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues the best years.

Is it useful to review all these melodies slightly outdated or obsolete, but that the moving song Wetton, in his soft, husky voice that has gained flesh it has lost clarity, manages to make pride and depth? Why not, especially since Icon is the most worthy our two prog legends have done something long ago. These ten tracks, alternating catchy soft-rock (the radio calibration worthy verse / chorus of "Hey Josephine"), neo-symphonic prog news ("Please Change Your Mind") and feverish ballad ("Sleep Away" with John Mitchell still comfortable), surely not have the relief of a UK which led him to cry masterpiece, nor for the potential commercial launch of the first Asia (even cry, but from the labels), but you will wait until the next showpiece of one or the improbable resurrection of the other - and if the sentence is too long, repeat slowly from the beginning.

But if you do the math, it lacks two titles in our passage reviewed and these are the two best: "Spread Your Wings" (well of course!), Small pearl breath athlete and careful arrangements (intro piano / violin magic of the rise, and Mitchell, always him, a solo Clive Nolan must regret pass) where Downes put all his knowledge of simple and original melody. And finally the aptly named "In The End", ladies and gentlemen, "In The End", which to my surprise crying with joy, is illuminated by THE great voice of prog in person, I have appointed the former Renaissance Annie Haslam. If I dared, I am happy to finish this review with the name of Annie Haslam.

Report this review (#1302421)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2014 | Review Permalink

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