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JOHN WESLEY

Crossover Prog • United States


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John Wesley biography
US composer and multi-instrumentalist JOHN WESLEY first made a name for himself in Florida, USA. In the early 80's he founded the band Autodrive, who were an actibe unit until the early 90's. In 1992 Wesley decided to embark on a solo career, still ongoing.

Wesley have strong ties to former Marillion frontman Fish. He was a member of his live band from 1999-2001, and also helped with the writing and recording of Fish' album Fellini Days. Wesley has been extensively involved with Porcupine Tree as well, joining them as a live guitarist in 2002 and later also involved in the production of PT's highly succesfull effort Fear of a Blank Planet.

As a solo artist Wesley also have near ties with UK act Marillion, opening for them on tours in the years 1993 through 1998, and also in 2004. In addition his first solo album Under The Red And White Sky was released on Marillion's Racket Records company in 1993.

In between other commitments five more productions have been issued by Wesley over the years. The Closing Of The Pale Blue Eyes EP was released in 1995, followed by full length effort The Emperor Falls in 1998. Four years later Chasing Monsters became the fourth chapter in Wesley's solo discography, and in 2005 Shiver the fifth. The latest addition to Wesley's album histoy is the live acoustic effort Oxford, which saw the light of day in 2009.

John Wesley official website

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JOHN WESLEY discography


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JOHN WESLEY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.16 | 17 ratings
Under The Red And White Sky
1994
2.73 | 13 ratings
The Emperor Falls
1998
2.65 | 17 ratings
Chasing Monsters
2002
3.92 | 25 ratings
Shiver
2005
3.03 | 23 ratings
The Lilypad Suite
2011
3.17 | 36 ratings
Disconnect
2014

JOHN WESLEY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Oxford
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live At Morrisound 30th Anniversary Show
2013

JOHN WESLEY Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

JOHN WESLEY Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

JOHN WESLEY Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.08 | 5 ratings
The Closing Of The Pale Blue Eyes
1995

JOHN WESLEY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Chasing Monsters by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.65 | 17 ratings

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Chasing Monsters
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Chasing Monsters is a solid crossover album with soulful songs, dark grooves, layers of electric guitar, and John Wesley's distinct vocals. If you're unfamiliar with Wesley (you probably are... this album has very few reviews!), he's known mostly to prog fans as a frequent Porcupine Tree collaborator. That being said, this is definitely a distinct work that while lacking the depth of a PT release, has plenty of the same sophistication and grace.

Chasing Monsters is a diverse collection of mostly melancholy and guitar heavy songs that combine Wesley's talents as singer/songwriter/guitarist. He isn't a master at any one of these roles, but is exceptionally good at all of them. The songs in this album are sometimes noisy, sometimes delicate, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes lamentful. They're not prog or art rock in the pure sense but are performed with a lot of class that will appeal to many listeners as a more straightforward rock release.

Wesley's voice is a soulful, bluesy croon in an upper register that is unique and enjoyable. His guitar playing, while somewhat messy, feels very real and raw, complementing the tone of these songs. His treatment of rhythm guitars can create a lush density to the songs as well. Lyrically we're given a lot of metaphors for the human experience, sometimes set to genuinely good hooks and melodies.

The songwriting is at times generic which may grate on some prog fans' ears, but Wesley at his most bland is still head and shoulders above the kind of over-produced schlock you'll hear on contemporary radio.

So overall an enjoyable art-rock diversion from a solid singer/songwriter/guitarist. This is not Wesley's best album, but it's reliably enjoyable and should be investigated for those seeking something light yet artistic.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 Disconnect by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.17 | 36 ratings

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Disconnect
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars John Wesley, known mostly to prog fans as a frequent Porcupine Tree collaborator, has created in Disconnect a fine collection of artistic, melancholy, and guitar heavy songs that show off his talents as song writer/singer/guitarist. Highly emotive and electric, Disconnect resonates with angsty melodies and guitar solos; not especially experimental or "prog", but nonetheless soulful and powerful.

In general, we could consider Wesley's songwriting as being a step above pop-rock standards. Songs on Disconnect are typically at the 5 minute mark, with a fair bit of variety. The Porcupine Tree influence is apparent, but this is definitely a Wesley project, and not a Steven Wilson imitation. We're given a range of tempos, dynamics, and moods; sometimes aggressive, other times lush and full.

Thematically Wesley's lyrics on Disconnect are dark, dealing with topics such as the loss of direction in one's life, failing to live up to moral expectations, walking away from those that love us, and nostalgia. Not exactly going to leave you in an upbeat mood, or strike you as being especially well written. The lyrics are fairly conventional; however, Wesley is a great singer, who soulfully sets the mood of the album with his distinct tenor.

Being known for his guitar work with Porcupine Tree, Wesley's playing here may be a key point of interest. In general, he's really good. Disconnect is heavy without being oppressive, electric without being shrill, creative without being pretentious, and emotive without bathos. There is an understatement to the Wesley's playing that gives the songs sort of a hand-crafted feel. On the flip-side, he doesn't dazzle us with virtuosity or complexity. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, and Wesley's soloing has sort of a meandering and bluesy feel. Enjoyable, but not going to grab hold of those coming to the show expecting to be blown away with guitar fireworks. Wesley's backup band compliments the tone of the album well, but the same commentary applies to them as well - there isn't much here that will make prog fans stand up and applaud.

So overall an enjoyable art-rock diversion from a solid singer/songwriter/guitarist. Disconnect will probably appeal to some more than others, especially those who (ironically) connect with the songs' theme of disconnection, though it may find only occasional playing in a prog fan's library.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3- Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 Disconnect by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.17 | 36 ratings

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Disconnect
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by King Manuel

4 stars Many people might know John Wesley as the touring guitarist with Porcupine Tree. That's where I stumbled across this man for the first time. Not being a Porcupine Tree Fan, but seeing a concert advertised in a club around my neighbourhood many years ago while living in Germany, I went anyway and was mostly impressed by the guitar player who was "just" the touring guitarist. As I am not a PT fan and did not know John Wesley is also a solo artist, I kind of forgot about him until recently by coincidences I listened to a podcast where he was in conversation with a men's movement coach and psychologist. I picked up that this is the guy whom I saw touring with PT and that he has an album out: "Disconnect". I listened to a few samples and immediately had to purchase the whole thing.

This album, just keep in mind, is not a full blown prog record. The prog references are there, e.g. here and there the PT influence show (especially o the first track and in the general sound of the album), there is a brilliant guest solo by Mr Rush (Alex Lifeson) on the track "Once were Warriors", and the whole album shows off a complex and highly skilled guitar playing, however without going into the "how many notes can I play in a minute" mode. The album rocks (sometimes quite hard), it grooves with regular tempo changes to keep the proggy interested, but it also would appeal to any melodic rock fan. Mr Wesley is maybe not as good as vocalist, as he is as a guitar player, but the vocals still are pretty good and much better than many prog vocalists out there. Apart from his brilliant guitar playing, he is a gifted lyricist, supplying us with a lot of moving and self-reflective lyrics (no wonder he is an interview partner on a podcasts around personal growth topics).

For me this is one of the best releases of 2014 so far. I would be tempted to give five stars, but knowing my preference for the less "proggy side of prog" and my love for more song oriented compositions, I will on a page like Prog Archive stick with four stars. (I would have given 5 stars on a general music site)

 The Lilypad Suite by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.03 | 23 ratings

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The Lilypad Suite
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by MJAben

2 stars I have to be perfectly honest here, the only reason why I got this record was because I thought it said John Wetton on the cover. I'm not sure how I made that mistake I guess I just read "john we-" and didn't bother with the rest. Upon realizing my mistake I decided to then figure out who John Wesley was because I didn't recognize the name. According to Wikipedia, John Wesley was a prominent christian theologian in the 16th Century, but I think it's more likely that this album is from the guitarist John Wesley. I came to this conclusion based on the fact that this album contains its fair share of riffing, soloing, noodling that all function to showcase guitar playing. What I see very little of is references to early Methodism (but it might be buries in their somewhere).

I am horribly derailing my review now, so to get back to the album... It's good... Well, it's perfectly listenable. I do have many issues, for one I'm not sure this can be considered prog at all, in fact I am almost positive that if John Wesley wasn't associated with acts such as Porcupine Tree and Marillion then he wouldn't even be considered for this site. The music sounds closer to 90's alternative rock than anything (with all the angst included) which works for me since this is a genre that I quite enjoy, but I'm still not sure that the album belongs on PA.

As for the songs themselves, A.M.V is a nothing song, it doesn't contribute to the album, it's a bit grating to listen to but at least it's short. Walls of America gets better with some good vocal work and some strong songwriting. It's a tad repetitive however and there isn't a great deal that happens in the five minutes. A Glittery of Nothing is more up my alley, strong vocal work, soothing and well written music throughout. Around 2:15 minutes into this song we get the first glimpse that I can find of progressive music with a porcupine tree-esque spacey bridge that lasts only around 45 seconds but is a pleasant mix-up nonetheless.

Still Waiting starts off with some heavy guitar which leads into the song, but soon it turns into a chorus that feels all too much like other choruses on the album. The song isn't bad, there's some more spacey instrumental passages but the entire song feels as though it never really picks up. At this point I also found I was getting frustrated with the sound and the style. It's not bad but it certainly isn't very diverse. Things slow down a great deal on the ballad-like Lost. A fine and pleasant song but nothing noteworthy. The album ends with the anticlimactic Firelight which sounds like more of the same.

The album has some interesting songwriting, good vocals, good production and some fine moments but on the whole the album seems very samey and (throughout a lot of it) not very progressive. I still may recommend this album for alternative rock or fans of Porcupine Tree but for everyone else, there doesn't seem to be much to gain here.

2/5 stars

 Disconnect by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.17 | 36 ratings

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Disconnect
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Every once in a while, an album simply doesn't connect with me. Ironically, the album this time is called "Disconnect" by John Wesley. Wesley has a long history in progressive music, being attached to Fish and Porcupine Tree at various times. His multi- instrumentalist capabilities have taken him far. However, here he is with his sixth solo offering, and he has a full band behind him.

Being an excellent guitarist, "Disconnect" is really a guitarist's album. Guitar is front and center, to a fault, I believe. Indeed, Alex Lifeson even guests on guitar for one of the tracks, "Once a Warrior". So, if you love guitar, this might be your thing. I'm rather disappointed, though, as I find that every thing else about this album is completely average or worse. Drums, bass. and even vocals are all humdrum and uninteresting. And don't get me started on the lyrics, which, for the lyric enthusiast, are not worth your time.

Yet, I can complain about the rest of the instruments on this album, but I think the major problem is the horrible mix and the domination of the guitar. For whatever reason, I cannot stand the guitar tone on this record. It literally gives me a headache, even on low volumes. It's steel-hard, loud, and bombastic. It completely masks the rest of the instruments to the point where the band never really feels like a band, but instead seems like background musicians keeping time for the guitarists to bore us to death. Solos go on and on forever without ever having an ounce of soul or emotion. Technical feats come and go without anything truly interesting ever happening. Indeed, most songs sound the same: lame attempt at a verse and chorus followed by a few minutes of guitar drudgery. Rinse. Repeat.

Indeed, ever since I saw the weirdly sexual music video for "Disconnect", I knew this album would never pan out for me, and I was correct. I tried, but I can't get past the boring songs, the pretentious guitar work (especially on "Any Old Saint"), and the aura of arrogance that I can't seem to shake. Rough, blasting guitars mean nothing when the artist can't seem to give them any meaning within a song structure. Indeed, it's difficult to base all your writing on guitar without paying attention to the other instruments, melody, and rhythm. In the end, this album feels like one big set-up for John and company to show off on guitar. You know what, though? The guitar never really impresses anyways. Overall, "Disconnect" is a disappointment and a failure.

 Chasing Monsters by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.65 | 17 ratings

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Chasing Monsters
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Chasing Monsters' - John Wesley (4/10)

The most versatile, but alas, the least memorable of John Wesley's discography, 'Chasing Monsters' sees the singer-songwriter (of Porcupine Tree fame) range from subtle acoustic work to blown up psychedelia, all the while maintaining his warm and intimate sense of delivery. While John Wesley is generally quite a consistent artist and the execution here is up to par, it feels like the songwriting here lacks something that was usually present on other works; a sense of emotional impact.

Perhaps it was a result of his experimentation with a wider range of sounds, but the signature style of warm storytelling and sweet melodies doesn't seem to be here in such a satisfying quantity. While going to ambitious lengths as to include mandolin and violin sounds here, it's quite surprising that the music doesn't have nearly as much of an effect on me as I would hope. While albums like the excellent 'Shiver' would go to prove what a talented singer- songwriter the man is as well as throw in the dynamic and progressive theme, 'Chasing Monsters' doesn't feel nearly as inspired a work. In fact, the only track here that really stands out is the title track, which is a very acoustically-driven song.

'Chasing Monsters' is arguably the weakest album in John Wesley's discography, but it still holds a few moments and tracks that impress. As a whole however, I do find myself a bit disappointed.

 Under The Red And White Sky by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.16 | 17 ratings

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Under The Red And White Sky
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by 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.

 The Emperor Falls by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1998
2.73 | 13 ratings

BUY
The Emperor Falls
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Emperor Falls' - John Wesley (5/10)

Coming to attention as the session and lead guitarist of progressive rock giants Porcupine Tree, the solo career of John Wesley should certainly be of interest to the bigger fans of the band out there. Regardless of his association with Steven Wilson however, Wesley has a very heartfelt style of his own, and anyone who appreciates a warm singer-songwriter approach to music should look into the man's solo material. With his second full-length under his own name, 'The Emperor Falls' demonstrates many of Wesley's strong points. However, the overall execution of the product pales in comparison to some of the other work he has done, and a little more variety with attention to detail could have made this a much more enjoyable and memorable experience.

I have always thought of John Wesley as being a 'progressive' Bruce Springsteen of sorts; his no-frills approach to making music doesn't leave much room for experimenting, but theres alot of emotion here... Unfortunately, along the course of 'The Emperor Falls,' it feels like Wesley is revisiting the same few emotions over and over again, without exploring much further.

The sonic palette generally consists of acoustic guitar driven rock. Although there's certainly more arrangement here than a barebones acoustic record, things are kept pretty simplistic, giving the vocal delivery and essence of the songwriting centerstage. While this means that it doesn't have the replayability of a more involved piece of music, it is easy to get something out of the music, and feel something from the first listen onwards.

Wesley's voice and his instrumental sensibility are the highlights here. While there are cameos from members of the neo-progressive band Marillion, that seems more like a marketing technique over anything else; many times listening through, it doesn't sound like there is anyone else besides Wesley himself at the helm.

The production is functional here, but while Wesley's music has never been dependent on crystal clear sound, things sound alot more polished on the other records. In any case, the album's greatest flaw is it's lack of variety... While the upbeat, almost tribal Wesley/Hogarth duet 'So Bad' is a refreshing break from the acoustic melancholy, things could have taken a much more enjoyable turn if each song had new to throw into the mix. For what it is however, 'The Emperor Falls' is a competent piece of work from a very talented man, although I would suggest starting out with the latest album 'Shiver' or the debut for those who haven't heard his solo work before.

 The Closing Of The Pale Blue Eyes by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1995
2.08 | 5 ratings

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The Closing Of The Pale Blue Eyes
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'The Closing Of The Pale Blue Eyes' - John Wesley (4/10)

This is one of the weird circumstances where I know the music in question is quality stuff, but I just don't enjoy it that much. By 'quality,' I mean that the music is sincere and emotional in nature. While it's completely understood that 'Pale Blue Eyes' was not trying to be meticulously arranged and complex, a little bit more variety in the timbre and sound panel might have done wonders.

My first introduction to John Wesley's solo work was 'Shiver,' which crosses me as having both the intelligence and emotional resonance to make it a gem. It might just be my musical background, but an unplugged performance doesn't feel so interesting when it's strapped this bare. The lyrics are thought-provoking for the most part, and some songs (most specifically, the first track 'Right Here Beside Me') work wonderfully without any production tweaks, but a lot of the songwriting doesn't feel as mature or involved as stuff Wesley has done on other records, like the one I've already mentioned.

In any case, John does a very good job of actually performing his pieces. His voice is very down to earth and sincere; and while a lot of the songwriting doesn't lend to musical showboating, the few solos he does here and there show he is a brilliant guitarist.

Perhaps with a few more listens, the album will grow- it is not necessarily bad at all. It just feels like with a few tweaks to the songs and maybe a piano thrown into the mix would have made for a much more enjoyable experience.

 The Emperor Falls by WESLEY, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1998
2.73 | 13 ratings

BUY
The Emperor Falls
John Wesley Crossover Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

2 stars This early release by John Wesley (of contemporary Porcupine Tree) is an emotive collection of singer/songwriter style songs which miss much more frequently than they hit, making "Emperor Falls" a poor album overall with a few shining gems hidden within for fans.

"Emperor Falls" is song-oriented, leading from one short, sensative pop tune to the next. While unambitious, the writing is very genuine, but while emotions and lyrics aspire to connect with the listener, the mediocrity of music holds back the potential for anything special. Wesley's guitar playing is quite good, using vibrant layers and processed tones to create interesting tapestries of sound, he just doesn't do enough of it to make much difference.

The introduction, "Out of Your League" is one of the few standout tracks, displaying some of this strong playing with a strong momentum and slinky vibe; "Emperor Falls" is another keeper, having a unique feel and building to a fine solo. All other tracks will leave the listener wondering what the point was. Ideas are introduced but not explored, and many songs feel like they are just getting started when they end. The end result is a sort of pointlessly introspective collection of languid pop songs-- too personal feeling to connect with, and too lazy to simply go along with. There's a definite unpolished (or even unfinished feel) to these songs.

Hogarth's and Rothery's contributions are negligible, making this one just for Wesley fans-- who are better off sticking with "Shiver".

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition.

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