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John Wetton - 'The Official Bootleg: Archive Vol. One' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 25, 2017    
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John Wetton was a true troubadour. His songs will live on in the memory. This is very personable, very assured and very worthwhile.

This is being written with the sad news of John Wetton's death from cancer, which (of course) affects any review. However, Wetton's legacy still lives on; he was a musical titan who deserves our respect, jaw dropping for the absolute breadth of musical collaborators he worked with, fitting in with Prog through King Crimson, turbocharging them, but also working with Uriah Heep and Roxy Music as pretty polar opposites and then breaking the US and everywhere else with the prescient Asia.

He had recently achieved a rapprochement with those gents, producing mature and sometimes exciting albums with them, plus looking at his solo work and giving us re-releases and re-toolongs. The danger of that is that it becomes a bit too busy, lots of live albums of, if we are honest, varying quality; it can degrade the legacy somewhat.

This is a six disc package taken from three shows – Argentina 1996, Osaka 1997 and Tokyo 1999 – are all bootlegs which no doubt fans have been in possession of and waiting for them to be acknowledged and released by Wetton himself. The rest of us will enjoy the beautifully written music here, but might baulk at the sheer size and repetition of his most popular songs.

Let's be clear, the musicians here, Thomas Lang and Steve Christey on drums, Martin Orford and John Young on keys, Billy Leisegang and David Kilminster on guitars, play wonderfully, with the music being a gorgeous combo of big Asia sellers, KC intricacy and the dramatic, sweeping grace of his solo work. There is, without doubt, the parping eighties stuff as well.

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What works well? Each of the three versions of 'In The Dead Of Night' are powerful and attacking but with a lovely familiarity, two of the three 'Don't Cry' selections are delivered with a glorious triumphalism, the peerless 'Starless' doesn't care how Proggy it gets because wherever it goes there's a wigout to come, and the three 'Easy Money' offerings vary from acousticness to fuzziness to stamping eighties glory.

What don't we really need to hear several times? Lang's drum solo for starters, good as he is, Jazzy though it sounds, this is unnecessary. 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes' acoustically skyclad is nice, but only that, while 'Battle Lines' is mature but anodyne, just personal choice though. There is also some special interest; 'Time Again' is not precise enough but great to hear, 'Rendezvous 6.02' on the fourth disc has a Rumba rhythm and the flute in 'Book Of Saturday' is enjoyed by the crowd.

Of the three gigs, Tokyo and Osaka are most demonstrative, but none of them are raucous. When they clap along and join in, it means a little more. Wetton is also modest and sweet with his chat. There is little difference in the gigs, except that the Tokyo Sun Plaza recording is a little more muffled and may be a recording from the crowd; interesting, but not enough character to make it a winner.

John Wetton was a true troubadour. His songs will live on in the memory. This is very personable, very assured and very worthwhile. A fitting epitaph, but I do so wish I wasn't having to write that.

Steve Swift

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