Wetton Downes Icon - 'Heat Of The Rising Sun'

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Wetton Downes Icon - 'Heat Of The Rising Sun'

An acceptable release, but do two Rock titans want to settle for that?

Come on lads, think of your reputations! John Wetton and Geoff Downes, big ticket rockers both, with CV's taking in King Crimson, Yes and Asia, have now released three grown-up, thick-sounding melodic albums as Icon, to general head nodding if not frothy furore.

And so to 2012: a slickly-presented digipack of two live CDs recorded in Japan on a 2009 tour. It should be a celebration, a real reminder of their songwriting prowess, particularly as it contains Asia, Buggles, Icon and Crimson songs – wonderful compositions all. But it isn't. This is only just “not bad”. The band is good, containing excellent guitar work from Dave Kilminster and they can clearly take these songs to the Hall of Fame they deserve. So it’s a mystery why they leave them kicking a stone around the entrance hall.

The opener ‘Countdown to Zero’ is just too quiet and polite. It works for the mid-paced ‘The Die Is Cast’, but great tracks like ‘Elstree’ and ‘Voice of America’ suffer so badly there is no salvaging their pride. Joining them are acoustic versions; some which are interesting takes on classics (‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, ‘Meet Me At Midnight’) whilst others feel like budget versions tossed together because cash is tight (a rather lounge version of ‘Tempus Fugit’ is particularly risible). Unfortunately there are other issues...

John Wetton’s vocals. He has lived the life of four people and he is advanced in years, so allowances should be made. The press release calls his voice ‘jaw dropping’ and it is! Painful to listen to on occasion, actually as he tries to reach notes he now couldn't get to even with a step ladder; a nice acoustic ‘Book Of Saturday’ is hobbled by vocal forcing, whilst ‘Don't Go Out Tonight’ teeters on the abyss of failure. We shouldn’t be listening to this hoping that he gets through it – music through fear is what you buy Slayer for, not Icon. This problem is compounded by some dreadful backing harmonies, particularly in ‘Voice of America’ which add to the budget feel.

And yet this release still manages to show us what a pair of talents Wetton and Downes are, particularly the one-two punch of the piano-led ‘I've Come To Take You Home’ which clears the air for a stupendous solo and big bass and the lightly rocking ‘Twice The Man I Was’, the openers on CD 2. Elsewhere Kilminster makes a good vocal fist of ‘Angel’ and Wetton manages to sell ‘The Night Watch’ very well. ‘Rubicon’ is stately and almost magisterial. And you'd expect ‘Starless’ to close proceedings in classic style but they go for it and build beautifully through the middle section to a stupendous synth solo.

And so, in spite of little heft, less vocal excellence and an acoustic version of ‘Heat Of The Moment’ (clearly not a crowd pleaser), this is an acceptable release. But do two Rock titans want to settle for that? Celebration of their careers? The balloons are flaccid, the jelly hasn't set and the clown is attempting to get off with your mum.

Steve Swift

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