John Wetton has released during his entire musical career six solo albums. He released his first solo album, Caught In The Crossfire, in 1980 after the break-up of UK, but before he had formed Asia. After that he came up with Voice Mail. It was originally released in Japan-only in 1994. Strangely enough it was re-released in Europe under the title Battle Lines with the same content but a different cover. Musically, the style of the album somewhat resembles that of Wetton's band Asia. It was followed by Arkangel, originally released in 1997. His next release Sinister was originally released in Japan in 2000 as Welcome To Heaven. It was re-released in 2001 under the title Sinister without the bonus tracks and with a different cover. In 2003 his fans could enjoy his next solo effort titled Rock Of Faith. The last thing he did on his own is Raised In Captivity and did not see the light of day until 2011. For those who are not familiar with all of those albums and want to catch up with what he's done so far on his own, should have a listen to a nice compilation album with the title The Studio Recordings Anthology.
This is a broad summary of this solo discography presented on a double album. A total of 32 pieces are representing large extracts of the albums mentioned above. The chronology of the pieces are not respected as the tracks wander everywhere, which is perhaps a flaw for manic historical narrative but does not really affect the smooth running of the pieces. It is impossible to run through all of the tracks on this release. But one thing is certain-that he shines most of all on his ballads. Good examples are compositions such as Hold Me Now, I've Come To Take You Home and Battle Lines. The last title is even presented twice, with the normal studio version plus a kind of acoustic version with atmospheric keyboard parts. Don't expect really complex compositions written by John on his own or in collaboration with other composers. Songs related to his period with UK can't be found that much on this double album. Maybe the tracks taken from his first solo effort could have some possible musical links with the time he was the bassist and lead vocalist in this super group. I guess he was still in a true progressive rock mood when he wrote and recorded songs for Caught In The Crossfire. It was a time when his next musical step was not taken. It's too bad that not many songs were taken from this album. Only Woman, Cold Is The Night and the title track are featured. The main part on this anthology release is musically related to the time when John wrote and recorded for the second super group he played in. Therefore those who are into the music of Asia will find satisfaction in the songs he released as a solo artist. As many do know, the first albums from Asia are rather strong albums and are in the collections of many lovers of progressive rock music. Compared to the music made by his former band UK, Asia moved more towards a musical style which was loved in the USA. Therefore it is not so strange that on the solo songs from John, you hear the same kind of AOR musical style mixed with progressive rock. This is a style which is rather melodic with fantastic vocals and strong musicianship at the same time.
Listening to all of the tracks on this release certainly made me realise what a great composer John Wetton is. Even if the songs are not too complex with difficult time signatures and musical breaks he still knows to keep you focused throughout all of them. His songs have most of the time an emotional undertone and are related to a (personal) relation with another person. Sure you love or hate this type of songwriting. But I guess that doesn't really matter as long as the music is entertaining. The booklet that comes with this release is a nice extra and contains a lot of background information on John's entire career. Furthermore, you can read who recorded all the tracks with him that are present on this nice compilation album because that's what The Studio Recordings Anthology really is!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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