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Wetton, John: Akustika - Live In Amerika / Akustika II Return To Amerika
The planning behind this double live release began before the sad death of legendary UK, Asia, King Crimson, Wetton Downes (iCon) and solo artist, John Wetton. This double pack bringing together the previously available Akustika – Live In Amerika and the first time release of Akustika II – Return To Amerika. The first of the two discs was recorded at various shows across the USA in October 1995 and finds the man known for his peerless vocals and bass playing switching between acoustic guitar, piano and, of course, vocals for what is a quite stunning solo showcase. Covering different ears of his career, UK tracks such as "Thirty Years" and "Rendezvous 6:02" through classic Asia numbers such as the storming show opening "Voice Of America", "Only Time Will Tell" and, as you'd expect, "Heat Of The Moment", are rolled out with John's voice in quite magnificent form. Add in "Book Of Saturday" from the all too short Crimson days and lesser known gems such as "Hold Me Now" and "Battle Lines" and it's easy to understand why the various audiences captured across this disc are enthralled by what they hear. The addition of "Christina" from the Wetton Downes album being a nice touch; this song for John's god-daughter another example of the man's fine songwriting.
Ten years on and disc two found a man on a very different journey, the honest, heartfelt liner notes by Matt 'Mattman' Herring revealing a musician playing his first show after his voyage back to sobriety after well publicised and also public displays of his struggles. Herring first being moved to contact his musical hero after witnessing a shambolic performance at a 2002 John Wetton fan convention. Building a bond and a friendship, Herring then organised a comeback of sorts for Wetton, Return To Amerika, rather unusually, documenting the evening entertainment at a comic convention – in the guise of a certain Mr Wetton. More understated and stripped back than the older performance, John's voice shows the ravages of time and lifestyle, and yet this is a captivating listen, the lyrics of the likes of Asia's "Sole Survivor" taking on new meaning in this setting. The crowd may well be more muted – after all this was recorded in a hall in the convention space in what (from the small photos in the booklet) appears to be the most modest of surrounds; no actual stage, or show-lighting in place. And yet as John works his way through Crimson's "Starless" and "The Night Watch", Asia's "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and the iCon piece, "Meet Me At Midnight", so he grows into the performance. This may never be the most grand of shows captured featuring John Wetton's immeasurable talents, but it certainly is one of the most affecting, as you become one with the journey.
It's not often a reissue arrives with bonus material that genuinely adds value to the original, however this is definitely one of those rare occasions. Live In Amerika may well be the more technically perfect and grand of the two shows collected here, but there's no denying the significance Return To Amerika played in what was a comeback and resurgence cut tragically short. In that light it proves both a moving and captivating experience.
1. VOICE OF AMERICA
2. HOLD ME NOW
3. RENDEZVOUS 6:02
5. 30 YEARS
6. ONLY TIME WILL TELL
7. BOOK OF SATURDAY
8. DON'T CRY
9. BATTLE LINES
10. THE SMILE HAD LEFT YOUR EYES
11. HEAT OF THE MOMENT
12. YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE
1. WALKING ON AIR
2. MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT
3. SOLE SURVIVOR
4. BOOK OF SATURDAY
6. DAYS LIKE THESE
7. THIRTY YEARS / HOLD ME NOW
9. RENDEZVOUS 6:02
11. VOICE OF AMERICA
13. THE NIGHT WATCH
14. THE SMILE HAS LEFT YOUR EYES
15. HEAT OF THE MOMENT
Added: November 19th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Akustika/Akustika II at Cherry Red
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