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Wetton/Downes, John/Geoffrey: Icon

The first true collaboration between vocalist/bassist John Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes since 1990 sounds a lot like Alpha- and Astra-era Asia - meaning it has plenty of those commercial hooks, layered vocals and dense synthesizers that made Asia one of progressive-music's most-loved and most-loathed bands. Wetton recruited longtime collaborators John Mitchell (Arena, Kino) and Steve Christey (Jadis) to play guitar and drums on Icon, and guests include flutist Ian McDonald (Foreigner, King Crimson), cellist Hugh McDowell (Electric Light Orchestra) and vocalist Annie Haslam (Renaissance).

Many of the songs on Icon were written on the same piano the duo used to compose Asia's biggest hits. Problem is, Wetton and Downes rely too much on keys for Icon. The 10-song album starts off promising, with "Let Me Go" and "God Walks With Us," two dramatic and catchy mid-paced tracks that conjure aural images of vintage Asia and maybe even a little bit of The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." The bouncy and majestic "I Stand Alone" and the solid "Hey Josephine" emerge as the album's only true rockers. Twinkling keyboards and dreamy melodies, meanwhile, dominate Icon's second half. "Meet Me At Midnight" and "Sleep Angel" meander much too much, but Haslam adds a mystifying, surreal touch to the mellow closer "In the End" - practically drowning out Wetton in the process. Where is Steve Howe when you really need him?

Regardless of the low-key material, it's nice to hear Wetton and Downes putting aside their differences (musical and otherwise) to make music together again. Both men still sound close to how they did in their prime, and there's no denying the musical chemistry between them. I readily admit that Asia's debut album has been one of my favorites since its release when I was a 14-year-old kid living in Iowa with a voracious musical appetite to satisfy, and I have (probably unfairly) judged every subsequent album released by Asia, Downes or Wetton based on that record. Icon doesn't hold up to Asia, but it's probably not supposed to. Rather, this is a musical statement that represents the musical spaces Wetton and Downes are currently in - even if there's very little material in those spaces that sounds current. The curious and the completist will no doubt enjoy Icon. (I am, and I do.) But this album isn't likely to squelch any anti-Asia sentiment.


Track Listing:
1) Let Me Go
2) God Walks With Us
3) I Stand Alone
4) Meet Me At Midnight
5) Hey Josephine
6) Far Away
7) Please Change Your Mind
8) Sleep Angel
9) Spread Your Wings
10) In the End

Added: May 16th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: Frontiers Records
Hits: 1336
Language: english

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