Wednesday, January 13, 2010

John Wetton - Battle Lines (1995)

Coming from a strong progressive rock pedigree in the seventies with his stints as lead singer/bassist in King Crimson, touring with Roxy Music, briefly with Uriah Heep, and the short lived prog-rock supergroup UK (with Allan Holdsworth, Eddy Jobson, Bill Bruford, and later as a trio with Terry Bozzio replacing Bill Bruford and Allen Holdsworth departing not to be replaced).

In the eighties Wetton shifted his focus slightly to what could best be described as prog-pop or possibly "Arena-Prog" with the early eighties MTV arena rock supergroup juggernaut, Asia.

With 1995's Battle Lines Wetton shifted even further into the pop realm with his brief foray into the realm of adult contemporary music in an attempt to attract some new listeners and perhaps make himself a bit more accessible.

While not as adventurous or as interesting as Wetton's more progressive material, Battle Lines is certainly more accessible. The material is still uminstakably John Wetton but it lacks a bit of the adventurousness of his earlier career.

As a prog-pop album, Battle Lines, is a bit of a disappointment. As an adult-contemporary album, on the other hand, Battle Lines, is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The only "throwaway" or "filler" track to be found is Jane which would not have sounded out of place in the eighties-- somewhat troubling consideirng that Battle Lines was released well into the nineties.

Other than the lone hiccup, Wetton's voice is thoroughly enjoyable as always. While he may not be the best singer, what he lacks in vocal quality he far more than makes up for in the overall passion of his vocal delivery. His vocals particularly stand out on the title track, Battle Lines, and on the utterly heart-wrenching, tear-jerking Hold Me Now.

There are far too numerous songs about unrequited love to even begin to count, but what sets Hold Me Now apart from the rest of the sizable pack is not just Wetton's impassioned delivery but also the subject matter. This isn't a song of romantic love, but of love between a child and his mother. The pain in Wetton's voice is downright palpable as he implores;
Mama, just hold me now
You don't have to be pretend
Smash the chains and throw them to the floor
Hold me now and let me believe that a kiss is the way it should be
'cause it means the world to me

Hold Me Now makes Battle Lines well worth the purchase price on its own, let alone the rest of material on the album.

With subsequent releases Wetton would start to return to his more progressive roots much to the delight of his fans. But this album shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Taken in the right context this album is as thoroughly enjoyable as anything else Wetton has ever recorded. And some credit must be given for Wetton to at least try his hand at a genre he was not known for performing.

Related Links
John Wetton Interview (1994)

John Wetton & Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis) performing Battle Lines

John Wetton (official site)
John Wetton (wikipedia)
Voice Mail / Battle Lines (wikipedia)


drewzepmeister said...

I'm familiar with John Wetton from his work with King Crimson, Uriah Heep, and Asia. I have never heard his solo stuff. This outta sound interesting.

Perplexio said...

Drew: This particular album does seem a bit more Adult Contemporary in nature. Arkangel which was recorded a few years later and is a bit darker is a bit better, imho. A bit of a return to form if you will.

Anonymous said...

To my greatest regret, Wetton solo never done anything, that could be compared to his output while with Fripp and Brufford. He is a pop artist and without a strong guiding hand (of Bob, for example)is loosing all his prog skills and becomes child-level-pop musician.
Arena-pop-prog...! Phew!