John Wetton - Rock of Faith - 2003
The "progressive crooner" is back. Sorry, but John Wetton lived his glory days a long time ago. I won't deny that I've never been a fan of his solo career, maybe quite pleasing at the beginning, but progressively trapped in the most indigestible A.O.R.
In fact, I'd only save what he did with King Crimson and U.K., but I can understand that still there are nostalgic Asia fans.
About “Rock Of Faith”, we could affirm with no doubt that this is more of the same; that is to say, pure shameless A.O.R. from the eighties, absolutely inoffensive and predictable. Crystal clear sound, pompous instrumentation, grandiloquent choruses and love-oriented lyrics unite to create a work that drives irresistibly to yawning. We've listened “Rock Of Faith” a thousand times; you can find everything "The Voice"'s new work has to offer on Asia, Foreigner, Boston, etc.. .records. Hope I don't offend anyone, but this is my opinion.
Nevertheless, there are some pleasing details, I guess consequence of the intervention of some Arena members in this project. So, Clive Nolan contributes with his keyboards and some arrangements, John Mitchell brings his guitar and a few solos, and Karl Groom co produces along with Wetton and Nolan. There are other interesting collaborations, like the inevitable Geoff Downes, Martin Orford from IQ on the flute, Peter Gee from Pendragon, as well as other lesser-known names for the fan, like Tim Garland on saxophone or Hugh MacDowell (from E.L.O.) on the cello.
Returning to Arena, I'm not a big fan of the band, but it's true that their intervention enhances the songs, adding some orchestral arrangements and other passages that remind me of some of the band's instrumentals, like "Elea" or "Serenity", mystical and volatile pieces that visibly influenced the instrumentals included in this work, "Mondrago" and "Altro Mondo".
I don't think there's nothing specially remarkable in this CD, made of non-strident mid-tempos; perhaps "Take Me to the Waterline" is the only track that insufflates some vitality on the whole. Wetton sings as good as always, but at this point of his career there are some unattainable pitches for him.
Wetton writes the music, collaborating on some tracks with other composers, as the aforementioned Geoff Downes (who's never been a great composer) and Clive Nolan, with whom shares authorship in one of the most acceptable songs of the CD, the title track "Rock Of Faith". Besides, there's also Richard Palmer-James on the writing; John Wetton's lifelong friend, ex-member of Supertramp and great King Crimson lyricist, he contributes with "Who Will Light A Candle?", a laugh-inducing ballad, unworthy from the authors of such marvels as "Starless".
Definitively, I think that John Wetton has nothing interesting to offer in his solo career. He fits better in projects like Qango, “Tokyo Tapes” and so on; or he could reform Asia, not a wet dream for me, but he and his nostalgic fans would be happy.