|Wetton/Downes Icon II - Rubicon||Frontiers Records|
Two dodgy live albums had left me a little blasť about the Asia duo's new studio album. |
Mr Wetton & Mr Downes produced a rich, lush and very fine example of up to date AOR with their debut. Maybe it was a little slow, but it was quality. Then those two live albums really killed my enthusiasm for the guys.
But the opening strains of this album renewed by enthusiasm in a heartbeat as this is what they do best and should stick to.
The Die Is Cast and Finger On The Trigger finally see the guys get out of first gear and into a more uptempo realm. These are two seriously good songs. Both tracks make a great start to the album and for are 2 of the best tracks from the pair in many years. And for whatever reason, they both have an unmistakably 80s feel to them, something that it thought the debut didn't make obvious.
Following on from those tracks, Reflections is another musically rich track and a very smooth ballad.
I'm not sure what to make of the double-header that follows though. Two songs in a row feature John Wetton duetting with a Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering. To Catch A Theif and Tears Of Joy are both very slow and while both a quality pieces, they sound more like excerpts from a Wetton solo project.
Shannon sees the album get back on track, with the sound returning to the more expected.
The soft, but layered harmonies and detailed orchestration of The Hanging Tree and The Glory Of Winning are (as the song suggests) both winners for Wetton/Downes.
The album drops the tempo through the mid-section and only picks it up to the point of where the debut sat for the remainder of the record. I would have liked to have heard a couple more faster moving tracks like the opening pair.
That said, the closer Rubicon may be stuck in that same mid-tempo sphere that the guys find comfortable, but it is a fine track to close the album.
Add in those two killer opening tracks and a more pronounced 80s influence through the record and you get an album that comes closer to the original Asia sound than any album since that band's early days.
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