WETTON DOWNES – Icon: Acoustic Tv Broadcast

WETTON DOWNES - Icon: Acoustic Tv Broadcast


Frontiers Records
Release date: April 21, 2006

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John Wetton and Geoff Downes have between them rather impressive musical credentials listing Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, and Yes amongst their achievements. Perhaps they are together better known as being half of the early 80’s supergroup, Asia. A band whose debut album stayed at #1 in The States for an amazing nine weeks, going on to become one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time. Even now the self-titled Asia album is considered one of the finest in the Melodic Rock genre.

Unfortunately, however, the momentum could not be maintained, and after two further studio releases, including the excellent Astra, Wetton and Asia went their separate ways. Downes continued the Asia legacy right up until earlier this year … first (and briefly) with Greg Lake, and later with John Payne, producing a fine collection of work, well worthy of the Asia legacy along the way. Wetton went on to forge a solid solo career, as well as writing songs for the likes of Cher, Heart, and David Cassidy.

Last year the erstwhile colleagues joined forces once again to release Icon with the aid of John Mitchell (Arena) and Steve Christey (Jadis), which received great critical acclaim. Much water has passed under the bridge since then, namely the news that the original members of Asia were hooking up for a 25th Anniversary reunion, with dates already confirmed for shows in The States later this year.

To keep appetites whetted on the Wetton Downes front comes Icon: The Acoustic TV Broadcast, available on CD and DVD. Recorded in the BBC studios back in October 2005, and featuring a collection of stripped-down acoustic interpretations of the Asia back catalogue, along with the choice cuts from the Icon album.

Visually, the DVD is filmed in a very sparse studio, akin to the old Pebble Mill studios so fondly remembered from days of pre-satellite daytime TV. Basically, what you get is a rather dapper, suited Downes seated behind his grand piano, with Wetton perched more informally on a stool with his acoustic bass, together with ELO’s Hugh McDowell on the cello, and surrounded by a couple of tables with flower filled vases. Not exactly the usual Rock ‘N’ Roll setting for a live DVD!!

If you’re looking for a DVD with lots of camera trickery and live special effects, then you’d better look elsewhere, but if you want to watch a different take on bona fide Hard Rock classics played in an intimate setting, then this may just be for you.

The performance itself is rather sedentary, with little movement from the musicians, but what is clear from this performance is what a strong set of songs Asia have in their arsenal. When they are stripped of all of their pomp and finery, what you are left with are superlative soaring melodies. A song is nothing without melody, and Wetton and Downes have these in abundance. What is also clear is how well the Icon material stands side by side to the Asia classics. “Let Me Go” and particularly “God Walks With Us” shimmer with class and emotion. Downes piano intro sends shivers down one’s spine and Wettons’ acoustic solo is short, yet sweet.

The Asia glory years are well represented by the likes of “Heat of the Moment,” “Voice of America,” and “Open Your Eyes,” amongst a host of others with Wetton in particular wringing out every drop of emotion from his performance.

How “live” the actual studio performance is is open to debate, but what is certain is that these are superb interpretations of classic songs, breathing new life into familiar, yet well-loved material.

The DVD comes with a few extras, including an interview with the rather eccentric Big George (that’s BIG George by the way, not BOY George!), the self-styled Quentin Tarantino of music. Also included is behind-the-scenes footage and a photo gallery.

The accompanying CD features all of the tracks from the DVD, adding “There In Your Bed” as a bonus song and is available separately from the DVD.

For those more interested in a new take on the old gems, the CD should be enough to satisfy your cravings. The DVD performance adds little visually to the songs, and will probably be of more interest to completists only, but whichever format you prefer you will find a fine collection of reinterpretations of classic songs expertly performed with style and class.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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