John Wetton - Nomansland - Round Table Review
John Wetton - Nomansland
Tracklist: Intro-Guitar Concerto/The Last Thing On My Mind (4:59), Sole Survivor (6:50), Book of Saturday (3:03), Emma (3:19), Tatras (5:00), In The Dead Of Night (5:56), Bygosh!!! / Easy Money (10:28), Rendez-Vous 6:02 (5:23), The Birth Of Igor (3:10), After All (4:34), Starless (10:17), The Night Watch (4:25)
Dirk: I have been a fan of John Wetton's music since he appeared in the legendary formation of King Crimson (early 70's). Unfortunately his solo albums could never get the high standard of the KC albums. Not only the music was to blame (although JW's music is often too soft and too much pop oriented) but his albums had never a good production and sound, probably because he never got the opportunity to get a good record company. After a lot of miserable live albums (most of them with almost the same track list) with very bad sound John returned with the Arkangel album. This album is a very good album, although not very spectaculairly progressive. Nomansland was recorded during the Arkangel Tour in May 1998 in Poland and if you ever want the perfect John Wetton Album: THIS IS IT !
JJ:John Wetton has released two solo-albums since his departure with Asia, Battle Lines and ArkAngel, one soundtrack, Chasing The Deer and many live albums, both acoustic and electric. The latest in these series is Nomansland.
Ed: Unlike Dirk and JJ, I was almost oblivious to John Wetton's music
a year ago. I didn't know any King Crimson and the Alpha Asia album I
had once picked up from a bargain bin for some reason had failed to impress
me. Of course I knew Rendezvous 6:02 and had once caught part of a show
in De Pul in Uden where Wetton played it acoustically. But that was all I
really knew about the guy.
In May '98 IQ's Martin Orford, who had been playing in the Wetton band for a while, invited me to come and see one of the shows in Alphen aan de Rijn. After having had the pleasure to have dinner with the band and crew (of whom I already knew some from their work with IQ) I saw my first real Wetton show. Even though Mr. Wetton was far from sober it was quite an eye-opener. Some emotional acoustic tracks mixed with bombastic prog rock and commercial (but very enjoyable) ditties. I went to see them again in Vosselaar, Belgium sometime earlier this year and even though the band considered it to be a lowsy performance, I quite enjoyed it. And now there's a live album , released on GEP, which captures the best bits of the set.
So there you have it, a round-table review by two Wetton experts and someone who's rather new to everything Wetton.
Dirk: With the help of the IQ production team, ie Rob Aubrey and Martin Orford, the first thing you hear on this album is an almost perfect sound ! Next thing you hear on this album is a great John Wetton Band with Martin Orford (IQ/Jadis, keys & backing vocals), David Kilminster (a very respected guitar teacher, guitars & backing vocals), Steve Christey (Jadis, drums) and of course John Wetton (bass, vocals). These men know how to play progressive music !!
Intro-Guitar Concerto/The Last Thing On My Mind
Dirk: The album starts with a little guitar intro, called Guitar
Concerto, followed directly by The Last Thing On My Mind, the
first Arkangel song. From the first second of this album you hear a very
tight and perfect band, now I realise what I missed in John Wetton's
music for al those years !
Ed: A good set-opener, full of energy but not too loud. Great guitar work by Dave Kilminster.
JJ: John Wetton himself is playing very solid as well, both on acoustic guitar, electric 12-string and bass. This can be heard right from the beginning of The Last Thing On My Mind. The production of the live recording (recorded over two nights in Poland) is very good, which serves the bass-lines of Mr.Wetton.
JJ: Wetton has changed his line-up several times over the last years
and seems to have found the 'definite' format with David Kilminster on
guitars, Jadis' Steve Christey on drums and IQ's Martin Orford on keyboards
(and flute!). Personally I think this line-up is very well balanced and
especially Kilminster is a great musician, which shows clearly in the
sweeping guitar-solo in Sole Survivor.
Ed: When seeing the band live, this track (from the first Asia album) immediately became one of my favourites of the show. Great melodies, fantastic vocal harmonies and a wonderful intermezzo with some incredible drumming by Steve.
Book of Saturday
JJ: After the aforementioned bombastic tracks, very fragile, acoustic versions
of the King Crimson classic Book Of Saturday and Emma
The first features a beautiful flute solo, the second is a lovely ballad, featuring the 'nomansland'-lyric, that became the title of this album. The song shows Wetton (at the age of 50!) still has one of the most beautiful voices around.
Dirk: Book of Saturday is an all-time KC favourite ! Emma is the next Arkanagel track (the Arkangel tracks are much more powerful than on the Arkangel album).
Ed: The strength of the gigs and this album was the wonderful mixture of acoustic and electric tracks. These two tracks are a nice, emotional rest after the power of the previous tracks.
Dirk: It's Martin Orford time ! Although one of the most
respected keyboard players in the progressive rock world for years now
Martin proves to be the best of all of them. Tatras is a 5 minute
piano piece that will never annoying you.
JJ: Tatras is a classical solo-piece by Martin Orford on piano, which was played for the first time at the Dutch Progressive Rock Stage-festival and was called 'Amstel or Grolsch' at the time. Now, Tatras is available on CD for the first time and it's a great interlude between all the guitar-stuff.
Ed: It was great to have Martin play this track for the first time at DPRS and it's good to hear it again on this CD. A wonderful classical piano piece which shows the diversity and composing skills of Orford. The track is planned to re-appear on Martin's solo album with orchestral arrangements sometime in the future.
In The Dead Of Night
Dirk: Tatras is followed by a very, very powerful version
of In The Dead Of Night (from the first UK album) you realise that
you are listening to a very special album. This is progrock at it's best !
JJ: The heavy bass of In The Dead of Night continues and a heavy and fast (less than 6 minutes), but great version of this UK-classic, changes the atmosphere again. Kilminster shows that he is able to play all sorts of styles, with a lovely, jazzy solo in the middle of this track.
Ed: This song combines individual keyboard, guitar/bass and vocal melodies in a stunning way. Another wonderful intermezzo with a Kilminster solo let's you catch your breath before the band kicks in again.
Bygosh!!! / Easy Money
Dirk: Bygosh !! is the first track that
the JW Band wrote during the rehearsels and soundchecks of this tour and
an epilogue for Easy Money (also a legendary KC track).
Especially Steve Christey's drumming is superb during this part of the
JJ: A beautiful acoustic guitar introduction leads us to Easy Money. The intro is called Bygosh!!, which is a tongue-in-cheek variation to 'Bydgoszcz', the city where this was recorded. Regrettably this bit is not a seperate track from Easy Money. As a result the tracking on the booklet and my CD-player is different. Martin Orford explained this was done for copyright reasons (by mentioning the guitar intro as a song the copyright goes to Kilminster), but I don't understand why it isn't a seperate track on the disk as well. Easy Money features some nice improvisation, which does justice to the Crimson-esque character of the song.
Ed: Bygosh !! wasn't actually written but improvised at the spot. The reason why it appears as a separate track on the tracklist indeed had to do with copyrights/royalties. Unfortunately the CD had already been finished and index when the booklet was made, so the track is linked with Easy Money on the CD.
Easy Money was another of my favourites of the gigs. More close harmonies and improvisations ! Love it !
JJ: Rendez-Vous 6:02 is one of my favourite Wetton-tracks and he can't
go wrong on this one! Although originally recorded with a three piece
band, this version also features a subtle guitar line. I wouldn't miss it, if it
wasn't there, to be honest.
Ed: Probably the most well-known song on the CD, in a spine-tingling rendition.
The Birth Of Igor
JJ: Another improvised (guitar/piano/flute) intro, called Birth of
Igor, introduces a typical Wetton-ballad: After All. Although, from a
'progressive' point of view, this song is not the best track on the album,
the song has a beautiful melody and shows the skills of Wetton as a
'songwriter'. The harmony-singing (Martin Orford!) in the chorus is
Ed: A nice improvisation followed by an incrediblely emotional ballad with amazing harmonies. Just one word: beautiful !
Dirk: Rendez-Vous 6:02 (UK), The Birth Of Igor
(new JW Band song !) and After All (Arkangel) follow before we
reach the best of this album: Starless, the KC classic song, in
it's entirety !! No saxophones but plain guitar sound by David Kilminster
makes this a very special version; a must have for JW/KC fans !
JJ: Starless is another of my favourites and it's awesome! Finally Wetton played the full version (instead of just the first part). Kilminster is very close to the Fripp-original, Christey is solid in the beginning and spectacular in the second part, Orford plays a lovely mellotron and Wetton himself plays the bass as if he wants to tear the house down. A great climax of the album!
Ed: Wow ! This must have been the biggest revelation for me during those two gigs. What a piece of art ! What raw power in the middle section ! I actually ended up buying King Crimson's Red album, but have to admit that I like this version with the guitar replacing the sax much better. I like the use of saxophone in progressive rock (and music in general) but I'm not particularly fond of tenor sax. So this version will find itself more often in my CD player than the original.
The Night Watch
Night Watch closes this album in a very special way: I have never
heard such a strong and decent version of this song.
JJ: As a sort of 'extra' there's The Night Watch, another Crimson-classic, in the vein of Book of Saturday. In this version (including keys) it has turned into a beautiful ballad that brings you to ease after the musical violence of Starless.
Ed: A wonderful acoustic closing piece for a stunning CD.
Dirk: I hope John Wetton will be able to keep these musicians in his band and I hope
he will make more records on the GEP label. Now I realise the
opportunities John Wetton missed due to poorly produced albums and little
budget record companies. With a voice like John Wetton and such a
talented musicians, as well as a decent record company maybe the future
will bring him a lot of luck ! One last word to the people who have
critism about the fact that Book Of Saturday etc. appear again on this
live CD; buy this one ! It's the ultimate JW live album !!
JJ: Personally, I think Wetton has released too many live-albums over the last years. Japan, Italy, America and now Poland, almost every country gets its own Wetton live-album. Because of this it's difficult to say if this is the 'definite' live-album. It's not a 'greatest hits'-album though, since some Asia blockbusters (Heat of the Moment, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes) are not present. But it comes pretty close to a 'Best of'-album with excellent versions of In The Dead Of Night and Starless. The album is a 67-minute travel through the discography of John Wetton, which is certainly worth it's money. I really enjoyed it, anyway.
Ed: Also for those of you who are not familiar with Wetton, this is a great album to get to know his music. Amazing production, great musicians, good tunes, what more do you want ? The CD contains some tracks which should be present in any prog fan's collection; Rendezvous 6:02, Starless, Easy Money and Sole Survivor.
The booklet contains some nice pictures of the band members and liner notes by John. The japanese release of this CD will feature one bonus track called Susan. Initially, Wetton did not want to do a bonus track, but decided to do one nevertheless because a bootleg recording of the Polish radio show has recently surfaced. The extra track should help people to pick the GEP version instead of the illegal one.