Icon- Icon II, Icon Live (Renaissance)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

Icon 2

1. The Die Is Cast
2. Finger On The Trigger
3. Reflections
4. To Catch A Thief
5. Tears Of Joy
6. Shannon
7. The Hanging Tree
8. The Glory Of Winning
9. Whirlpool
10. Rubicon

Icon Live

1. Pane Bruno
2. The Heat Goes On
3. Only Time Will Tell
4. Voice Of America
5. I Lay Down
6. Days Like These
7. Bolero
8. Meet Me At Midnight
9. Never In A Million Years
10. We Move As One
11. Paradox
12. Let Me Go
13. Don't Cry
14. Open Your Eyes
15. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes



In a time long, long ago, John Wetton made music that mattered. He was in arguably the best lineup of King Crimson, involved in such classic albums as Larks Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black and Red. While in Crimson, he co-wrote one of the best prog songs ever in "Starless" and his bass playing during the band's live performances was untouchable, helping to make that incarnation of King Crimson one of the hottest live acts of its time (or ever, for that matter). After Crimson folded, Wetton went on to lead progressive supergroup UK to two excellent albums before forming another supergroup, Asia. While not always critically respected, Asia's debut was one of the biggest first releases of all time and they did create some solid LP's during Wetton's tenure.

But over the last 15 years, Wetton has fallen into AOR hell. He has released one lightweight album after another, yet could still show his chops live, as displayed on numerous live releases. In 2005, he re-teamed with Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes to release Icon, yet another subpar disc. And now, the duo returns for the creatively titled Icon II. And the music is just as uninspiring as the disc's title.

"The Die Is Cast" is an alright tune, though it sounds very much like an Asia leftover. "Finger On The Trigger," on the other hand, is an embarrassment. Bland music backs insipid lyrics, "You got your finger on the trigger/You got your hand upon the gun/You know this thing is getting bigger/We had a good thing going on." Uh, yeah. Next.

More sappy music and dreadful lyrics ensue. "To Catch A Thief" is laughingly bad, with Wetton sharing vocals on a Celine Dion-styled piece with Anneke van Giersbergen. "You were the one who stole my heart," they sing, "When it was yours for free." In reality, Wetton is stealing very, very bad musical cliches.

And so it goes for Icon II. I could continue to point out the extremely trite lyrics that are liberally sprinkled throughout this disc, or the stale musical delivery, but what's the point, I couldn't imagine most listeners getting past five tracks anyhow. This disc is devoid of any excitement, which is a shame because it wastes the talents of drummer Steve Christey and Arena/Kino guitarist John Mitchell, both members of Wetton's touring band. And Downes, who is one of my favorite keyboardists, co-wrote all of these tunes, and is as equally deserving of criticism as Wetton is.

So, unless you're a fan of the musical stylings of, say, Peter Cetera, stay well clear of Icon II.

I can't say the same of Never In A Million Years: Icon Live, however. As I mentioned above, Wetton still can play in front of a crowd, despite the poor showing in the studio. And this live disc, recorded in 2005 and 2006, shows it. Wetton and Downes, along with Mitchell and Christey, tear through a set of mostly Asia tunes, and they deliver very solid renditions. And more importantly, they actually sound like they're having fun playing them. Even a lightweight tune like "Meet Me At Midnight" from the original Icon disc comes across much better live, though that disc's "Let Me Go" lumbers along here and is probably this disc's weakest number. My only other real complaint with Never In A Million Years is that I probably would have liked to have heard some King Crimson or UK songs played as well.

But in all, this live CD is very much worth a listen, especially for fans of Asia. And it shows that, at least live, Wetton can still do it. Now if he could just carry that spirit over into the studio. With the original lineup of Asia reformed and set to release a studio album next year, here's hoping that Steve Howe and Carl Palmer can help the writing duo of Wetton and Downes come up with some interesting ideas. Or at the very lest, help keep them coming up with very bad ones.

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