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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Wetton – Richard Palmer-James

Jack-Knife / Monkey Business 1972-1977

Review by Gary Hill

This set, basically two albums released as a two CD package, is a mixed bag. John Wetton has played with everyone from King Crimson to Uriah Heep, UK and Asia. Richard Palmer-James was a founding member of Supertramp, a lyricist for King Crimson and lots more. These two albums are just a bit strange. Mind you, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. They are just odd. The first one feels more like a real album, but is a bit inconsistent and mismatched. The second one is more odds and ends just sort of thrown together. There are some great moments on it, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1: Jack-Knife
I Wish You Would
Jazz and hard rock merge on this cool tune. It’s got a bit of an electronic edge. In some ways this makes me think of Roxy Music. The percussion on this is incredibly busy and the song has a lot of great funk built into it. The instrumental section on this is just incredible.
Too Much Monkey Business
This is more of a straight ahead rock and roll tune. I wouldn’t consider this one prog at all. It does rock, though.
You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover
The riff that opens this feels like “Willie and the Handjive.” The tune is sort of between the first two cuts. It’s part old time rock and roll, but there are some proggy elements at play, too. The instrumental section that serves as the outro, in particular, lends some of those prog things.
Confessions
Combining a mainstream rock vibe with some more proggy things, this is a cool tune. It’s got a lot of energy and works well. There are a couple intriguing changes on this thing and some of the instrumental work really lets the progressive rock element shine.
Eyesight to the Blind
A more keyboard based cut, this is a cool one. Wetton’s vocals really sell it. It’s a change and it’s also quite interesting.
Walk on Heaven's Ground
More energized, this is a great example of AOR progressive rock. It’s not all that far from the Love Beach era of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in some ways. There is a bit of an adult contemporary vibe to this at times. There are quite a few changes on this number.
Dimples
There is a funky kind of rhythm to this. There are some processed vocals that are interesting on this, too. It’s a fun piece with some interesting musical concepts.
Mustang Momma
This lands more on the straight ahead mainstream rock side of the equation. That said, there is still some prog in the mix.
Adoration
A horn opens this, bringing it into a jazz kind of territory right at the start. Overall, we’re given a bluesy kind of rocker. This isn’t all that proggy, but the waves of vocals and some of the other arrangement elements do lend some prog-like things here. The saxophone takes a tasty solo later in the piece.
Disc 2: Monkey Business
(Flourish)
This is just twelve seconds long. It’s just some studio chatter and a little piano.
Too Much Monkey Business
This is a different rendition of the same song on the previous disc. It’s again a straightforward rock and roller.
Confessions
Another tune that was also on the other CD, this version is more proggy. It’s also a lot cooler. In some ways it makes me think of what you might have gotten if you combined UK with Asia.
Easy Money
Here we get a short piano and non-lyrical vocal treatment of the King Crimson song. Delivered like this it’s got a lot of jazz to it.
The Night Watch
Another King Crimson song, I’ve always loved this one. This rendition is quite powerful and pretty.
Woman
This is a short acoustic guitar driven piece. It feels like a demo and has only non-lyrical vocals.
(False Start)
This is just a very short bit of studio stuff.
Untitled
Less than a minute in length, this is a short acoustic guitar and vocal bit that’s rather bluesy.
Rich Man Lie
A short flourish of sound provides the introduction here. From there they move it out into something that has a lot of jazz in the mix. It’s energetic and fun. As the rhythm section gets more involved this resembles fusion turned electronic rock. There are quite a few shifts here. Overall this is an interesting and entertaining piece of music.
Cologne 1977
A fairly complex song, this is more or less a progressive rock ballad.
The Laughing Lake 1
Intricate acoustic guitar driven music, this has a definite demo quality to it.
The Good Ship Enterprise
This feels a bit like something from King Crimson. But, there is perhaps some Procol Harum in the mix, too. It’s a powerful piece of music.
Book of Saturday
Based on piano and non-lyrical voice, this is a rendition of a song Wetton originally did with King Crimson.
Book of Saturday
This time we get a more full arrangement based on acoustic guitar. This seems to be a live recording. It’s quite strong.
The Glory of Winning (From the Album Monkey Business)
AOR with some progressive rock in the mix is the concept here. This has a potent chorus and some tasteful instrumental moments. It’s a good song, but not a real standout.
Starless 1
This is just a short (less than 30 seconds) piano piece.
The Laughing Lake 2
Less than a minute in length, this is just a short acoustic guitar and vocal bit.
The Laughing Lake 3
At less than fifteen seconds, this is essentially the same thing as the previous tune.
The Laughing Lake 1977
Here we get a more full version of the same song as we just heard snippets of twice. Of course, we’ve heard another full treatment earlier. This is dramatic and I like it a lot.
Magazines
A piano and voice dominated song, this feels very demo-like.
Starless 2
This is a less than thirty second take on the King Crimson cut.
Cologne 1997
Here we get another rendition of the song we heard earlier. I like this one better. It’s more dramatic, mysterious and powerful. It’s still mellow, though.
Doctor Diamond 1997
I love this cut. It’s got a great Roxy Music meets King Crimson kind of vibe. There is a bit of a circus music quality to it at times. There is a drop back to mellow atmospherics mid-track, too.
Starless 1997
Here we get a five-minute plus rendition of one of my favorite King Crimson songs. It is recognizable as what it is, but it has a different arrangement for sure. This is a mellower, keyboard based arrangement. Somehow, to me, that gives this song even more power and poignancy.
 
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