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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Wetton

Akustika: Live in Amerika / Akustika II: Return to Amerika

Review by Gary Hill

This is a two CD set combining two John Wetton live albums into one release. The two shows were performed about ten years apart. Both were truly solo sets with Wetton playing guitar and keys to accompany his vocals. I like the fact that the set lists are quite a bit different on both discs. The sound quality is great on both. This is an intriguing double live disc, giving an intriguing view of a classic artist.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
1
Akustika
 
Live in Amerika
Recorded at Various Shows Between 5th October and 14th October 1995
          
Voice of America

This cut starts on piano, and Wetton's voice really makes it work from there. This balladic cut works so well. It's a great way to start the show.

Hold Me Now
An intricate guitar arrangement opens this number. It becomes another pretty ballad. It's powerful and another winner.
Rendezvous 6:02
A song Wetton originally recorded with UK, I've always loved this one. It's another that's more of a ballad.
Christina
An acoustic guitar based number, we get another ballad here. This has a bit of a folk sea-farer vibe to it.
30 Years
Another from the UK catalog, I like this one a lot.
Only Time Will Tell

Piano leads out on this classic Asia song. This live rendition does a great job of capturing the magic of the tune.

Book of Saturday

Here we are in King Crimson territory. Acoustic guitar is the backing on this number. I've always loved this cut, and this live version holds up quite well.

Don't Cry

Remaining on guitar, Wetton moves things back into Asia territory here. This one is a bit more of a rocker, despite the acoustic arrangement.

Battle Lines

Still on guitar, this one comes from Wetton's solo catalog. There are some really soaring moments here. Overall, this piece lands more in the vein of a powered up ballad.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes

Another Asia song, Wetton does a nice rendition here. It's a pretty song.

Heat of the Moment

This Asia classic gets seriously reworked here into a slower balladic cut. I am not really sold on this arrangement.

You're Not the Only One

And we're back to the keyboards for the closing cut. That said, it works to guitar driven material after a while. This is a classy piece.

2
 
Akustika II
    
Return to Amerika
             
Recorded at United Van Con XV, Springfield, MA on the 11th November 2005
                 
Walking on Air

The second show starts with a piano based number. Although basically a ballad, this manages to rock.

Meet Me at Midnight

Another piano based cut, this is an intriguing rocker. I like it a lot.

Sole Survivor

One of my favorite Asia tunes, this gets a rocking treatment on guitar. While I prefer the original, this does it justice.

Book of Saturday
Here's the first repeat from the previous show. The opening section here is a lot different from both the Crimson version and the take at the other show. I definitely like that one better. This does get a bit closer to a faithful rendition, but it just doesn't seem as successful.
Emma
This guitar based ballad is a solid cut. It's evocative and potent. The performance is one of the better in the second show.
Days Like These
More of a rocker, this is a cool cut. It's another that's among the better pieces here.
Thirty Years / Hold Me Now
A nice mix of keyboards and guitar brings this into being. I have always loved the UK version of "Thirty Years" and this live telling does it justice. Where it would have rocked out on the original UK album, it shifts into the second half of the twofer here. This is another classy balladic piece. It's acoustic guitar based and intriguing.
Arkangel
There are some sound effects at the start of this. The cut works out from there into a tasty, proggy arrangement with both keyboard and guitar elements at play. It's a tasty piece.
Rendezvous 6:02
Another repeat, this cut gets a great performance here. I think I might like this better than the version from the first show.
Starless
This is one of my all time favorite King Crimson songs. This stripped down rendition does a great job of capturing the magic of the cut. It is one of my favorite tunes on this set.
Voice of America
Here is another repeat. Wetton talks but the origin of the cut this time. I didn't realize that it was written about Brian Wilson. I think the version from the first show is stronger, but this is still quite good.
Woman

Another piano ballad styled piece. I'm not as big a fan of this as I am some of the others.
The Night Watch
This is another Crimson cut that I've always loved. This stripped down version seems rather slow. While I prefer the original, I like this rendition quite a bit.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Acoustic based, this number is from the Asia years. It's one of the other repeats.
Heat of the Moment
The closer is another repeat visitor. It seems to work more smoothly here than it did on the first disc. It's still a stripped back, balladic approach to the piece.


 
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