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Wetton/Downes Icon II - Rubicon Frontiers Records
FRCD309
Produced By: John Wetton & Geoff Downes

Running Time: 50.27

Release Date: Out Now

Released:

Musical Style: Melodic Rock / AOR

Links: Frontiers
90%
Songs: 90%
Sound: 90%
Two dodgy live albums had left me a little blasť about the Asia duo's new studio album.
Mr Wetton & Mr Downes produced a rich, lush and very fine example of up to date AOR with their debut. Maybe it was a little slow, but it was quality. Then those two live albums really killed my enthusiasm for the guys.
But the opening strains of this album renewed by enthusiasm in a heartbeat as this is what they do best and should stick to.
The Die Is Cast and Finger On The Trigger finally see the guys get out of first gear and into a more uptempo realm. These are two seriously good songs. Both tracks make a great start to the album and for are 2 of the best tracks from the pair in many years. And for whatever reason, they both have an unmistakably 80s feel to them, something that it thought the debut didn't make obvious.
Following on from those tracks, Reflections is another musically rich track and a very smooth ballad.
I'm not sure what to make of the double-header that follows though. Two songs in a row feature John Wetton duetting with a Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering. To Catch A Theif and Tears Of Joy are both very slow and while both a quality pieces, they sound more like excerpts from a Wetton solo project.
Shannon sees the album get back on track, with the sound returning to the more expected.
The soft, but layered harmonies and detailed orchestration of The Hanging Tree and The Glory Of Winning are (as the song suggests) both winners for Wetton/Downes.
The album drops the tempo through the mid-section and only picks it up to the point of where the debut sat for the remainder of the record. I would have liked to have heard a couple more faster moving tracks like the opening pair.
That said, the closer Rubicon may be stuck in that same mid-tempo sphere that the guys find comfortable, but it is a fine track to close the album.
The Bottom Line
Production is a little rougher than the debut and a little less layered, but the heart of the album revolves around the same premise - smooth, adult contemporary AOR. Overall, I think a mix of tracks from both studio albums would have made the perfect AOR release.
Add in those two killer opening tracks and a more pronounced 80s influence through the record and you get an album that comes closer to the original Asia sound than any album since that band's early days.
Discography / Previously Reviewed
Wetton / Downes
Icon
Acoustic TV Broadcast
Live - Never In A Million Years
Icon II - Rubicon

Line Up:
John Wetton: Vocals, Bass, Guitars
Geoffrey Downes: Keyboards
John Mitchell: Guitars
Steve Christey: Drums
Hugh McDowell: Cello

Essential For Fans Of:
Asia
Track Listing
The Die is Cast *
Finger on the Trigger *
Reflections (of my life) *
To Catch a Thief
Tears of Joy
Shannon *
The Hanging Tree
The Glory of Winning
Whirlpool
Rubicon *

--*Best Tracks


29/01/07: Ross S. - restorey2001@yahoo.com
Rating: 95
While the last Wetton Downes ICON album was a tentative step back toward Asia-style music (with 3-4 strong tracks and too many slow ones), "Rubicon" hits the mark. My favorites are "Tears of Joy," "Whirlpool," and "The Hanging Tree" since they reflect the prog influence a little more. For me the only drawback is that John Mitchell's guitar is a little to plain and "metal" for some of these songs. Steve Howe's more unique and artful approach is called for, which means the next step should be . . .

12/12/06: Paul - paul@pagrebo.com
Rating: 88
It's great to hear that classic Asia sound again, even if it has mellowed. THE DIE IS CAST is a great Asia track and one of the top songs of the year. FINGER ON THE TRIGGER keeps things going, though I don't find it nearly as strong as the lead track. REFLECTIONS is a very nice slower track. TO CATCH A THIEF is the first track that clearly would never be found on an Asia cd, and in fact, probably doesn't even belong on a "melodic rock" cd at all. It's still a gorgeous song. TEARS OF JOY is one of only two tracks on this cd that on future plays will be getting the "skip track" treatment from me. SHANNON has a "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" feel to it... mellower, but Asia all the same. THE HANGING TREE is the second weak song on the cd, skip it. THE GLORY OF WINNING is what Asia was all about for me... pompous, over-the-top, goosebump inspiring performance! WHIRLPOOL starts out so promising but loses it's cohesiveness as it plays out. RUBICON is an interesting little tune... slower, but with powerful, and I mean POWERFUL lyrics and performances... pure Asia drama.

Will Asia fans appreciate this? It depends. If all you want is the high powered uptempo stuff, you'll probably feel about this the same way many felt about Def Leppard's X a few years ago. As with X, these are some of the most beautifully performed songs these guys have ever done, but the pace is much slower, perhaps reflecting where they are in their lives now. For me, this is another Top 10 cd of 2006.

07/12/06: Axe-Machine - info@hugomusic.net
Rating: 87
Kicking the drink has obviously worked wonders for Wettons voice, as this is the best he has sounded since Battle Lines. The first two songs must surely be among the songs of the year and are just total AOR perfection, done the way Asia used to in their heyday. Reflections, The Glory of Winning, Shannon and Rubicon are other standouts. If they'd added a couple more uptempo tracks this album surely would have been a contender for album of the year. This is though, make no mistake about it, a DAMN fine album. Highly Reccomended!

25/11/06: koogles - endangeredcds@hotmail.com
Rating: 99
The heat goes on! Wetton and Downes re-uniting with Howe and Palmer as the original Asia must have triggered the old chemistry. This is more faithful to the original formula than anything since Astra. The first two tracks are amazing, the huge wall of vocals and Downes' orchestral keys flyin' all over the place... Wetton/Downes have truly outdone themselves with these instant classics. "To Catch a Thief" sounds like an natural extention of "In the End" (from Icon) with elements of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes". "The Glory of Winning" is a truly regal sounding rocker, with loads of Wetton's harmony vocals padding the track to perfection. If you love and miss Asia's pompous past, GET THIS CD!!

25/11/06: Mike Drew - aormike@yahoo.co.uk
Rating: 99
As a rawk-journalist, I have given very few perfect scores in my life 10-year-plus career. But in the next Powerplay Magazine, my review of this damn-near flawless album will be 10/10. Did I mention that I've never been a huge Asia fan? It doesn't matter, as this is near AOR-perfection. Think Asia in 2006 (that's Gary Hughes' Ten isn't it?), think a flawless vocal performance (Wetton I'm looking at you!), add it all together and you have the best album of 2006 so far.

25/11/06: Niraj Kapur - niraj@heavensdelight.co.uk
Rating: 92
Asia were a terrific band. Icon's debut album was too mellow for my tastes and the live broadcast was woeful. So welcome to a magnificent album set against a Roman backdrop. The first two tracks are classic Asia. To Catch is Thief is a heartfelt ballad dueted with Anneke Van Giersbergen. Shannon and Rubicon are also wonderul. Highly recommended album. www.heavensdelight.co.uk

24/11/06: ian - ian_752@msn.com
Rating: 75
The first cd was let's face it BORING . This is much better with more uptempo track's although it does tail off toward's the end of the album . A better second effort but still room for improvement . Now maybe they'll concentrate on ASIA


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