John Wetton | An Extraordinary Life – Box Set Review

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Dearly departed John Wetton surely warrants a sprawling solo career retrospective…and he gets it with an eight-CD boxset called An Extraordinary Life. Although the bassist, vocalist, and songwriter played with bands like King Crimson, Wishbone Ash, Roxy Music, UK, and Asia, what An Extraordinary Life covers are Wetton’s remastered six solo albums, released between 1980 and 2011, plus bonus tracks, and two extra discs filled with rare, live and unreleased material.

It begins with his 1980 release, Caught in The Crossfire and radio-friendly fodder like “Turn On The Radio” and “Baby Come Back.” There’s “Cold Is The Night,” a sweet ballad showcasing some amazing vocals. We move onto the 11 tunes comprising 1984’s Battle Lines. Its anthemic title appears twice — seemingly in different keys with one more straight-ahead and the other a little lighter. Extras like that are peppered into the whole set.

Arkangel, released in 1997 and my personal favorite of Wetton’s solo albums, takes off with its stunning sweep of the orchestral opener “The Circle Of St. Giles” into the catchy “The Last Thing On My Mind.” A similar execution of strings, keys, a strong rhythm, and Wetton’s soothing voice carried over to 2000’s Welcome To Heaven and 2003’s Raised In Captivity. On his final studio album, 2011’s Rock of Faith, there’s an added live cover version of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” reminding us of how much range there was in Wetton’s extraordinary voice.

Across the last two discs, there are 39 live and unreleased tracks, making An Extraordinary Life a truly special collection for Wetton completists. Songs like the super heavy “Sex Power Money” and “Boys Of The Diamond City” show how deep and guttural Wetton could get, beyond what we know of his prog pop roots and balladeering. The set comes with a few trinkets beyond the CDs, including a 64-page book filled with writings and rare photos, all wrapped up in a 12” x 12” box. With the entire project crafted and compiled with the blessing of Wetton`s son Dylan and widow Lisa, there is no mistaking that An Extraordinary Life is the collection the equally extraordinary John Wetton deserves.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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