Wetton Downes - Icon Zero album review

Nothing says progressive like an ABBA guest appearance

Wetton Downes - Icon Zero album artwork

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For anyone who finds the music of Asia too progressive for their taste, be assured that this release from John Wetton and Geoff Downes always lands firmly on the AOR side of the rock fence.

Icon Zero is a repackaged edition of the 2002 Wetton Downes album that was a collection of a bunch of demo tracks and outtakes recorded by the duo. Presumably the new title indicates a desire to position this as the precursor to their Icon project, although the material here dates from after Asia’s split in the 1980s, long before the first Icon album was even a twinkle in either party’s eye, eventually emerging in 2005. There’s certainly no mistaking the vintage of these songs as everything is smothered in synthesisers and electronic drums. Walking On Air and Running Out Of Time sound custom crafted to appeal to American rock radio, while I Would Die For You could have come from the soundtrack to an 80s movie, probably playing over a montage sequence. Only You is a rather bland ballad, while Soul is the worst offender on the cheesy synthesiser front – soul being the one thing that track definitely doesn’t possess. Don’t Say It Again manages to get the pulse moving a little, while Kari-Anne, which appeared on Asia’s Live In Moscow 1990 album, is the standout cut with a great riff from Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham and a very tasty guitar solo from Francis Dunnery.

Included here is an earlier demo of that called Oh! Carolann, although what Carolann did to be replaced by Kari-Anne history does not record. We Stand As One features a lead vocal by Agnetha Fältskog from ABBA and is pure radio fodder, a lighters-in-the-air power ballad untouched by any hint of prog. Lost In America is, sadly, not a cover of the Alice Cooper song of the same name, but a rather vapid attempt at social commentary.

Wetton and Downes wrote a lot of great songs together, but this rounding up of the partnership’s prototypes is for completists only.

David West

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.