Album Reviews

John Wesley- Disconnect

I can’t think of a musician who has danced around the circles I love as much as John Wesley. He was a steady opener for Marillion, a favorite band of mine, for many tours. He was touring guitarist for former Marillion frontman Fish, arguably my favorite vocalist and lyricist, and even co-wrote his Fellini Days album with him. He was also deeply involved with Porcupine Tree as their touring guitarist for the last four album tours. In the midst of all this though was one aspect of him that I never took the time to dig into, his solo work, a solid seven album run dating back twenty years. Having greatly admired his craft on so many other fronts, I made sure that his eighth studio release, Disconnect, got my full attention.

Amid all the various acts he has played with, his solo career has been a steady backbone for Wesley. Disconnect represents his eighth studio release dating back to 1994’s Under the Red and White Sky. On this release, Wesley is on the lead guitar and vocals. Joining him are Dean Tidey on guitar, Mark Prator on drums, and Patrick Bettison, who collectively have a list of recording, performing, and engineering credits that could span continents. With such a tremendous amount of talent and experience behind the project, how could Disconnect be anything but amazing?

Well folks, it is.

First, let me take a moment first to get the blatantly obvious out of the way. Wesley can play. Not the “has good chops” way, or “is technically skilled” way. There is a fine line that separates those players and the players who transcend above, those who truly give birth to a soul in their instruments, allowing their playing to bleed emotion. Wesley lies on that side of the line, and it’s evident in every song on Disconnect. No matter what style, effect, or mood he’s shooting for, he nails it, period.

Now, let’s get to the album, which opens with the title track Disconnect, a subtly dark and very moody song, with wailing guitar tones and Wesley’s dour and sorrowful vocals carrying the mood. One thing he does here, and throughout the album, is create a clear and prescient mood with his music, and really letting the listener feel it deep down. Now with the second track, Any Old Saint, the band really opens up the dynamics. Where the opener was morose, this one is truly feeling, on many, many levels. The band really gels together throughout the album, especially how the backing guitar work of Tidey really enhances Wesley’s lead. Of all the killer instrumental moments on the album, this track has my favorite, with the band doing a intensely drawn out buildup underneath Wesley’s truly unbelievable playing. It is wonderfully constructed and executed, and a guaranteed gem for any music fan to listen to.

The album moves through another eight tracks, each of them musical wonders in their own, individual fashions. Once a Warrior is a hard hitting track, atmospheric and spacey vocal sections are interspersed with powerful chords struck deep in the pocket. Window is a more subdued number, with a dreamy and hopeful tone about it, a really lovely track all around. Gets You Everytime has a good pace about it, with catchy riffs all around. Mary Will is a bluesy number, vocally driven, with an intense amount of emotion packed into it. He keeps up with this for the rest of the album, using well structured musicianship and a real sense of feeling to give the listener all he can.

We are soon lead into the album’s closer, Satellite, a brilliant acoustic track with Wesley’s most powerful vocals of the album. He really lets his soul out both musically and vocally here, and it makes for a truly beautiful song. It’s also extremely effective as a closer, as it works to wind down and bring to a center all the myriad emotions and feelings he has been displaying throughout the album. Laid right under the acoustic guitar is a harrowing electric solo that is on par with pretty much anything I’ve ever heard as far as emotion goes. It’s one of those segments that makes you feel, deep down where it counts.

In short, John Wesley and his team of stellar musicians have put together an album that is structurally sound, well written, and brilliantly executed. A solid display of musicianship that delivers an emotional punch on multiple levels, this is an album that should please music lovers from all over the genre scale.

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