Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Prog's pop soul: Goodbye, John Wetton

King Crimson often seemed to want to be faceless: a forbidding, shadowy, even superhuman factory of what would later be termed sheer Discipline. But almost despite the group's inscrutable facade, John Wetton, during his justly legendary early-'70s tenure with the band, gave them not only a voice, but a soul. Even when singing words that weren't his:

The swagger of "Easy Money," the reverie of "Starless," the abandon of "One More Red Nightmare" — his husky crooning, refined in that English way but still brimming with palpable pathos, added warm feeling to match the band's sharp angles, their thunder and noise and muscle.

Not surprising that later, he was the one who helped transmute prog into pop. I'm always happy to rock out to Asia, but for me, who loves songs as much as musical math, the short-lived U.K. was some kind of holy happy medium.

As a bass player too — and, yes, improviser on par with the more widely celebrated Bill Bruford — he was filthy and ruthless.

His bands' names will likely always outshine his own, but they should never be mentioned henceforth without a moment of silence for this great and inimitable talent.

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