Monday, June 12, 2017

Total Bass Is

I promised I'd begin to catch up with some of the recent passings via the birthdays of the departed, death posts being about as much fun as having your collection of vintage vinyl stolen.
Everyone dies, but that doesn't make it any easier when you wake up to find out one of the central figures in the music with which you grew up has left the Earth for good. Last January 31st is a case in that point.
That was the day bass deity John Wetton -- also born this day in 1949 -- passed away from complications from colon cancer. I wait for the birthdays to focus on the living part, and JW lived music.
A part of probably more heavyweight bands than any other Rock musician you could name, he was an important part of Mogul Thrash, Family, and what many feel is the toppermost incarnation of King Crimson. He started huge bands too, like U.K. and the zillion-selling Asia.
And played or toured with a bunch of other beloved groups such as Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, Renaissance and Wishbone Ash. His résumé reads like a who's who of the cream of British Rock of the last 50 or so years.
He's also inarguably one of the true titans of the bass guitar, and a pioneer in terms of the gargantuan, often terrifying tone he featured. If you don't know who he is, just listen to the song One More Red Nightmare in headphones and after you can feel your feet again, we'll talk.
That tone; I can't help but associate what John Wetton means to me with that tone. It's not shocking that the line of big time bands that were desirous of his services extended out the door and down the block. To be a bass player and to be recognizable by one note is no easy feat, but JW's monster, face-obliterating tone puts him in that rarified league.
He was also a great singer and a pretty damn good songwriter, beyond his obvious instrumental prowess. Songs like Mogul Thrash's Sleeping In the Kitchen, or Heat of the Moment and Only Time Will Tell from that multi-platinum debut Asia LP testify to this. He wrote pretty much that whole album, and when the follow-up failed to equal its (landslide) sales, the spoiled, fat suits at the record company fired him!
Anyway, let's not dwell on the record industry... life is hard enough. To celebrate what would have been his 68th birthday today, I am posting this tremendous concert of U.K., which I remastered from a master FM reel capture in February soon after he left us.
Watch out for the also-recently-tributed-in-memoriam, arguably extraterrestrial guitar Maestro Allan Holdsworth, and of course the rhythm section of JW and Bill Bruford, fresh from their destruction of so many minds in that King Crimson lineup I mentioned.
El Mocambo
Toronto, Canada
EN FM reel remaster

01 radio intro/Alaska/Time to Kill
02 Sahara of Snow
03 Carrying No Cross
04 The Only Thing She Needs
05 Thirty Years
06 In the Dead of Night/By the Light of Day/Presto Vivace/In the Dead of Night reprise
07 radio outro

Total time: 63:28

Allan Holdsworth - guitar
Eddie Jobson - keyboards and violin
John Wetton - bass and vocals
Bill Bruford - drums and percussion

CHOM-FM off-air master reel, remastered by EN
This is the only FM tape of U.K. not, for some reason, included in the mammoth boxset of that band released in Europe last year. I think I got it to where everything is more balanced... this might be one of those 1970s FM broadcasts where there's no pre-FM because it went out live over, in this case, the legendary and mighty CHOM-FM in Canada.
Straining the mud on these is always a task, as many are recorded with just a few stage mics and a couple in the back of the club. No matter, though, for I took what was there and tried to make it the best and blood-poundingest it could be. .. at least you can hear what Holdsworth played, at any rate.
All this in honor of John, one of the most beastly bass players ever to strap it on, who left us last winter after a 50-year career, in a million top drawer bands and on his own, that can only be described as world-altering. Enjoy and HBD/RIP, JW.--J.
6.12.1949 - 1.31.2017