Album Review: John Wesley – A Way You’ll Never Be

John Wesley - A Way You'll Never Be

John Wesley‘s music has long stood at the crossroads of intensely composition-based prog fusion. While most acts that bear the vague ‘fusion’ label tend to come across as jazz bands that discovered the virtue of rock rhythms (but still always rooted in jazz custom), Wesley fancies himself a fairly impartial arbiter between jazz and rock, to the point where his eighth studio album, A Way You’ll Never Be, could be labelled as one or the other without fault. His influences are much less ambiguous however; King Crimson is apparent in the music’s rhythmic discipline and cerebral atmosphere. The shifting guitar work is quickly redolent of Steve Howe and, depending on the style he’s chosen at the time, his guitar work recalls either Pat Metheny or Joe SatrianiJohn Wesley‘s work is eclectic and varied (I even recall progressive metal traces as far back as the debut), but there’s a strong sense of style and identity here, something many an artist who dared to merge genres has sadly done without.

First and foremost (and this may be what separates him most from the jazzmen) John Wesley is a composer. There are many in jazz and fusion that write material as a staging point for improvisation and spontaneity in the performance. Good improvising is a slice of heaven when it’s done right, but Wesley doesn’t leave anything up to chance. A Way You’ll Never Be remains a haven for Wesley’s expert guitar synth leads, but I don’t think there’s a single measure of music that was devised accidentally. Fortunately, John Wesley has once again proven himself to be a master composer with this sort of style. A Way You’ll Never Be will shift between heavy and smooth passages with a near-cinematic grace, sometimes giving the impression there’s less complexity at work than there really is. Unlike show-y or overtly technical music (an impression Wesley’s music has since drifted from), A Way You’ll Never Be lets the atmosphere and ease of listening through, although you’d be wholly mistaken to assume there isn’t calculus spewing forth from the music’s solid undercurrents.

John Wesley is back this October with his eighth studio album "A Way You'll Never Be."

On A Way You’ll Never Be, John Wesley demonstrates an improvement in songwriting over these past two years comparing to the excellent 2014 full-length album Disconnect; the execution on A Way You’ll Never Be has been polished. As tends to be the case with prog rock, this album puts the virtues of the intellect before the heart; even so, there are some beautiful sections that switch the emphasis. For a song with a length that begs the ‘epic’ label, the title track “A Way You’ll Never Be” is surprisingly smooth for the most part, though it soon builds to a climax worthy of any progger’s ears, complete with eerie guitar sound, with a melancholic beauty offset only by the twitchy prog freak-out that shortly follows it. “Pointless Endeavors” is a fitting denouement to the album, a simple guitar composition with a tugging sense of longing and melancholy. If A Way You’ll Never Be lacks any consistency in its emotional impact, all is well by the album’s end.

A Way You’ll Never Be is another great chapter in the career of an artist I’ve been virtually following for years. Whether you’re coming from the jazz, prog or instrumental rock spheres, a truly gifted composer is hard to come by. With that in mind, John Wesley comes recommended to fans of each and any of the three.

A Way You’ll Never Be by John Wesley is out on October 7th via InsideOut Music.

Tracklist:

1. By the Light of a Sun
2. A Way You’ll Never Be
3. To Outrun the Light
4. The Revolutionist
5. Nada
6. The Silence in Coffee
7. Unsafe Space
8. Sun.A.Rose
9. Epic
10. Pointless Endeavors

Line-up:

* John Wesley – guitars, vocals
* Ian Medhurst – guitars
* Mark Prator – drums
* Sean Malone – bass

Links:

http://www.john-wesley.com

https://www.facebook.com/johnwesleyofficial

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