InsideOut Music recently signed John Wesley to its label, and his new album, Disconnect, will be available March 31 in Europe and April 1 in the U.S. I’m not pulling an April Fools’ joke when I say that it is my favorite album of 2014 so far (despite stiff competition from the likes of John “KingBathmat” Bassett, Gazpacho, and Transatlantic).
Who is John Wesley? Hailing from Tampa, Florida, he’s an enormously talented guitarist and vocalist who has toured with Porcupine Tree, Fish, and Steven Wilson. Check out Porcupine Tree’s DVD, Anesthetize, to see how integral he was to their live show. As a matter of fact, after watching that DVD, I wondered why Steven Wilson didn’t go ahead and make Wesley an official member. His guitar playing and vocals added a new and exciting dimension to Wilson’s songs.
Approaching Wesley’s new solo work, I had low expectations – sidemen often fail to carry the load of an entire album. (Tony Levin is my all-time favorite bassist, but his solo stuff just doesn’t do anything for me.) Suffice it to say, from the opening chords of the first track, “Disconnect”, to the spacey fadeout of “Satellite”, this is a jaw-dropping collection of songs. There isn’t a weak track in the whole bunch as Wesley runs through a wide range of styles, all the while rocking like a maniac.
I hear hints of Pink Floyd in the aforementioned “Satellite”, Rush (none other than Alex Lifeson lends a hand on “Once a Warrior”), and Lindsey Buckingham in “Windows”. “Gets You Every Time” is an aural blast of pure joy in the vein of classic Cheap Trick.
The highlight has to be the transcendent and chiming “Mary Will”. In it, Wesley sings like a desperate man clinging to his last hope:
“In the cleansing rain, you stand by her.
In the roses, miracles will occur.
Never to forgive, never yourself,
Not even Mary’s son dared to offer help,
But maybe Mary will stand for you.
Maybe Mary will stand for you.
Maybe Mary will have a word for you”.
A spiraling, yearning, yet perfectly restrained guitar solo brings this brief masterpiece to a close.
John Wesley is a major talent in rock, both as a performer and a songwriter. Kudos to InsideOut Music for making his music available to a larger audience. Disconnect is a must-have if you value passion, brilliance, and depth in your music.
Here’s the official video to “Mary Will”: