One Track Mind: John Wetton, “The Last Night of My Life” (2011)

“Last Night” fades in with a tactile urgency, as Austrian jazz fusion guitarist Alex Machacek plinks, splonks, and then gets all bendy. It’s easily the best performance — and, really, the best track — on John Wetton’s new Raised in Captivity, a record that features a series of heavy-hitting guest stars.

John Wetton, in great voice, embraces a deeply hopeful twist on the old carpe diem theme before the tune doubles back on itself with a flourish. From there, Machacek (who notably collaborated in BPM with Terry Bozzio) begins a whirling display of virtuoso playing, sawing and then whirling, dashing to one corner of his imagination and then to the other. There are pieces of Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa and Mike Stern — but also of Deep Purple and Kiss. What’s interesting is despite all of this content, much of it crunchy and heavy as hell, Machacek doesn’t descend into cacophony. He’s still working within a melodic, decidedly hummable context. It’s easy to see why fusion guitar pioneer John McLaughlin has said “Alex Machacek’s music starts where other music ends.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: John Wetton goes in-depth on a trio of his most important musical stops - Asia, King Crimson and UK - while frankly discussing how drinking nearly ruined all of it.]

Wetton, the former Asia/King Crimson/UK frontman, echoes his own vocals — neatly mimicking Machacek’s brilliant staccato runs, before the guitarist settles into a ruminative series of thoughts. And that’s how the song ends, moving out into an appropriately broad final perspective.

The title track to this new release, issued by Frontiers Records on July 1 in Europe followed by a July 12 release date in North America, finds Wetton reuniting with former King Crimson bandmate Robert Fripp. Eddie Jobson, a former member of UK with Wetton, guests on “The Devil in the Opera House.” Raised in Captivity also features Steve Hackett (Genesis), and Tony Kaye and Geoff Downes, of Yes fame, among others. None arguably makes such a deep impact as does Machacek, an emerging voice on the guitar who deserves wider notice.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.