Alex Wellkers “Fly Away” (LP)

I began listening to Alex Wellkers’ Fly Away with trepidation. I feared that the European background and his familiarity with English as a second, possibly third, language might make it a difficult slog. Those fears were needless.

Wellkers’ eleven tracks for the album cut across cultural lines. He has mastered English well enough to communicate with global listeners rather than suffering from any loss of accessibility. His command of various musical styles serves him well. There are a variety of influences powering the collection that range from rock to acoustic, and even a smattering of classical voices as well.

I like how he opens Fly Away with a short introductory piece “You Want Us” which serves notice that we’re in familiar musical territory, albeit with a twist. His European background and upbringing aren’t an overwhelming part of his presentation. It does skew the tenor of the album’s material positively. His Germanic accent comes through during each of the eleven vocals. There’s a template guiding many songs that he sets early on. “We Celebrate” and “Making Progress” fuse modern guitar rock, ala alternative or grunge, with a classic rock compositional design. They emerge from relatively sedate beginnings, replete with surprising instrumental touches, and transform over time into full-bodied workouts propelled by his six-string work.

Mixing thing up is well within his wheelhouse. “Grab the Stars” varies the template to memorable effect. I appreciate his ability to marry unusual choices like pairing violin with muscular yet stripped-down guitar. He realizes the potential of this song, resulting in one of the standout performances. The grandeur of “Tu sais que je t’aime”, translated as “You Know I Love You”, is widescreen balladry at its finest. Wellkers isn’t a traditional vocal talent, but capable of captivating listeners with an emotionally weighty performance. The strings and accompanying symphonic qualities starkly contrast with the guitar-centric approach of other tracks. However, it fits Fly Away‘s character and is one of its most memorable accomplishments.

The furious blast of guitar rock provided by “What You Think Right Now” is another of the most memorable moments. It begins with high-wire guitar effects in the first minute that Wellkers sustains throughout the tune, and the crushing power summoned with the arrangement never overshadows his voice. “Amy” is another of the fine ballads marking this album. Wellkers does an exceptional job infusing emotion into each of the eleven compositions, and this is one of the best examples of his emotive skill put to excellent use.

The finale “Do Not Fall” closes Fly Away with abundant dynamics. It’s another of the guitar workouts, but Wellkers refrains from the bruising riff-oriented approach adopted by some of the earlier tracks. Alex Wellkers’ Fly Away is a varied and challenging release that connects with listeners mentally and physically. It holds up under repeated listening and provides plenty of indications that he will be a force to reckon with over the coming years. Rock fans and beyond will welcome his continued presence and find much to admire in this collection.

Mark Druery