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Asia - Phoenix CD (album) cover

PHOENIX

Asia

 

Prog Related

3.17 | 136 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars When I heard the band made a reunion concert followed with a DVD called Asia "Fantasia" I already suspected that a new reunion album from Asia original members will be coming out of the way. And when my suspect became reality, another suspect is that the band would follow with another set of tours to promote Asia "Phoenix" and another live DVD for the tour. Let's see... At first I was just in state of "wait and see" and never intended to purchase the album. But when a short message at my cellular from one of my prog friends informing that the pre-order price was just US$ 9.9 .. I then opened up my laptop and accessed my Shopping Cart at Amazon and clicked this album for pre-order and some other new stuffs like Kamelot "Ghost Opera - The Second Coming", The Tangent "Not As Good as The Book", VdGG "Trisector" and others ..

Nothing is Spectacular, but it has never been intended to be, has it?

That's the first mindset that I defined to myself expecting any album of Asia. I don't want to be disappointed expecting something progressively spectacular as it happened decades ago when I got the first cassette format of Asia debut album. I considered the debut album was just a straight hard rock album with some pop touches. So I set it clear to my mind that I do not expect too much from this album, especially when the CD had not arrived yet I read a review posted by someone in the rock music mailing list (i-rockmusik@googlegroups.com) informing that the material contained in this album is relatively weak due to most of songs were written by Wetton and Downes. I understand that John Wetton is a great musician when he is "in the band" like King Crimson or UK. But when he wrote his own music, I really cannot afford to please my ears with his solo albums - all of them are weak, too poppy.

So, my expectation towards this album is just another poppy AOR music with some flavors of proggy guitar work by Howe of possibly jaw dropping drumwork by Palmer (not expecting too much .. actually). First thing that really impressed me is basically the artwork by Roger Dean and Martyn Dean (cover). Well .. I have been seeing this kind of style many decades ago but it still get into my attention. The CD sleeve is 20 pages full colours with great paintings as well as photographs of the band members and their instruments. I love the photo of guitar and drum set. All of them are perfect and this is what I feel buying this album is worth the money regardless the music that I was going to hear from the CD, I really don't care because the artwork is truly five stars for my taste. (Hey, I have never bought digital music through download, because I love CD sleeve artwork and it's an integral part of the album as a total "art product" not just a music product.)

The opening track "Never Again" impressed me at first spin because it has a solid melody and friendly musical riffs, good flow of music. Style-wise this music is a kind of combination between two good songs of previous Asia albums: "Time Again" (debut) and "Go" (Astra). It's so catchy and it blew me away because it has good energy from its rhythm section as well as the melody. This song is easily becoming my favorite. Not just the music, the messages it conveys from the music is also good: "NEVER AGAIN will I bear arms against my brother / NEVER AGAIN will I dishonor anyone / NEVER AGAIN will I wish evil on another / NEVER AGAIN will I spill blood of any mother's son". Oh man .. what a great combination between uplifting, motivating lyrical passages and music flow.

"Heroine" is a mellow pop song with a keyboard intro that clicks my memory to the opening of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes". It's I believe this song is very accessible to many ears as it's romantic with focus on pop music, nothing is truly complicated on its composition.

"Sleeping Giant - No Way Back - Reprise" (8:10) is probably the place where most of you (progheads) are expecting because you can get good guitar fills of Howe backed by Downes keyboard work and male choirs. It flows peacefully during the opening part and the Howe guitar fills make a peaceful feeling. That's basically the "Sleeping Giant" which is followed by a pop rock style under "No Way Back". Not bad at all even though for most of you the passages do not sound something that is "engaging the mind". It just happen in flat mode . I think.

"I Will Remember You" (5:11) is another good song with solid melody, flows in catchy passages and mellow style. The keyboard work that accompanies the Wetton singing is really catchy. The intro of "Shadow Of A Doubt" (4:18) reminds me in parts with "Wildest Dreams" of debut album. But when the vocal line enters, it's totally different kind of music, still in pop outfit.

"Parallel Worlds - Vortex - Deya" (8:12) is another favorite of mine as is the case with opening track "Never Again". It starts nicely with an ambient keyboard work followed by mellow vocal line of Wetton which brings the music in a good flow, augmented nicely by Steve Howe's guitar fills (it's nice, really!). But the beauty of this song is not in the vocal line, it's more on the second and third parts. Yeah . once the vocal line ends, the music flows to transition piece with great piano work by Downes that moves in crescendo as Carl Palmer drumming and vibes follow, backed with symphonic nuance through the sound of keyboard at background. The transition piece is truly nice and it's called "Vortex" part of this song. I believe most of you would enjoy .. especially when Carl Palmer performs his solo drumming in the middle .. WHOA .!!! It's really great, my friends! What follows is a mellow and ambient music using violin-like sound and no drumming . followed by .. oh my God .. this is great .. An acoustic guitar work by Steve Hove that moves in catchy melody. The rest of the music is purely melodic! You can find great guitar work by Steve Howe. The ending part reminds me to Genesis "Ripples" (the middle music interlude part) or Yes "Awakening" the ending part.

The remaining four tracks in this album are all good track in straight forward melodic, light rock music. "Wish I'd Known All Along" (4:07) has good music break in the middle and nice interlude featuring Downes keyboard. "Orchard Of Mines" (5.11) is a pop song, followed in similar vein with " Over And Over" (3:33). "An Extraordinary Life" (4:56) is an uplifting track with its power of the motivating lyrics and its title. They invite us to seize the day, and wake up! And .. again you can enjoy Steve Howe guitar solo.

Conclusion

Nothing is prog here as all songs are basically an adult oriented rock (AOR) kind of music. The composition is good and the lyrics are uplifting. If you like Asia's debut and second album "Alpha", you should consider having this album in your collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 3/5 |

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