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Asia - Astra CD (album) cover




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2.57 | 221 ratings

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4 stars I get a kick out of some reviewers saying ASIA went *too commercial* on their excellent _Astra_ album in 1985. This is an underrated gem with some really great hard rock songs and fine ballads. Too commercial? ASIA were commercial...isn't that a no brainer? But, what we have here is a solid album - even without the great Steve Howe playing guitar. This is mostly a trio album by Wetton, Downes & Palmer with Mandy Meyer(of Krokus) contributing his guitar colourings and rhythms. Palmer plays it solid behind the kit, nothing too flashy but drives the opener _Go_. _Voice Of America_ has some excellent vocals, some of the best ASIA harmonies put on tape. If you enjoy John Wetton's voice, this is some his best singing, especially the closer _After The War_. 1985 was a pretty depressing year for music, really. I mean, Twisted Sister were the hit and Poison were just about to let loose in destroying the ozone layer and the airwaves with their acid washed jeans and hairspray ditties. Let's keep things in perspective. If this were released today with the compressed hot mic world of Britneys and Beyonces, this would stick out like a sore thumb on the airwaves. Critics would rave at its harmonies and driving hard rock and it might even make the top 10. ASIA's _Astra_ was ahead of its time and pretty much an album on an island in 1985, right up there was Rush's Power Windows and would appeal the fans of neo prog bands like PALLAS, PENDRAGON and CASTANARC. ASIA's _Astra_ rocks as hard(maybe harder) as the debut, but doesn't get quite as sappy as _Alpha_. It sounds almost as though it were their follow-up to the debut. I surmise this album didn't get the attention it deserved because there was no tour to support it. That's too bad because they could've done a smash up job with a one-two punch on a live bill with Saga, Rush or Marillion. Ignore the one star ratings here. ASIA's _Astra_ should at least garner 2 stars at its worst, and 3.5 to 4 stars at its best making it a *good* album. Worth another try if you missed it the first time around. _Astra_would also appeal to fans of the Joe Lynn Turner-era of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Midge Ure-era Ultravox. Can you call ASIA's _Astra_ prog.rock? Not likely. But it's a great fusion of hard rock and New Wave. That in itself make this release *progressive* and a fine addition to any listener's collection with an open mind and appreciation for solid songcraft
Gooner | 4/5 |


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