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Asia - Aqua CD (album) cover




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2.86 | 203 ratings

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2 stars I'm not sure whether Asia needed Steve Howe more than Steve Howe needed Asia in 1992. Howe was out of Yes for the second time, and Asia had lost vocalist-bassist John Wetton. Wetton had been replaced at the end of 1983, but returned a few months later. Howe, of course, was Asia's original lead guitarist, and had played on their two hit albums in 1982 and 1983. His ouster in 1984 was supposedly a condition of Wetton's return.

To everyone's surprise, Asia's 1982 debut album was a huge hit, topping the year-end surveys of both Cashbox and Billboard in the US. But each subsequent album was less successful than its predecessor; the group's 1990 record missed the top 100 entirely. By 1992 Asia was in serious decline. But at that point Howe, who had missed out on Yes's blockbuster 90125 in 1983, was unemployed again after having returned to Yes from 1991 to early 1992.

Confusing things further (at least for me), Howe appears on about half of Aqua and co-wrote just one of the songs (as he had on Alpha, his last album with the group). Howe was part of the tour promoting Aqua, but was billed as a "special guest."

Anyway, it's nice to have Howe back, but his presence isn't enough to save Aqua The opening song, "Aqua I," is Howe's showcase. He can be heard here and there on the remainder of the record, but at least half of the lead guitars are played by Al Pitrelli, and I doubt Howe played anything but leads on Aqua.

There are flashes of splendor scattered throughout the album; in particular, segments of "Heaven and Earth" and "Voice of Reason" are very good, as is the album's lone single, "Who Will Stop the Rain," which is easily my favorite Asia song from the Payne-Downes era. Beyond this, Aqua is underwhelming early-1990s AOR.

I must confess that I haven't listened to every Asia album. The first two were good, but the other three I've heard - - Astra (1985), Aqua, and the final Payne-Downes album, Silent Nation (2004) - - are two-star albums. But of these three, Aqua is the strongest. If you've heard the group's first two efforts and are still interested, of if you're curious to hear what the group sounded like with John Payne as its lead singer, Aqua might be for you.

patrickq | 2/5 |


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