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Asia - Asia CD (album) cover




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3.21 | 594 ratings

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Moogtron III
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Excellent debut album, and if I was writing a review for an all music site, I would give it five stars. Since I'm writing for a progressive rock site, I have to take off one star, because the prog factor is not real high on the album. A masterpiece of rock it is: the compositions are top notch, and so is the musical atmosphere, and so are the keyboards on the album. Also it is an innovating album in it's own right. Still, a masterpiece of prog it is not.

John Wetton was a member of the band UK in the late seventies, and on the last UK album you could still hear in some songs a real progressive musical point of view. The next band he was about to join, Asia, also had Carl Palmer and Steve Howe in it, so it was looked upon as the progressive hope for the 1980's.

It was not going to happen. Asia had a less progressive attitude than UK. As John Wetton once said in an interview with a Dutch progressive rock magazine: there were people who didn't necessarily want to listen to very long epics, but they were on the other hand also not looking for dance music, but somewhere in between.

That was what Asia was: an in between band: between prog and the simple rock hits of the day. There weren't epics on the album, but also not 3 minute hit singles. There were hit singles on the album alright, but they were a bit more challenging than the average radio hit single.

Made in the age of LP's, side one had the more simple tracks, and side two had a bit more adventurous tracks. It is only a small distinction, but you can hear it back nevertheless.

Why do I give the album four stars while it is obviously not a real prog album? Because the compositions, as I said, are excellent, and so is the production. There is a lot of attention to detail, and the music has a definite flow.

The first Asia album is especially a triumph for John Wetton and Geoff Downes. John Wetton, because he writes some great melodies (none of them mediocre, with the possible exception of "Cutting It Fine"), and some original lyrics, and Geoff Downes because he's the main responsible for the great musical atmosphere, with a touch of Asia (the continent) in his keyboard sounds.

One other reason why the album is a milestone: even though the musical direction of Asia is being disliked by many prog fans, I do believe they were pioneering in a new sort of sound: a mixture of prog and pop, sort of a "third way", and I think they deserve some credit for it. Many bands also took that middle way. Maybe you can view upon that as something that has been a plague for prog, but you could also look upon it as a hybrid experiment that opened a lot of doors for new bands.

Asia had a big influence on neo prog, which also simplified the progressive sound of the 1970's, amongst other things by making much less use of acoustic instruments.

The considerable talents of Carl Palmer and Steve Howe don't come out real well on the album. That's too bad. Roger Dean's talents on the other hand shone brightly. The sleeve for the album, as well the front as the back, is one of his best pieces of work.

Too bad that the creativity only lasted for one album. Asia would never reach the heights of their debut, on the contrary. Avoid all further releases. Even the second album is a bad carbon copy of the first album. But the debut is a classic album, pioneering as well as influential, and therefore an excellent addition to any prog collection.

Moogtron III | 4/5 |


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