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Asia - Asia CD (album) cover




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3.16 | 485 ratings

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4 stars I was in high school when ASIA came out, which somehow seemed to make a bad thing worse. Now that I'm not surrounded by people in black t-shirts with Roger Dean artwork badly ironed on, I can appreciate ASIA's debut as a landmark in arena rock, however dubious a distinction that may be. By bringing together members of YES and ELP (plus the Lake-like John Wetton on bass/vocals), ASIA was expected to fill the void left by those bands, but they took it a few steps further by delivering progressive rock's epic sound in the context of mainstream rock songs. The result isn't so far removed from Greg Lake's earlier tales of romance, at least in spirit, but where Lake's songs were pretty Wetton's are powerful; teenage boys who may have liked "Still. You Turn Me On" but were waiting for someone else to admit they liked it first had no trouble publicly pledging their allegiance to songs like "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell".

While this record almost single-handedly established the profitability of arena rock, it's worth noting that upon its release some progressive rock fans were less than pleased. It's true that ASIA invites comparison to ELP ("Time Again") and YES (in Steve Howe's guitar work) some of the time, but many of those band's principles seem to have been thrown out the window along the way. Because those groups themselves had waned in recent years, the change was subtle for some, and in fairness it's unlikely that the four members actively sought to sell out so much as find a common ground for their musical talents. If the material wasn't up to past successes, it's some of the best work any of them have done since. "One Step Closer", one of Howe's catchiest melodies yet, "Cutting It Fine" and "Here Comes the Feeling" are all good tracks. "Sole Survivor" and "Wildest Dreams" are a little overwrought (ELP did a better job of addressing love and war on the same album), but it's apparently part of Wetton's lyrical vision.

A discussion of the band's debut would be incomplete without citing how much better this album is than any of ASIA's subsequent efforts. Was it the beneficiary of stockpiled songs, a creative union destined to implode after one record, an idiot savant of an album created in a blissful vacuum of expectations? Whatever the reasons, the album struck a chord with millions (nine, to be exact), and remains an indelible part of the '80s.

daveconn | 4/5 |


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