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Asia - Astra CD (album) cover




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2.57 | 221 ratings

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2 stars I 'm actually more disappointed in Roger Dean for illustrating this album than ASIA for making it, since no one really had high expectations after "Alpha". But there was that album cover, and with a Pavlovian response born of countless YES purchases I found myself leaving the store with "Astra". It is a better record than "Alpha", perhaps because the band had more time to write new material. The loss of guitarist Steve HOWE isn't the crushing blow it would seem, largely because replacement Mandy Meyer (of KROKUS of course) is buried in the mix much as HOWE was on their last record.

Like "Alpha", the songs are written almost exclusively by Geoff Downes and John WETTON (Carl PALMER gets a couple of cowriting credits) and go only so far as WETTON's voice and Downes' keyboards can carry them. No longer obsessed with failed romance, WETTON returns to his old topical haunts for aggressive numbers like "Go," "After the War" and "Countdown to Zero". There are still some wimpy ballads to watch out for - "Wishing" and "Hard on Me" in particular - but not all of the slow numbers are bad. "Love Now Till Eternity" is one of their best ballads, and "Voice of America" is wistful in a "Video Killed the Radio Star" way.

"Astra" turned out to be the last album from ASIA for a while, the band re-forming in 1990 with guitarist Pat Thrall replacing Meyer. A handful of tracks from here have since found their way into the band's concert repertoire, including "Rock and Roll Dream," which would seem to take a hard but honest appraisal of the band's rock star status. "Astra" isn't the precipitous drop in product that "Alpha" was, but it still finds the band stumped for a fitting follow-up to their debut.

daveconn | 2/5 |


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