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Asia - Aqua CD (album) cover




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2.86 | 203 ratings

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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars File under water

Asia moved towards a darker, heavier sound with this album, which signalled the start of the "Payne era" as it has become known. The following "Aria" album would see them finding their feet properly with a fine album, but the transitional nature of "Aqua" was in retrospect the reason for its comparative weakness.

There was a lengthy gap between "Astra" in 1985, and "Aqua", with only the hybrid "Then and now" appearing in 1990. The "supergroup" status was rapidly disappearing, with Steve Howe only appearing here as a "special guest", the majority of the guitar parts being played by Al Pitrelli. While Carl Palmer is still around, John Wetton is absent altogether. His place was filled by John Payne, who would go on to become a core member of the band. The most obvious difference is therefore in the vocals, with Payne having a slightly deeper voice, less atmospheric than Wetton's, but probably more soulful and equally as powerful.

The standout track by some way is "Someday". At first this track appears a little understated, but give it a few listens, and its majestic power becomes apparent. There's a superb section of the track where it seems to settle down to an almost ambient soft fade, before a real he-man vocal sends the volume and power crashing from the speakers as if they have been bottling it up for weeks.

Many of the remaining tracks are Asia by the numbers. Songs such as "Who will stop the rain" and "Lay down your arms" are mid-paced pop-prog, with the usual catchy hooks, and bursts of Downes' fanfare like synthesisers. There are the usual power ballads too, "Crime of the heart" being the best of these.

Elsewhere, there's a Thin Lizzy rip off with "Back in town", which has more than passing similarities to "The boys are back in town".

Those who enjoy the music of early Asia will probably enjoy "Aqua". While it represents the start of a mild transition in their style, many of the familiar elements of their music are still there. The songs are however generally not quite as strong as those on their previous albums, due largely to the absence of Wetton's writing contributions. This would be largely be addressed on future albums as the Downes/Payne partnership gelled, but here we are presented with a solid, if unremarkable Asia album.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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