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Asia - Live Around the World CD (album) cover

LIVE AROUND THE WORLD

Asia

 

Prog Related

2.07 | 6 ratings

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uduwudu
1 stars This live album was supposed to represent all that I may have found good about Asia cracking playing even on mediocre material to give their best efforts due respect. It does feature the first album with the original line up; it is a concert and may very well have allowed a development of themes, some additional music, something that might move the debut from 1982 forward into territory that may have been ten years or more prior but was light years ahead of the lack of adventure that Asia represented. Given this was essentially a compilation of live material of recent years I had hopes (not high) of pastures different. These hopes were dashed.

Starting at the beginning ' the art work. It's a gatefold photo of a landscape that could have been used as a model for Roger Dean's marvellous paintings. Some things however, indicate all is not well. The pictures of some men standing on some wooden structures rising into the sky looks frankly stupid ' a bit like a computer test of ideas before being edited out as a bad idea. It augurs badly for the audio content.

Onto the album, disc 1. I had to check my stereo for faults. No the system is as it ever was, fine. So first off the audio is awful. Not, I grant you as bad as 801 Live In Hull (a soundboard so awful it made Phil Manzanera'a band sound like a prog band coming third in a Battle of the Bands duel. But at least they sounded like a prog band. This is Asia of course and most of us know what is not happening.

Okay the sound is a badly mixed soundboard ' I would go so far as to say that some dodgy deal happened that required a license of material to be used by some distributor as someone's recent studio release had not sold well, or something like that. But no one has made the slightest effort to make this recording listenable except for one thing.

The playing is excellent as one would expect from musicians of this calibre. The playing of Carl Palmer is the highlight of CD 1. That's the good bit. However the recording (non production) does not really emphasize this quality. The fluctuating sound (bad panning? no, tape drop outs) only accent the dismal quality of this nasty looking, awful sounding release.

Edits that are particularly bad are the one where Wetton announces they are going to perform Roundabout, this does not happen, ironically it is The Smile Has left Your Eyes. Well, sort of. I like to hear Roundabout sound good. There is another poor edit where Wetton announces an acoustic version of Don't Cry. This song turns up (not next but later), a full band version. Not sure whether I was glad or not as I was one of those Asia 'fans' that after giving the album some turntable time that this was not the right music from these musicians. When I saw that stupid video of Asia dressed up in jungle gear and heard this song (back in the second album release days) I thought that was it for me and Asia.

So the playing is good- the mixing so bad that during one instrumental section I wondered where everything went. It was supposed to be a keyboard solo but rhythm guitar was to the fore. I sat listening to this travesty feeling the blood draining from my face. I had simultaneously purchased a variety of albums raging from Di Meola, McLaughlin and De Lucia's (essential, brilliant and fun) Live in San Fran in 1981 (ironically where much of this Asia CD was recorded), JC Superstar (with Gillan) some Tchaikovsky ballet music, the re-master of the first Yes Album (excellent) and several other albums that were absolutely fine. This one is the only stinker.

Some of the material is from 1990 with Pat Thrall on guitar. I'm sure he is delighted to be so well represented. Again the playing itself is fine but the audio presentation is shoddy. This album boasts the reason why I shelled out thirty five dollars for it; a concert version of the first album. I want my collection to have at least a representation of most if not everyone and this was to be Asia's moment. Bad choice.

Now we find ourselves in 2011 wondering where the quality has gone ' to paraphrase Wetton's impression that 1982 (in Heat of The Moment) needs to be remembered in an audience sing along; clearly Asia are popular live. And well they might be, through the varying mix and post production non-quality the playing is fine; a bit like reproducing a Rembrandt on toilet paper. Post-production values of this metaphor I let you decide'.

So CD 2 began with the live version of the album. It has some improvement. The worst the sound gets is low end distortion at times. How this dreadful production quality can exist in this day and age (most recordings are from 2008) I do not know.

This is another reason to despise the music industry. The contempt with which the consumer is treated merits only the same in return.

I recall a Geoff Downes interview where he described Geffen exec John Kalodner (a dreadful voice and that's only him talking) telling Wetton what words to omit from songs as Kalodner knew what would work (i.e. sell to kids) and what would not ' while Wetton was writing the lyrics. Downes also advised potential Asia consumers / audiences to start with the first album and keep going until you find one you don't like and then stop. I appreciated Downes' candour. I think it was he who wanted Carl Palmer from the waist up. His amazing around the kit work was required ' his rhythm section work was not required. That could be sorted by sequencers. They treated Carl Palmer like this???!

The irony implicit in some of the song titles is quite amusing. Don't Cry ' too late. Only Time Will Tell, like having to hear more of this was something to look forward to. Go'. Gone, Days Like These (bad ones)' Smile Has Left Your Eyes' it never got there. My favourite moment from the first album was the piano solo in Cutting It Fine and this is played well with some improvisation on this 2008 version. Wetton seems proud of the thing ' it's not really a bad album (the debut) but it's not as though it's a compelling listen like The Dark Side Of The Moon. It's a dressed up Foreigner/ Europe type release. As for Praying For A Miracle' well indeed I am. It won't happen.

What was the point of Asia? To get four highly respected rock musicians from the world of progressive rock and turn them into rock stars. Because a rock audience does not know any better is the message here. Almost certainly the first album was aimed at a generic demographic and probably American (being Geffen and looking at their market potential). Make it sound catchy, meaningless, rocky and musical but not so much that people will think it's 1972. History is not respected in a consumer / youth driven world which is another thing that makes a lot of prog rock different, as albums from decades ago may find themselves in a teenage collection.

This live album probably should not be one. This is a badly made, dreadfully packaged, badly mastered, yet well played album. It's the sort of live album that gives this concept a bad name. I once read about live albums being nailed to record shelves as people don't trust the concert performance. No matter how well Messrs Howe, Wetton, Downes and the excellent Carl Palmer play one never knows when it will turn to custard.

Okay it could be worse (just), but it could and should be so much better. Not much can be done about Asia's material, much has been said about its lack of adventure and commercial nature. If you are curious, a collector and see it in a bargain bin for 5 bucks and you have been warned then go for it. Like I say the performances are really excellent, some fabulous guitar work from Steve Howe finishes his section on CD2.

He and his cohorts, and Roger Dean should sue the hell out of the company (Rockarola Records) infringing Priest copyright as well? Rob Halford and co can join in what will be a very popular pastime; that is having the record company bosses killed and dropped into a canal. A tad violent but' its a kind of peace and may signal to the rip-off music industry that this release standard is totally unacceptable. No one comes out of this well.

CD2 finishes with some Pat Thrall moments from 1990 and the quality is as bad as it was on the first CD but with the guitar lancing our brains like boils. Was it really like this in the concert, never mind the release master stage?

Four stars for the idea of a live album version of the debut, four stars for performance and three for choice of material and 1 for poor track sequencing e.g. Heat Of The Moment and Sole Survivor finish CD 1 and are tracks 1 and 3 on CD 2 for example. The 'mastering' no stars, the art, maybe a star for the photo and superimposed birds.

It doesn't feel right to say a general listener will like it this really is for collectors. But beware, there are many fine albums out there and heaven knows Asia deserve a good show case for their undoubted prowess. But this butcher's job of production is not it.

I cannot see me playing this much / again. I prefer to encourage positive attitudes to recordings and by recommending you find something other than this is the best I can suggest.

I hate the idea of giving these guys this sort of rating and it may not be their fault (it's not personal, strictly business). But you, dear music consumer should not have to pay for it either. This is a shameful release by another record company who over-exemplify why the music business has lost 60 ' 70% of its cash value over the past ten years. One star.

uduwudu | 1/5 |

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