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PHOENIX

Asia

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Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Yes, believe it or not the original line up is back after more than 20 years. And honestly, the sound is the same too. Almost as good as their debut in 1982 and quite better than the second album. If you liked the original Asia you´ll love this CD. If you hated the group, than Phoenix is not the one which is gonn change your mind.

It was hard to rate this album since this is much more an AOR work than a prog affair. Still, given the band members background and skill, it is not your average pop rock record. They´re very good on everything they do and there are some strong prog influences on various tracks (More than many of their earlier releases). The songs are all very well done, with no fillers. John Wetton is singing better than ever. Steve Howe´s guitar playing is, however, what makes this album special: hhe may be quite subtle and does not do any flashy solos here, but, boy, does he know how to add great licks and sounds! His phrasing is deep, different and melodic, giveing the songs a depth they wouldn´t have with anyone else. Howe´s guitar give the group a prog edge that was missing even from much of their early stuff. (listen to the second, instrumental passage of Parallel Worlds and see it for yourselves) Production is also superb. For Asia´s fans this is a dream come true: they sound fresh and inspired as their heydey during the early 80´s.

Conclusion: as an AOR-pop-prog-hard rock CD this is a five star album. But in a site like PA I cannot rate it over 3,5 stars: good, very good, but not really essential from the progressive point of view.. Fans of the original Asia, rejoyce!

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#166055)
Posted Tuesday, April 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I consider myself a really big fan of the original ASIA albums and the band's early approach ... so I was looking forward to this new album with the hope that the band could re-capture some of that big triumphant sound.

Granted, I didn't expect a masterpiece -- but I also didn't expect a collection of songs that would seem so flaccid. Aside from 4 or 5 top-quality tracks (out of 12) and Steve Howe's signature sound accompanying all the tunes, much of this album is rather disappointing from a Rock standpoint, let alone a Prog standpoint.

If you are familiar with the band's early work-- then just imagine an album with a bunch of songs similar in style to The Last to Know or the ballady tracks from the Then and Now album. If you've listened to John Wetton's Arkangel solo album-- you'll probably have an even better idea of what to expect. Of course, to be fair, there ARE a couple tracks that'll remind you that this IS still the good ol' Asia you were looking for.

But what happened to the energy of stuff like Sole Survivor and Wildest Dreams ?? Heck, if you're gonna do a bunch of slower material, at least give us some dramatic build-up like you did in The Smile has Left Your Eyes or My Own Time.

I really want to like this album. Unfortunately, I genuinely only enjoy maybe half of the songs... and essentially skip the rest. Oh well. On the bright side: I can squeeze a pretty good 25-minute mini-album out of it.

* * * * songs: Never Again ... Wish I'd Known All Along ... Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya ... An Extraordinary Life.

2 stars on the Prog-ometer

3 stars on the Personal Taste Meter

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Send comments to altaeria (BETA) | Report this review (#168299)
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hm… what to say about this album? A slightly-above-average album. And a bit disappointment from Asia. Underdevelopment of ideas is the main problem with this album. For example, on many songs, choruses are very similar… And songs adhere to a very, very basic structure. The are some exceptions but they’re like more proving the rule. But honestly, after having listened Promo version of this album I expected much, much worse than this. I remember, in my friends house how I struggled listening this album from start to end after about four or five songs.

I must say, my opinion slightly changed after playing an official version of album. This album has an excellent production which made me able to focus more on music, so now I don’t find this album unlistenable at all. The best song from here is definitely Parallel Worlds / Vortex / Deya. Anyway, the Deya part uncannily resembles Love Story melody. Other good songs are rocky Never Again, sweet but pleasing Heroine, melancholic Orchard Of Mines. Extraordinary Life closes album in solid way.

Alibis would be an excellent song were it, as I said before in the context of whole album, more developed. Verse part is a bit to cheesy for me in this song. Also a closing theme could be more developed… It’s otherwise okay, though it could be much, much better. Nothing’s Forever, I Will Remember You and Over And Over suffer from this cheesy underdeveloped chorus problem also… But some moments en these song are really first class, so they have much potential, were they properly used. Shadow Of The Doubt is a plain and typical “Alpha-song” nothing special. Sleeping Giant / No Way Back / Reprise also doesn’t get to mu heart, mainly because the middle part has little correlation with other ones.

I think Wetton was again the main songwriter on this album. With more diversity in this aspect the album do better. But, anyway no song from this album can be named “bad”. Just forgettable at worst. Perhaps few songs from this album could take place among Asia’s best-of catalog, but excellent (especially Howe’s, which literally couldn’t be heard on the promo version) playing make this album worth listening. Not the best alum Asia has done, (and maybe not among the best) but really solid.

3 stars or maybe slightly less… No, alright - 3. A positive result anyway…

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Send comments to Thandrus (BETA) | Report this review (#169413)
Posted Thursday, May 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars When I heard the band made a reunion concert followed with a DVD called Asia "Fantasia" I already suspected that a new reunion album from Asia original members will be coming out of the way. And when my suspect became reality, another suspect is that the band would follow with another set of tours to promote Asia "Phoenix" and another live DVD for the tour. Let's see... At first I was just in state of "wait and see" and never intended to purchase the album. But when a short message at my cellular from one of my prog friends informing that the pre-order price was just US$ 9.9 .. I then opened up my laptop and accessed my Shopping Cart at Amazon and clicked this album for pre-order and some other new stuffs like Kamelot "Ghost Opera - The Second Coming", The Tangent "Not As Good as The Book", VdGG "Trisector" and others ..

Nothing is Spectacular, but it has never been intended to be, has it?

That's the first mindset that I defined to myself expecting any album of Asia. I don't want to be disappointed expecting something progressively spectacular as it happened decades ago when I got the first cassette format of Asia debut album. I considered the debut album was just a straight hard rock album with some pop touches. So I set it clear to my mind that I do not expect too much from this album, especially when the CD had not arrived yet I read a review posted by someone in the rock music mailing list (i-rockmusik@googlegroups.com) informing that the material contained in this album is relatively weak due to most of songs were written by Wetton and Downes. I understand that John Wetton is a great musician when he is "in the band" like King Crimson or UK. But when he wrote his own music, I really cannot afford to please my ears with his solo albums - all of them are weak, too poppy.

So, my expectation towards this album is just another poppy AOR music with some flavors of proggy guitar work by Howe of possibly jaw dropping drumwork by Palmer (not expecting too much .. actually). First thing that really impressed me is basically the artwork by Roger Dean and Martyn Dean (cover). Well .. I have been seeing this kind of style many decades ago but it still get into my attention. The CD sleeve is 20 pages full colours with great paintings as well as photographs of the band members and their instruments. I love the photo of guitar and drum set. All of them are perfect and this is what I feel buying this album is worth the money regardless the music that I was going to hear from the CD, I really don't care because the artwork is truly five stars for my taste. (Hey, I have never bought digital music through download, because I love CD sleeve artwork and it's an integral part of the album as a total "art product" not just a music product.)

The opening track "Never Again" impressed me at first spin because it has a solid melody and friendly musical riffs, good flow of music. Style-wise this music is a kind of combination between two good songs of previous Asia albums: "Time Again" (debut) and "Go" (Astra). It's so catchy and it blew me away because it has good energy from its rhythm section as well as the melody. This song is easily becoming my favorite. Not just the music, the messages it conveys from the music is also good: "NEVER AGAIN will I bear arms against my brother / NEVER AGAIN will I dishonor anyone / NEVER AGAIN will I wish evil on another / NEVER AGAIN will I spill blood of any mother's son". Oh man .. what a great combination between uplifting, motivating lyrical passages and music flow.

"Heroine" is a mellow pop song with a keyboard intro that clicks my memory to the opening of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes". It's I believe this song is very accessible to many ears as it's romantic with focus on pop music, nothing is truly complicated on its composition.

"Sleeping Giant - No Way Back - Reprise" (8:10) is probably the place where most of you (progheads) are expecting because you can get good guitar fills of Howe backed by Downes keyboard work and male choirs. It flows peacefully during the opening part and the Howe guitar fills make a peaceful feeling. That's basically the "Sleeping Giant" which is followed by a pop rock style under "No Way Back". Not bad at all even though for most of you the passages do not sound something that is "engaging the mind". It just happen in flat mode . I think.

"I Will Remember You" (5:11) is another good song with solid melody, flows in catchy passages and mellow style. The keyboard work that accompanies the Wetton singing is really catchy. The intro of "Shadow Of A Doubt" (4:18) reminds me in parts with "Wildest Dreams" of debut album. But when the vocal line enters, it's totally different kind of music, still in pop outfit.

"Parallel Worlds - Vortex - Deya" (8:12) is another favorite of mine as is the case with opening track "Never Again". It starts nicely with an ambient keyboard work followed by mellow vocal line of Wetton which brings the music in a good flow, augmented nicely by Steve Howe's guitar fills (it's nice, really!). But the beauty of this song is not in the vocal line, it's more on the second and third parts. Yeah . once the vocal line ends, the music flows to transition piece with great piano work by Downes that moves in crescendo as Carl Palmer drumming and vibes follow, backed with symphonic nuance through the sound of keyboard at background. The transition piece is truly nice and it's called "Vortex" part of this song. I believe most of you would enjoy .. especially when Carl Palmer performs his solo drumming in the middle .. WHOA .!!! It's really great, my friends! What follows is a mellow and ambient music using violin-like sound and no drumming . followed by .. oh my God .. this is great .. An acoustic guitar work by Steve Hove that moves in catchy melody. The rest of the music is purely melodic! You can find great guitar work by Steve Howe. The ending part reminds me to Genesis "Ripples" (the middle music interlude part) or Yes "Awakening" the ending part.

The remaining four tracks in this album are all good track in straight forward melodic, light rock music. "Wish I'd Known All Along" (4:07) has good music break in the middle and nice interlude featuring Downes keyboard. "Orchard Of Mines" (5.11) is a pop song, followed in similar vein with " Over And Over" (3:33). "An Extraordinary Life" (4:56) is an uplifting track with its power of the motivating lyrics and its title. They invite us to seize the day, and wake up! And .. again you can enjoy Steve Howe guitar solo.

Conclusion

Nothing is prog here as all songs are basically an adult oriented rock (AOR) kind of music. The composition is good and the lyrics are uplifting. If you like Asia's debut and second album "Alpha", you should consider having this album in your collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#170567)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars No Payne, no gain?

While technically the follow up to the 2004 album "Silent nation", this is actually the first album by the original Asia since "Alpha" is 1983. As soon as the opening "Never again" bursts forth from the speakers it is clear that this is indeed the Wetton/ Downes/ Palmer/ Howe line up and not one of the many who carried the name forward in the intervening quarter of a century.

An abortive attempt was made a few years ago to get the four back together, but fell through. Downes continued to work with John Payne under the Asia name, and toured mainly as a support band. While is it great to see the fab four back together, it is a shame that room could not be found for Payne here.

The classic line up had in fact been back together for about a year prior to recording this album, which was also delayed by the major heart surgery required by John Wetton. Initially, they became a sort of tribute band to themselves, touring their first album in its entirety together with songs by their various bands. The chemistry was clearly still there, and the decision was taken to record new material for what has become "Phoenix".

While the familiar trademarks of early Asia are very much in evidence here, with strong melodies, lush keyboards, and fine bursts of guitar, this is very much a Wetton led project. "Heroine" for example could be lifted from one of his solo albums; it bears a pleasing resemblance to "The smile has left your eyes". "I will remember you" is very much from the same block.

There are some nods to prog, at least in a couple of the track lengths, with a couple running to over 8 minutes. The first of these, "Sleeping giant/No way back" has an adventurous introductory section ("Sleeping giant"), featuring Howe in full Yes mode alongside choral ah-ah vocals. The "No way back" section is a far more orthodox piece of Asia pop rock. The other extended piece is "Parallel Worlds/ Vortex/ Deya". This is without doubt Asia's most progressive number ever, building from a melancholy Wetton song through a wonderful instrumental to a sublime Steve Howe guitar concerto. I think it was our fine member Salmacis who compared the guitar section here to that on Uriah Heep's classic "The spell"; how right he was.

"Wish I'd known" actually sounds more like the recent Asia, the song would not have sounded out of place on "Aura". The other tracks here are all fine songs in the early Asia tradition. Here and there we have little extras such as the delightful extended play-out on "Alibis" but generally speaking the songs are tight and instantly accessible. Virtually any of the tracks would have fitted in perfectly on the band's first two albums. Unfortunately, time moves on, and despite its pedigree "Phoenix" will not enjoy the mass commercial success of those albums. For those of us who derive great pleasure from those albums though, "Phoenix" is a superb bonus, running to half as long again due to the CD age.

Having had 25 years to come up with a title, the rising from the ashes connotation is a little disappointing, as is the lack of the traditional "A___A".

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#175372)
Posted Thursday, June 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Asia's original members got together and it is good enough to hear Phoenix.It is the true sound of original Asia based on the melodic prog rock like I call it.There are songs without enough prog,but there are some true prog songs like Sleeping Giant/No Way Back/Reprise,Alibis,Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya.I think this album could be valued 3.3,but not more!

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Send comments to poslednijat_colobar (BETA) | Report this review (#178036)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars As a big fan of Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer and UK, as well as an ardent follower of the individual careers of both Steve Howe and John Wetton, I just had to check this album out. The recent Asia live DVD Fantasia - Live In Tokyo had also impressed me with fresh live versions of the early Asia material (sounding better than ever before!).

Phoenix sounds very similar to the Asia and Alpha albums, which is surprising keeping in mind the time span between those albums and this one. It is very hard to imagine how Phoenix could disappoint anyone, but it is equally hard to imagine how it could blow anyone away - it lives up to expectations very well, but it is almost exactly as we expected it to be. Indeed, Phoenix almost sounds like it could have been released in the 80's, giving us an idea of what Astra could have sounded like if the original line up had stayed together for a third album.

For fans of the old Asia, John Wetton and/or Steve Howe this album will not disappoint. Wetton's distinctive voice and song writing abilities are just as we are used to them, and Howe's very distinctive guitar sound is unmistakeable and as wonderful as always. Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer too are just as great as we know them to be. But, as I said, this album is somehow too close to our expectations; a bit too close to those early 80's albums.

My favourite tracks here are Alibis and Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya (the last part featuring great guitar work). These tracks are also the ones that come closest to being genuinely progressive, I think. Overall, I would say that the second half of the album is better than the first half.

If you love the Asia and Alpha albums, Phoenix is certainly for you. If you hate those albums, then you should really stay away from this!

Good, but non-essential.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#191006)
Posted Saturday, November 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bye Bye Payne...

This is a real good effort from Asia, one of my favourite medallion reunion bands! The sound of this CD pretty much reminds me of the first albums, in fact it could be easily placed as a third Asia album - with the original Line up - as the CD would be recorded at the old 1985-86 days. The Payne Era of the band was forgettable, since their best work "Aura" failed to gain commercial success and John Payne´s voice reminds me some kind of Rick Astley singing AOR Prog. The production is very fine and the sound is very well balanced for the trio Wetton, Howe and Downes (some background keyboards are really too loud in the mix down), however the drums were mixed too much in the background. Palmer work is, as usual, flawless and full of flourishes and perfect technique, but the sound was really bad mixed, specially for the snare drum... Discounting this mistake, the album shows a very good selection of songs, and it is very oriented by melodies. Beautiful ballads (Heroine and I will Remeber You) showcases Wetton´s voice. His bass is interesting in Wish I Know all along, but I don´t understand his choice for finger thumbing the bass way down the entire record and also on the show - Wetton is able to play way better than this! Howe and Downes are very inspired, highpoints to Howe with superb guitar work throughout the album. The opener Never Again is a real good uptempo rock anthem, some flashs of the early eighties sparkled in my mind. Orchard of mines and Extraordinary life are well representants of Asia sound, well crafted... Nostalgy is a good feeling some times...

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Send comments to fredfontes (BETA) | Report this review (#214723)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, well, well. The Original Asia's first album of material of new material since 1983's Alpha. While it's somewhat of a good album, it's not a great album. It seems to be a little too AC-radio oriented, even more so than Aura. There's a lot of great material on here, don't get me wrong, but I think the album could've been done just a little better production-wise (case in point, Carl Palmer's drums) and a little more emphasis on rock a-la Asia's self titled album.

While I was happy to see that the original 4 members of Asia got back together in early 2006 and had put aside their differences, I couldn't help but be disappointed that John Payne, Guthrie Govan, and Jay Schellen were pretty much screwed over in favor of the original line-up reforming. It's like Geoff Downes left Asia... to join Asia. The then-current line-up of Asia was in the middle of recording an album that was to be called ARCHITECT OF TIME and it was going to be released in the late summer/early fall of 2006. It was on Asia's former website, www.asiaworld.org, that it was announced that Payne and Downes had dissolved their partnership and that the original line-up was to reform, not to mention that the website itself was to be dissolved as well.

After the CD/DVD release of "Fantasia - Live In Tokyo," the 3rd OFFICIAL live album and the first proper live release by the original line-up, they seemed to have gelled somewhat well and were playing as if they "found themselves in '82" all over again. My main gripe about that release was, as I mentioned above, Carl Palmer's drums.

Hearing that there was going to be a new studio album recorded by Asia, called PHOENIX, I had mixed feelings because I knew John Payne were going to be non-existent (and pretty much are seeing as the other guys have basically written that era of Asia off, even Downes) and also I figured that they would try too hard to recapture their glory days from the first album and ALPHA.

Listening to the album, it took me a few listens to really get into it, but most of what I heard was very good material, such as "Never Again," "Nothing's Forever," the two more proggy tracks "Sleeping Giant/No Way Back/Reprise" and "Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya", "Shadow Of A Doubt," "Wish I'd Known All Along," and "An Extraordinary Life." The other material is not that great, even I've tried to get into it, I just can't. The ballads "Heroine" and "I Will Remember You" seem as if they're trying to re-record "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" or "Voice Of America." Also the songs "Alibis," which is a leftover song from the ALPHA days, and "Shadow Of A Doubt" both sound like sons of "Don't Cry." It's not a bad thing, but I figured with the original line-up back together again, you would think they would have tried to push the sound forward.

The overall feel of the album has a great atmosphere and even though the band all produced the album, it would have sounded better if the drums were a little more in-your- face, like the sound on the first album or even SILENT NATION. On certain moments of the album, they seemed to be a little buried in the overall mix of the album.

Surprisingly, after the album's release, it peaked at #73 on the Billboard 200, which is the first time since an Asia album charted within the top 100 since 1985's ASTRA. (Sadly, none of John Payne's Asia albums ever charted in America.) Not a bad feat at all.

As for progressiveness, it has a little bit more than ALPHA or ASTRA put together, but as an album, it's very good, but could've been better.

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Send comments to topographic2112 (BETA) | Report this review (#220355)
Posted Tuesday, June 09, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars When I first heard about the possible reunion of the original lineup it didn't feel all that great. The reason for that was had to do with the scheduled performance of the John Payne-lineup at Sweden Rock 2006 that suddenly had to be canceled once the original lineup officially made their reunion announcement. This is why it surely feels good to know that Phoenix managed to more than made up for that temporary disappointment!

Now that I've already exposed my hand I might just as well tell you what it is that makes this album so great. First off, it's the original Asia but that fact only works as a minor novelty unless there is more here. The biggest surprise here is that they actually sound exactly like the band I heard on their 1982-debut album! Phoenix sounds just like if the band's four members had stepped into a time machine and delivered another album in the '80s. The material is just flawless for an Arena Rock band and it was really surprising how the band managed to maintain such a high songwriting quality all throughout the album.

I might just as well go further and state that this is Asia's best album to date. I guess that the golden rule for a comeback album is to keep doing what you do best or in this case did best 25 years ago!

**** star songs: Never Again (4:55) Nothing's Forever (5:46) Heroine (4:53) Sleeping Giant/No Way Back/Reprise (8:10) Alibis (5:40) I Will Remember You (5:11) Shadow Of A Doubt (4:18) Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya (8:12) Orchard Of Mines (5:11) Over And Over (3:33) An Extraordinary Life (4:56)

*** star songs: Wish I'd Known All Along (4:07)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#257484)
Posted Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is definatly one of their best. Following off two of a dynamic duo; the jazz tinged Aura and the dreamy, but very inconsistent Silent Nation, this album really makes the latter look very weak. This album has so many great points, it's almost impossible to name them all. The added progressive nature of the previous bands that the group members were in is much more present now, and effects the music in a way that is almost unexplainable, but in a good way.

1.Never Again - A very rocking number, almost symphonic in places. With the return of Howe on guitars, the song has a truely hard edged type of feel. The lush keyboards give the song a more full feel, and the thumping bass and pounding drums is always accepted. The vocals are standard for John Wetton, though are high quality as usual. Average lyrics, as with most Asia songs. Great opening track to a great album. (9/10)

2.Nothing's Forever - Possibly my favourite track of the album. After a very forceful intro with loud keyboards and slide guitar, the track takes a more mellow approach. It continues this way for a while, and it never gets boring. Nice vocals and lyrics on this track, as the instrumentation backs it well. (10/10)

3.Heroine - Not the best track of the album, but not the worst. A more almost standard type of pop track, but it's definatly one of their better. The lyrics tell a story of a man with a broken heart, something they usually talk about. The track takes on some uneeded cheese with the keyboards, but it's always listenable. (7.5/10)

4.Sleeping Giant / No Way Back / reprise - Possibly the most progressive track on the album, and one of Asia's longest number. The thriving keyboards and excellent guitar playing are always appreciated, as well as the spot-on vocal performance by Wetton and the gang, this track could not get any better. Asia at their most symphonic. (10/10)

5.Alibis - A nice track that almost seems otherwordly in the intro. The track is a very happy and poppy track, and always will get a person in a better mood. The vocals are uplifting, the chorus is always Asia, the drum beat is unusual and well played. Bravo, Carl Palmer. A great way to start the day, in my opinion. (8.5/10)

6.I Will Remember You - Maybe the most ballad like of the tracks, not great lyrics, but the music really overpowers. A symphonic feel that is not commonly found in Asia tracks is here, as they play with a large amount of soul and calm energy. (8.5/10)

7.Shadow of Doubt - Another fine track that seems to be almost as lush as the opening track. Instrumentation is great, but particularly Howe's great guitar playing and Geoff Downe's soft keyboard flourishes make the song whole. (8/10)

8.Parallel Worlds / Vortex / Deya - Undoubtably the best track. The mellow energy and groove the vibes through the track is almost a trance like, though not electronica, as the symphonic keyboards may suggest. The lyrics are the best on the album and totally stray from the norm, which I appreciate. The bass playing that always sets the groove up perfectly take the song to a very parallel world. Howe's guitar playing is masterful, and Palmers steady beat is subdued. Wetton's vocals standout, as his pitch is perfect. A track that you really cannot miss. (10/10)

9.Wish I'd Known All Along - Maybe the underrated track on the album, but it's a nice mellow track. I do like thew way the incorperate some world sounds with the steady and modern bongo beat. The keyboards and guitar remind me of latin music. The track is totally nice and sets a great mellow, subdued mood. (9.5/10)

10.Orchard of Mines - Another mordern track, though not as well played, has a different atmosphere of the other more modern track. The clean playing of the instruments and vocals really connect, though, emotionally, the musicians are a little drained. That dosen't stop the almost futuristic track from being excellent. (9/10)

11.Over and Over - The worst track of the album, though still a good track to listen to outside. I feel a sense of some symphonic folk going on in this track, as the guitar playing is fairly acoustic and well played. The song is weak though, and lacks some force. (7/10)

12.An Extraordinary Life - A great closer to a greater album. The symphonic playing really shines here, as the keyboards flourish with synthesizer, piano, and even a lightly played clavinet that is appreciated and makes the song that much more interesting. The lyrics are fine, and the vocals are even better. The musicans play the best they do here, and the energy level is really high. Top cut, for sure. (9.5/10)

This album is truely great, but I still don't know what to rate it. I was debating with 4 or 5 stars, but I have decided that 5 is perfect as there are very few flaws. The symphonic and world music touches in some tracks are great, and the modern mellow feel is excellent and makes the mood true. You need to get this album if your a prog rock fan or a fan of Asia, as it is one of their best of the originals.

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Send comments to Jazzywoman (BETA) | Report this review (#314351)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The return of the prog supergroup that is Asia. Actually, they hadn't really been away, but I always had a profound disdain for the John Payne era, and this was THE Asia reunion that we had all wanted.

Incredibly commercially successful in their 1980's heyday, prior to egos getting bashed and bumped all the way into band oblivion, this reunion has, certainly in the context of modern progressive rock, been a success, albeit not in the truck loads of records sold in days gone past.

The massive theme of this album was the near fatal heart problems vocalist John Wetton suffered shortly before the project was originally due to go ahead, and, it has to be said, this profound experience led to some of the finest pop/prog being recorded in a very long time.

Needless to say, with such a stellar lineup, the musicianship is superb throughout, and you instantly notice that Steve Howe got his wish to be far more directly involved in both recording, playing, writing, and production. For the first time since the debut classic, his incredible guitar signature comes out loud, proud, and clear. In fact, this is one of his finest works. Just listen to that glorious work on Heroine, a wonderful track in which Wetton gives praise to the support from his loved one when almost dying, and Howe, to these ears, tells the story as well as the lyricist and vocalist himself. It's a wonderful track, very commercial, and very effective.

As well as the distinctly commercial stuff such as the single Never Again, which is good without being memorable, and the incredible An Extraordinary Life, there are also some extremely good pure prog rock moments. For those who remember Wildest Dreams, a classic from the debut, this should not be much of a surprise. The opening to Sleeping Giant/No Way Back/Reprise could almost be from a classic Yes album, with Howe sounding as if he was recording Close To The Edge, Downes a la Wakeman, and Palmer doing a Bruford with percussion, added into which are some memorable choral vocals. The main theme of the track, which commences with a blasting synth solo, is pure progressive rock, jazzy and symphonic in its intention and execution. A superb track.

In addition, Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya features some of Howe's most sublime work, and quite why it wasn't played on the subsequent tour is beyond me. A progressive rock masterpiece, to be sure. Symphonic, melodic, and amongst some of the best instrumental passages ever recorded following the vocal section, it really is that good.

There are a couple of throwaway moments, notably I Will Remember You and Over And Over, but, by and large, this album is a huge success and a masterful comeback, doing what they always did best, marrying commerciality with fine progressive rock. For no better example, listen to the hugely enjoyable, keyboard led, Alibis, which is both a fine pop song, and features some intricate playing beyond the ken of most pop bands, especially without a Steve Howe to play such technical guitar.

The only real complaint I have is that at Cardiff, on the subsequent tour, I went to see the tour manager after the gig, and asked him for a photograph and quick word with the band as a member of ProgArchives. By this time, Wetton, Howe, and Palmer had left, leaving only Downes enjoying a family party (he is Welsh). The manager asked Downes, who gave a resounding no. Miserable ****!.

Four stars for this. This is a hugely enjoyable album and very highly recommended.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#340879)
Posted Thursday, December 02, 2010 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Yep, the original lineup of Asia is back together after more than 20 years. Yep, Wetton can still sing as good as he did all those years ago. Yep, Steve Howe is as exceptional a guitarist as he ever was. Yep, Carl Palmer still bangs on his drums like he did when he was a youngster. Yep, Geoff Downes is still a keyboard extraordinaire. But most importantly, yep, this still sounds like the Asia of the early 1980s. And herein lies the crux of the problem with this group: it has and pretty much always has been an AOR band (and likely always will be).

So if you're expecting something different, in the deepest hopes that these four talented musicians will relive their prog credentials under the Asia name, you're likely to be disappointed. How many more albums does Asia need to release to prove this point?

AOR is the name of the game here, and it always has been, and probably always will be. If you're a fan of Asia, you'll enjoy this. Trust me, I'm a fan of the group and I really liked this return to form. But prog? Related only in name. For fans only.

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Send comments to progaardvark (BETA) | Report this review (#701018)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
2 stars Asia will always be a half decent band that is not sure if they do pop music or something else like that and in the end they rely on their past and on their well know Prog musicians, even not playing Prog at all.

People will always associate them with Progressive Rock even when there's not a slightly Prog element in 95% of the songs...

And don't forget their terrible instruments and production sounds, always trying to get back their 80's glorious past, if they had one.

This album shows what I just said, and it probably can be applied to each and every record they have made in the last 30 years.

'Alibis' is a very nice pop song, tough.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#811014)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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