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Easy Livin
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.

Report this review (#26815)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars i found this album interesting. A good fusion of heavy rock with geoff downe`s keyboard arregaments and a new voice, John Payne. I consider it hard to understand at first, but if you finally taste it, you can get really satisfied. A good return of Asia, a good lineup, a good album, maybe not excellent if you expect a progressive record.
Report this review (#26816)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was hearing some of the songs of this album on the radio not knowing it was Asia. I liked these songs very much (who will stop the rain, love under fire, someday & heaven on earth), so I was glad to have them all on one album.

To my surprise I had found out it was the latest Asia album (at that time), I hadn't paid attention to the group since the disappointing new tracks from 'now and then'. in addition to the songs mentioned before there are some more good songs (escpecially the both 'aqua' parts with Steve Howe on guitar), but there are some weaker songs as well, so I'd give normally three and a half stars...

by the way, as mentioned in other reviews, don't expect progressive rock...

Report this review (#47772)
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Exit John Wetton, welcome John Payne. When I bought this album in 1992, I didn't even know John Wetton left the band... and what a change. The style is much darker with less rock songs and more ballads/mellow songs. I cannot say the new sound is better or worse than early Asia, it's just different.

The opener "Aqua I" is a beautiful instrumental with Steve Howe giving a great guitar performance. "Who Will Stop The Rain" is a nice rocker. "Heaven On Earth", "Someday" and "Love Under Fire" are nice mid paced songs with a dark atmosphere. "Crime Of The Heart" is a gentle ballad. "Don't Call Me" is another ballad, but this time a heavier power ballad. "The Voice Of Reason" starts softly then the rhythm changes and the song turns into a pop song. "Aqua II" is a short instrumental - a correct track to close the album. Unfortunately there are really weak songs too on this album - in particular "Lay Down Your Arms" (very cheesy) and "Back In Town" (sounding *much* too familiar to be an original composition).

Rating: 85/100

Report this review (#71091)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have to rate this album 5 STARS!!! ***** Unfortunately, thats only for the cover art! The music was about a dissapointing 2. I bought this CD & Alpha (both Roger Dean artwork) Alpha was reasonably ok, it had a couple of huge hits for Downes, Wetton & co. but Aqua was a real dissapointment. If you want to try Asia don't start with this one. I would only recommend "Asia" or "Alpha" unless you are a serious collector.

I will agree with "Easy Livin" that Someday is the best vocal track on the album, but I don't think its a track. Personally, I only liked the short opener & closer Aqua & Aqua II, I used them as filler back in the days of cassettes. The rest of the tracks are unremarkable tunes, more similar to "Arena Pop" of Bon Jovi etc. than to ELP or Yes (prior bands of drummer Carl Palmer & keyboardist Geoff Downes).

Report this review (#74912)
Posted Friday, April 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars ASIA Renaissance! Alpha, and especially Astra weren't at the level of the first self-titled album, and by 1992, ASIA had disappeared from the music map. However, the newcomer John Payne breathed new life, and this wonderful album is the result. The album doesn't have a weak track, but for me the highlights are "Heaven on Earth", "Someday", "Don't Call Me", "Who Will Stop The Rain" and the two instrumentals entitled "Aqua" part 1 and 2, respectively. I'd wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who liked the ASIA debut album, but they took the sound further, into the new decade with Aqua.
Report this review (#87025)
Posted Sunday, August 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is my favourite Asia album, I picked it up because I liked the albumcover, until then I didn't even know Asia The album opens with Aqua, Pt. 1, perfect opener to the album, Who Will Stop The Rain? is an amazing song that everybody will love, Back In Town, Love Under Fire and Someday are also good songs, not as good as Who Will Stop The Rain?. The Weakest song imo is Lay Down You Arms. All the other songs are nice to listen to and Heaven on Earth is also a good song, Aqua, Pt. 2 is a perfect closer to the album I rate the album 4 stars, but i do think not everyone would like it that much
Report this review (#129269)
Posted Thursday, July 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic Teams
2 stars Asia's fourth studio album, Aqua, began the Payne era for the group. After unsuccessful sales of Astra in 1985 and later their Then & Now compilation (which had four new tracks recorded in 1990), John Wetton apparently became disgusted and left Asia to pursue a solo career (which also was unsuccessful). In 1992, vocalist/bassist John Payne filled Wetton's shoes. Prior to Asia, Payne was in a band called CCCP in Scandinavia, performed backing vocals on two of Roger Daltrey's solo albums, and was considered as a replacement for Jeff Lynne in what would eventually turn out to be ELO Part II. He left the ELO project due to lengthy negotiations with Lynne over the band's name.

Aqua would feature a new guitarist in Al Pitrelli (formerly from Alice Cooper's band, later on Savatage and Megadeath), but Steve Howe would later show up after having just left Yes. Howe's most noteworthy contributions are chiefly acoustical, especially the instrumental intro. While Howe came in, drummer Carl Palmer left during the sessions due to committing to an ELP reunion. He only performed on three songs with session drummers completing the album.

Amongst the personnel chaos, Asia finished the album and had a somewhat successful tour. The group had some success with the single Who Will Stop the Rain?, which got some needed radio time on AOR stations. Strangely enough, Asia released seven singles from this album, though most of them were promotional. These included Who Will Stop the Rain?, Lay Down Your Arms, Heaven on Earth, Little Rich Boy, Crime of the Heart, Love Under Fire, and Back in Town.

This new version of Asia had some resemblances to the Asia of old, but for the most part, they sounded really different. So different that it didn't seem like Asia at all. Partly this is due to a new vocalist that sounds nothing like John Wetton in delivery or performance and partly this is because the songwriting took a different approach. Asia resembled Styx from the 1990s more than the Wetton-era of Asia. It had its combinations of ballads and rockier tunes bordering on hard rock. The overall sound is still an endless group of stadium-anthem AOR songs, even though by this time stadiums were in the distant past for Asia. Payne has a nice voice, so I've always considered that an improvement. Pitrelli does some exceptional guitar work for this style of music and for most of the album, I'm not even sure where Steve Howe is. Howe would later depart in 1993 to do some solo stuff and later rejoin Yes again.

Not a bad effort. Definitely better than Astra and Alpha, but not in the same league as their debut album. Still, it's just a collection of nicely done AOR with barely a hint of progressive rock. Recommended for Asia fans and AOR enthusiasts, but not really for anyone else. Two stars.

Report this review (#162641)
Posted Monday, February 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars The voice of reason

The late 80's/early 90's were very turbulent times for Asia. First, John Wetton left for a short while and was replaced with Greg Lake. This line up did not produce any studio material, but they made a live video for MTV that I would like to see someday. Wetton then returned for another album (Astra), but for this album Steve Howe was replaced by Mandy Mayer. This line up was, however, also not to last for long. Mayer was replaced by Pat Thrall and that line up can be witnessed on Asia's entry in the Classic Rock Legends DVD series. Yet again, things were not to last. For this album, John Wetton left again and was replaced by John Payne and Pat Thrall was replaced by Al Pitrelli. Steve Howe is also present here, though, as a guest on several tracks making it the case that three of the original four members were involved in this album.

Another noteworthy replacement was that of classic cover art artist Roger Dean with his talented disciple Rodney Mattews, clearly an artist following in Dean's footsteps. The cover art is, as always with Asia albums, very nice indeed. And once again the album title begins and ends with the letter A (Asia, Alpha, Astra, Aqua, etc.)

The album begins with a wonderful Steve Howe-penned guitar instrumental that for me is the highlight of the whole album. This clearly signals the return of Steve Howe in the realms of Asia with his distinctive guitar sounds gracing a few other songs as well. The rest of the album is more geared towards slightly hard edged melodic rock with progressive touches. Aqua did not produce any big hits like previous Asia albums. The quality of the songs is rather evenly spread over the album making it hard to pick out any favourites. But for me the acoustic ballad The Voice Of Reason stands out as one of the most memorable songs.

John Payne is a very good vocalist and he is even more convincing on the softer songs than on the harder rocking ones in my opinion, at least on this album. His voice is, of course, not as distinctive as that of John Wetton, but he is certainly more my preferred type of vocalist.

Those looking for geniune Prog will not find too much of it here, but instead you will find some high quality melodic rock with progressive influences. Aqua would be the first in a long series of qualitative, but hardly very inventive albums of which this one is actually the best. You could see this as a transitional album between the classic 80's Asia and the 90's Geoff Downes-led Asia and as such it offers the best of two worlds. The difference between the two is about as big as that between Fish-era Marillion and Steve Hogarth-era Marillion with Aqua as Asia's Season's End.

Very good

Report this review (#178327)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars So here we have arguably one of Asias best albums, only surpassed by the debut and later effort Pheonix. This album has a completely different vibe than the other records when John Wetton was writting, singing and playing bass for Asia, as they went into a very pop- oriented type of progressive rock. Along comes John Payne and turns Asia more into a heavy progressive outfit, with much more thought out lyrics and more intense music. The sound truely does pay off.

1.Aqua Part 1 - A truely inspiring intro, though nothing more than a nylon string guitar with heavy keyboards played over waves and animal sounds. Surreal, in another word. (8/10)

2.Who Will Stop the Rain? - An interesting track. Not as poppy as the previous albums tracks, but still very pop and hark rock oriented type of sound. Not really bad, but the only thing I truely hate is the "Final Countdown" type of keyboard tone. It's way too cheesey, but the song is usually at the top of Asia's game. (7.5/10)

3.Back In Town - A slightly more bluesy and hard rock type of number, and a personal favourite. The track has a feel that cannot be matched and has a really nice vocal part that i truely dig. The guitars in the track are very metal for the times; crunchy and driving. (9/10)

4.Love Under Fire - A great track, though more surreal and much different from the previous tracks. The oriental - esque keyboards in the intro are really something to behold, as they are well played. The song does turn into a slightly harder number, but is well played with intensity tthat is excellent. (8.5/10)

5.Someday - Might be a very standard track as it starts to sound stale with the dated keyboards and vocal harmonies that caress the song. A track that i usually skip because of its almost bland soundscapes. (6/10)

6.Little Rich Boy - A song that suffers from the same thing as track five, as it has ultra cheesey song writing but is well played. The keyboards just really annoy me on it. Great vocals though, i must say that they are pretty much excellent. (6.5/10)

7.The Voice of Reason - A great track with beautiful acoustic guitar. The track stands out for its almost classical type of sound, though the vocals do bring back a modern type of sound. The lyrics are slightly preachy, but the vocals execute the lyrics excellently. I must say as the song goes on, there is some great clavinet that i truely find awesome. (9.5/10)

8.Lay Down Your Arms - A not so great track. The lyrics do not at all connect with me, and it sounds way too happy to me. The big chorus can't even save the track from total "skip." (3/10)

9.Crime of the Heart - Another track I do not appreciated, but i do think that the violin could have gotten the song somewhere. It soon turns into another arena rock type of track, but could have turned into an interesting classical number. Shame. (2.5/10)

10.A Far Cry - The song dosent really connect with me, though it is well played. I can appreciate the great guitar playing during the intro, but the keyboards make the track sound dated overall. Nice vocals as well. (7/10)

11.Don't Call Me - After a rather, umm......"interesting" introductory sequence, the track settles into a more arena type of track that dosent do much for me. Though for poppish rock, it is well played. Lyrics remind me of the old Asia, and not in a good way as it sounds like normal 1980s pop ballad. (5.5/10)

12.Heaven on Earth - One of the last songs is actually one that I can truely enjoy. The opening section is very dreamy, and I can really dig it when the vocals come in with a very smooth type of sound. The track is an intense rocker and I think its a top cut at times when it truely shines. (8/10)

13.Aqua Part 2 - A reinvention off the first track, though I do not like it. Thank god I can just skip the track as it does not hold any staying power. (3/10)

Though some of the tracks I don't care for, the album is very good in Asia standards. Almost a 3.5, but rounded down to 3 because it just dosent have the certain vibe as some of the other albums that I can really get into. You should try it if your looking for a conceptual type of Asia, though it may not be as grand as some other prog rock epics, its mentionable.

Report this review (#308102)
Posted Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars first, sorry 'bout some mistakes because i am french. So my english ain't perfect.

So is this album; as said upper, a kinnd of transition between the wetton end the payne's era.

The whole LP doesn't sound compact for there are some poor numbers on it, but some gorgeous ones. Among the latest ones, "AQUA p.1", a delicious intro to the album, in a very modern- progressive spirit, adding the calm, majestuous and reverb shaped classical guitar of Steve HOWE (unexpected guest !) to the keyboards stuff of Geoff DOWNES; an illustration of what asia could have been and sounded like thru time!

Other great piece (but many don't like it), "back in town", a real good piece of heavy blues meat! there, an illustration of what asia COULD have become (or tried). simple, direct, full of energy but still melodical. I buy!

What to say 'bout "crime of the heart" and how i like that. This intro with the dry solo violin making contrast with the large but smooth piano chords, the heavy drums on the chorus and this tremendous guitar solo by Al "savatage" PITRELLI ! A fu...Good piece of melodical FM hard rock teinted with progressive influences and gimmicks. there an illustration of what asia maybe SHOULD have become.

I have a personnal affection for "voice of reason" with its long previous part, very still, mysterious, composed of golden steel guitars arpeggios and mandolin licks then this more powerful conclusion with heavy bass and drums. Only a few more bars with an increased tempo are missing for making of it the most progressive-like and achieved piece of the album.

Let's take a look too at "little rich boy" for its pretty good ending, fading out trickly and re-fading in with some gorgeous Pitrelli's solo; A good raming heavy stuff close to back in town, good for headbanging!

About the rest? No comment. You can hear it, listen ti it, but you won't really remind it. Like the next asia albums? Or the older ones? Probably... to me, that is almost a kind of trademark: some very brilliant songs among some other dispensable ones. It is a sign of freedom surely but also the quality and failure of asia.

SO? Is it relly a transition album or is it straight in asia's line. I choose the 2nd option but i am still listening today to the very songs i reviewed. So give it a try!

Bye and sorry again for the language mistakes guys.

Report this review (#312473)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars The first album with John Payne taking the place of John Wetton on bass and vocals was a far better efford then both Alpha and Astra, but it was also another band entirely. Don´t be fooled by the booklet photos of Carl palmer and Steve Howe as band members, this is not quite the case. Howe appears more like a guest, adding mostly acoustic parts on some tracks. Al Pitrelli (ex Alice Cooper and future Savatage and Megadeth) did most of the guitars here, with the help of Payne and Anthony Glynne. Carl Palmer left the band midway through the recordings and is featured only on three tracks, the remaining ones were done by session musicians.

Having said that I must say I was impressed by this work. For such a confusing line up and 7 years after their last full studio album, Aqua sounds powerful and convincing. Geoff Downes is a much maligned musician, but thanks to his skills as songwriter and producer, the album has a very cohesive, stunning sound. It is far more darker and heavier than all previous Asia albums and except for the first one, also more inspired and with better songs. Of course nothing here is too progressive per se. It is more on the vein of AOR/hard/melodic rock that they do so well. Payne´s voice is perfect for the style and the overall musicanship is obviously very high (higher than most other bands that pedal on this field).

There is no fillers on this CD and several good tracks can be said to be a highlight, depending on your musical taste. For me Someday is definitly the ir biggest achievement here although Who Will Stop The Rain, Heaven on Earth, Back In Town and the acoustic Voice Of Reason are also great tunes. Great instrumental parts, excellent vocals, tasteful arrangements and a top notch production round up this fine CD.

Conclusion: an excellent melodic rock/AOR album. Quite impressive first for the ´John Payne era` of Asia. If you like this band you should check it out. My rating would be at least 4 stars for a general rock site, but for such specific prog place like PA a 3,5 star rating is more fitting.

Report this review (#345663)
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars I had to check both the CD and my stereo rack many times before it dawned on me that this really is an Asia album. I first thought someone had played a practical joke on me and replaced the Asia CD with a generic boyband CD.

This is an Asia album and it is called Aqua. It is their fourth or fifth album. But who cares. The sound is typical 1980s. The vocals is typical 1980s and you get some boyband choirs and some generic pop/rock instrumentation and sound. There are still bands out there doing this sound. A sound I am as friendly with as anyone is friendly with pest and plague. In short; I grow it in my living room. Not.

An Asia album normally throws up a lifeline in the form of a good song. This album does not have any. Yes, there are some good musicians here. But frankly, they should had been better employed by fishing for eels to supper instead of recording, releasing and promoting this album. It is an awful album I find nothing good to write about. The turkey says kluck-kluck. Join the others.

1 stars

Report this review (#551865)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars Featuring two of the very few, genuinely progressive Asia tracks in the shape of the rather beautiful album- opener('Aqua I') and the final, closing piece('Aqua II') this is nevertheless another helping of lumpen, risible pseudo-prog AOR burnished with the usual condescendingly over-emphatic vocals, simplistic melodies and groan-inducing fantasy lyrics. Coming seven years after the equally weak 'Astra', this would Prove to the first Asia album of the 1990's though by now only Geoff Downes(keyboards, vocals), Steve Howe(guitars) and Carl Palmer(drums) remain from their early-eighties heyday, original bassist John Wetton having sensibly jumped ship. Here, he is replaced by John Payne(bass, vocals) who would go on to become the group's main driving force after the star names began defecting(that is, until Payne was unceremoniously booted out the of the group he had helmed for almost a decade once the original foursome decided to reunite in 2008). Also featuring is guitarist Al Pitrelli, who shares lead duties with a rather disinterested sounding Steve Howe, though the presence of a fifth member fails to add anything new to the group's sound and what the hell he's actualy doing here is anybody's guess. Simply put, 'Aqua' yet again displays the usual paucity of musical imagination that has become Asia's hallmark, and despite the various members celebrated backgrounds the idea that this is a progressive rock outfit is actually rather offensive seeing as the music on offer here - or indeed on any Asia album - has virtually nothing like the creative breadth and scope shown on the (many) albums of King Crimson, Yes or even - most damningly of all - Buggles. Gruesome.


Report this review (#744314)
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm not sure whether Asia needed Steve Howe more than Steve Howe needed Asia in 1992. Howe was out of Yes for the second time, and Asia had lost vocalist-bassist John Wetton. Wetton had been replaced at the end of 1983, but returned a few months later. Howe, of course, was Asia's original lead guitarist, and had played on their two hit albums in 1982 and 1983. His ouster in 1984 was supposedly a condition of Wetton's return.

To everyone's surprise, Asia's 1982 debut album was a huge hit, topping the year-end surveys of both Cashbox and Billboard in the US. But each subsequent album was less successful than its predecessor; the group's 1990 record missed the top 100 entirely. By 1992 Asia was in serious decline. But at that point Howe, who had missed out on Yes's blockbuster 90125 in 1983, was unemployed again after having returned to Yes from 1991 to early 1992.

Confusing things further (at least for me), Howe appears on about half of Aqua and co-wrote just one of the songs (as he had on Alpha, his last album with the group). Howe was part of the tour promoting Aqua, but was billed as a "special guest."

Anyway, it's nice to have Howe back, but his presence isn't enough to save Aqua The opening song, "Aqua I," is Howe's showcase. He can be heard here and there on the remainder of the record, but at least half of the lead guitars are played by Al Pitrelli, and I doubt Howe played anything but leads on Aqua.

There are flashes of splendor scattered throughout the album; in particular, segments of "Heaven and Earth" and "Voice of Reason" are very good, as is the album's lone single, "Who Will Stop the Rain," which is easily my favorite Asia song from the Payne-Downes era. Beyond this, Aqua is underwhelming early-1990s AOR.

I must confess that I haven't listened to every Asia album. The first two were good, but the other three I've heard - - Astra (1985), Aqua, and the final Payne-Downes album, Silent Nation (2004) - - are two-star albums. But of these three, Aqua is the strongest. If you've heard the group's first two efforts and are still interested, of if you're curious to hear what the group sounded like with John Payne as its lead singer, Aqua might be for you.

Report this review (#2217798)
Posted Monday, June 3, 2019 | Review Permalink

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