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Asia Astra album cover
2.59 | 280 ratings | 27 reviews | 10% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Go (4:07)
2. Voice of America (4:27)
3. Hard on Me (3:34)
4. Wishing (4:15)
5. Rock and Roll Dream (6:51)
6. Countdown to Zero (4:14)
7. Love Now Till Eterninty (4:11)
8. Too Late (4:12)
9. Suspicion (3:45)
10. After the War (5:11)

Total Time 44:47

Line-up / Musicians

- Mandy Meyer / guitars
- Geoffrey Downes / keyboards, co-producer
- John Wetton / bass, lead vocals
- Carl Palmer / drums

- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (5)
- Louis Clark / orchestration, arranger & conductor (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Roger Dean

LP Geffen Records ‎- GEF 26413 (1985, UK)

CD Geffen Records ‎- 9 24072-2 (1985, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ASIA Astra ratings distribution

(280 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(10%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (30%)
Poor. Only for completionists (13%)

ASIA Astra reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
1 stars I don't get how Howe got on this Dud band but he was the first one to bow out proving more intelligent than his former mates. Of course the need to keep the money coming in was probably the main reason for those albums. I may sound very harsh on them , but really , the music was not groundbreaking , nor was it especially original and certainly not inventive : I think I just made the understatement of the Millenium.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Geoff Downes's keyboards are at their best here!! What a wonderful set of miscellaneous keyboards parts: modern, very varied and addictive. The new guitarist is less good than Steve Howe, but he does a good job, although his sound lacks of depth and colour. Wetton's insufficient bass definitely does't support Meyer's guitar here and that's why the rythmic section is a bit bland, although rather hard rock. But Wetton's lead vocals are excellent, probably at their best too. There are also great backing vocals to enhance the songs. The drums are OK but could be more elaborated. This record is definitely keyboards and vocals oriented: just listen to those very accessible elements and it should be sufficient to appreciate it.
Review by daveconn
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.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Rock and roll dream, A STAR is born

"Astra" is one of Asia's best offerings, with a number of excellent tracks, and a generally more progressive feel than their early output.

"Go" is a fine opener, which finds the band immediately turning the amps up to full, and creating the wall of sound which features on most of the subsequent tracks. "Voice of America" has an anthem feel with lush harmonies and deep vocals giving it real power. "Wishing", a power ballad, has a similar structure, but an even stronger melody and a real hook to the chorus.

"Rock and Roll dream" astonishingly increases the power even further, with swirling orchestration, deep harmonies, and a highly infectious chorus. There's a tension and excitement to the track which Asia exploit to the full, as it builds to its climactic conclusion. Coincidently, there is a passing resemblance to Jim Steinman's (Meatloaf) "Rock and roll dreams come through".

These then are the standout tracks. The remainder are more orthodox offerings from the band, but the album as a whole is excellent, combining immense power with strong melodies, and tight performance. My only criticism is in the sound quality, which is extremely poor. This is addressed to some extent by the version of the album which is included in the double CD "Anthologia" set.

Review by Guillermo
1 stars Between "Alpha" and this album there was a MTV special (released in a video which I have never seen) with Greg Lake replacing John Wetton for this video and a few concert dates in Japan. I don`t know why Wetton was replaced, but in 1984 he was again in Asia. The band began to rehearse for this album and then Steve Howe left the band after conflicts with John Wetton. The new guitarist was Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus). This album has some good songs (tracks 1 to 5). "Rock and roll Dream" is another song about working in the music bussiness and after years of doing it the musicians are tired of being part of the music bussiness (similar to other songs composed by other bands). Mandy Meyer is more oriented to heavy rock guitars, but his sound is not as original as Steve Howe`s style for Asia. So, Geoff Downes` keyboards dominate this album. Downes also has a co-producer credit in this album. The songs are more pop rock than before. The album wasn`t as successful as their previous albums, and there wasn`t a tour to promote it. John Wetton recorded in 1986 an album with Phil Manzanera under the band name of "Wetton/Manzanera" (with Alan White on drums).
Review by Fishy
3 stars At the time this album was released I was a fan. Even though Howe had been sacked during the preparations I thought they delivered an excellent follow-up to the Alpha album. Nowadays I listen to the album with older ears and even turning up the sound level doesn't help. Till today I still find Asia a commercial but enjoyable update of prog in the eighties with the debut album being the most progressive one, Alpha provided a bunch of highly accessible AOR songs but the impressive symphonic sound was still intact. By the time of Astra the band was desperately trying to regain the success of their first albums...

The band kicks ass with the powerful opener "Go" which stayed a concert classic till now. The orchestral keyboards on the background of the chorus did it for me. Although I noticed the guitar licks of Mandy Meyer were a lot more powerful than Howe's, it doesn't do any harm to this track. Other tracks on the first side are less memorable. A track like "Voice of America" has a solid chorus melody and could be related to American gospel but on the instrumental side, nothing really interesting is happening. Maybe a tad better than the horrible blazer section in the keyboards on "Hard on me". "Wishing" may sound like a cliché ballad with a pathetic vocal melody but the classical arrangements saves it from being horrible. Side one ends with the stadium rock anthem "rock and roll dream" . Despite the big sound and the nice orchestral arrangements on the background, it lacks coherence and excitable playing. Side two is better. The massive keyboards on "Countdown to zero" are awesome and is related to a science fiction landscape but in fact the lyrical theme is about the atom bomb. Even after 20 years I still find that synthetic sound extremely progressive and spacey but for Asia the melody line is rather monotone. "Love now till eternity" sounds like a leftover from Alpha. This is a classic pop prog track with a good melody, great keyboards and some unexpected musical interruptions. "Too late" is 4 minutes of uncomplicated streamlined rock with an enjoyable melody. "After the war" relates to the debut album. This track is sounding very pompous, constructed by sound effects from outbursts, many layers of keyboards and guitar riffs. For me this is the highlight of the album because of the symphonic sound and a couple of nice melodies but it lacks coherence.

Just like the first two albums, the production work is splendid though the cd mastering can't top the sound of the vinyl which is quite remarkable. If you find Alpha too slick for you liking you probably won't like this one either although the voice of Wetton is sounding much cooler. His voice and the keyboards may be the strongest elements of this album but what happened to the rest? I miss the delicate guitar melodies of Steve Howe which were lifting up Alpha to a higher musical level. Meyer is fitting in perfectly by adding powerful chords to the massive sound. So is Carl Palmer but any decent metal drummer could replace him without anyone would notice. Like the Roger Dean cover art suggests, the overall atmosphere is darker and colder than on the two previous albums but also more commercial. You can almost smell the marketing strategy behind this album but after it was released no-one bought it and soon the writing was on the wall for Asia but the band would reform several times as the decade progressed. As always in the first carnation of Asia, the melodies aren't bad but the construction of the tracks is simple and predictable, prog fans seem to like the arrangements more than the songs.

Conclusion : I don't think any listener of prog who hasn't nostalgic feelings could really enjoy this album. This album should be rated somewhere between 2,5 and 3 stars.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Of course- this is not the best album from ASIA but it's a good one to have. It's not as good as second album "Alpha" but I still enjoy this album. It's not because of Steve Howe was out that made this album less attractive. The Asia music does not require a guitar player as good as Steve Howe. Mandy Meyer was the name I never heard before but he was doing fine with this third album of Asia. Again, the band gave me good track "GO" from this album. It's basically a simple and straight forward track with nice guitar riffs and sampling drum (or it sounds like that). It's a typical wake-up call track for me that I keep repeating it because the riffs and the melody. Really good to me.

The other good track is "Voice of America" even though it's poppy stuff. Even though it's not as good as previous two albums, I also converted my collection from cassette to CD because some tracks favor me. It's not a bad album but it serves really good for fans / collector. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
2 stars Astra was the third studio album released by Asia. John Wetton had returned to the line-up, but Steve Howe soon left due to tensions with Wetton. He later enjoyed some success with Steve Hackett in GTR. Howe was replaced by Mandy Meyer (Krokus). Many consider Astra to be the worst album released during the Wetton-era of Asia, and I'm inclined to agree with that. It seemed Asia had run out of steam, having few ideas that seemed worthwhile. As expected, public interest waned considerably.

Musically Astra was about as similar to Alpha and their eponymous debut. Meyer seemed an adequate replacement although his performance seemed to take more of a backing role (like Howe's seemed to on Alpha). Still, Asia sounded harder because of the addition. Lyrically Astra was a different animal. Unlike the countless songs about love on the previous two Asia albums, Astra had less of that and more in the political and war themes. However, at best the lyrics seemed uninspired and maybe even a little childish.

Again, Astra is another album in the AOR genre, showing only minimal signs of progressive leanings or tendencies. That's basically what it boils down to. Although Astra is a nice album, it just isn't worth your time if your looking for prog rock or something slightly resembling it. Only for Asia fans and collectors. Two stars.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Hardly a rock 'n' roll dream!

This is Asia's third album and the first one that departed from the original line up. The change is that the great Steve Howe was replaced by Mandy Mayer. Howe's shoes were very hard to fill, and even if I miss Howe here I must say that, surprisingly, the loss of Howe did not disrupt the Asia sound too much. Most of their trademarks were in place here; once again the sound is heavily anchored in the 80's (perhaps even more so than on previous albums), once again the lyrics are cheesy and often clichéd (again, perhaps even more so than on previous albums), once again there is a nice fantasy tinged cover art picture by the great Roger Dean (hardly his best, but an intriguing one) and once again the album title begins and ends with the letter A (Asia, Alpha, Astra, etc.)

As an effect of Howe's absence, the keyboards of Geoff Downes would take a somewhat larger part in the sound and would perhaps be the first sign of what was to come in the 90's when Downes would become the leader of the band as the only remaining founding member. However, they keyboard sounds are, apart from piano, rather electronic sounding. The bass guitar is very timid and can rarely be heard!

Go is in my opinion a stronger opening number than Heat Of The Moment or Don't Cry from the previous two albums and thus opens the album on a high note. Voice Of America has nice melody but features another cringe worthy chorus line that goes 'Voice Of America, Oh! Oh! Oh! America' I wish that they would have come up with some better lyrics for this. And must I mention that there is nothing progressive about most of these songs?

With the slight progressive tendencies and the very high cheese factor evenly spread over the album, it is hard to pick out favourite songs. But the better songs, apart from Go, come towards the middle and end of the album. The closer, After The War, probably takes the price as the best song with some tasteful acoustic guitar licks and finally some more reflective lyrics.

If you can get passed the cheesy lyrics and the flat, distinctly 80's production, there are some enjoyable sounds here for sure. However, this is not an album I would play loudly unless I was home alone and I was sure that the neighbours were away! You might say that this is a so-called guilty pleasure!

If you are a fan of Asia, you should definitely get this one too. If you are not a fan, however, Astra should not be one of your priorities as the band has made several better albums both before and after this one.

For fans and collectors primarily!

Review by obiter
1 stars hairspray shoulder pads obligatory rhyming lyrics clean cut fans with a judicious supply of cigarette lighters for waving at appropriate moments

it's hard to describe such ineffectual non-threatening rock. Imagine Iron Maiden, no Eddie, no denim or leather, dressed in silk shoulder padded jackets. throw in some poodles and lashings of melo-drama, add a dash of Kajagoogoo and A-ha (only without the gritty cutting edge). there's even a little psinkling of Roxy Music in there

it has to be said that this album is one of the most classic 80s soft pop rock albums: it encapsulates a whole genre of music. So, to some extent it could be argued that you should have this album in your colelction because it typifies a style and period so well. Then again, it's a period and style which may well be better buried under a pile of stinking waste guarded by a helpful police man assuring us that we should move along as there is really nothing to hear.

So is it a 5 or a 1? Difficult choice: Topographic Oceans/Astra - Wish You Were Here/Astra

Not that difficult really. Avoid at all costs. There is help out there if you ever find yourself in a confined in a small space and forced to listen to this: remember above all things, maintain eye contact, back slowly out of the room, then in the words of PF Run Like Hell

Review by J-Man
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This was the last album (with the exception of the newest comeback) of classic Asia. After ASTRA they kind of fell apart, but this album's still okay. Their music kind of dropped in quality on this album, and all of the songs are good, but something was lost from the past two albums. Even though this is pop music, their skill seemed to show even less here. Their's really no progressiveness to this album, so if that's what you're expecting, you won't get it. You'll get decent pop music. There's nothing special about this from the rest like there was on their previous two albums. This is the last album that's decent, but isn't great or anything. Buy it if you're a fan, but if not start with the previous two albums.

Review by Gooner
4 stars I get a kick out of some reviewers saying ASIA went *too commercial* on their excellent _Astra_ album in 1985. This is an underrated gem with some really great hard rock songs and fine ballads. Too commercial? ASIA were commercial...isn't that a no brainer? But, what we have here is a solid album - even without the great Steve Howe playing guitar. This is mostly a trio album by Wetton, Downes & Palmer with Mandy Meyer(of Krokus) contributing his guitar colourings and rhythms. Palmer plays it solid behind the kit, nothing too flashy but drives the opener _Go_. _Voice Of America_ has some excellent vocals, some of the best ASIA harmonies put on tape. If you enjoy John Wetton's voice, this is some his best singing, especially the closer _After The War_. 1985 was a pretty depressing year for music, really. I mean, Twisted Sister were the hit and Poison were just about to let loose in destroying the ozone layer and the airwaves with their acid washed jeans and hairspray ditties. Let's keep things in perspective. If this were released today with the compressed hot mic world of Britneys and Beyonces, this would stick out like a sore thumb on the airwaves. Critics would rave at its harmonies and driving hard rock and it might even make the top 10. ASIA's _Astra_ was ahead of its time and pretty much an album on an island in 1985, right up there was Rush's Power Windows and would appeal the fans of neo prog bands like PALLAS, PENDRAGON and CASTANARC. ASIA's _Astra_ rocks as hard(maybe harder) as the debut, but doesn't get quite as sappy as _Alpha_. It sounds almost as though it were their follow-up to the debut. I surmise this album didn't get the attention it deserved because there was no tour to support it. That's too bad because they could've done a smash up job with a one-two punch on a live bill with Saga, Rush or Marillion. Ignore the one star ratings here. ASIA's _Astra_ should at least garner 2 stars at its worst, and 3.5 to 4 stars at its best making it a *good* album. Worth another try if you missed it the first time around. _Astra_would also appeal to fans of the Joe Lynn Turner-era of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Midge Ure-era Ultravox. Can you call ASIA's _Astra_ prog.rock? Not likely. But it's a great fusion of hard rock and New Wave. That in itself make this release *progressive* and a fine addition to any listener's collection with an open mind and appreciation for solid songcraft
Review by Kazuhiro
2 stars It was time of 1981 that this band appeared in the market of music attended with the pronoun of a super-group. And, the set by an already active four people might have been expected as a band that had to call a super-group indeed as a situation at that time. And, there might have been a part where the music journalist in all parts of the world had been doing attention and the expectation for the music character of Asia, too.

The expectation and the expectation where the appearance of this band was held in the music character of the set by an active musician in various bands might have been various. Past following and development of Improvisation. Or, the expectation called it might be a band seen in the masterpiece principle was expressed a little in another form by contraries. It was a music character with the quality in which a flavor that was unlimited and near POP and the element of dramatic were contained. And, the plan by the music of about four-five minutes was expressed as one of the charms of this band.

Their debut albums are put on the market in 1982 and have succeeded all over the world in making respect of marvelous sales contribute. The tune that the single is cut is made to contribute to the market deeply at the same time, too. It is likely to have made the listener announce "Alpha" in 1983 and offer one shape at the same time as an expression of their eminence and the music character.

The band that announces the second album in 1983 accomplishes the event from which "Asia In Asia" is called in December of the same year. This pattern was a content that MTV makes them deliver the concert in all parts of the world by the space relay. The concert that had been held in Japan commemorating the name of Asia was a large-scale content to which the satellite was relaid aiming at the world. However, the situation in the band changes gradually at this time.

Part of secession from temporary band by John Wetton. The band tries to get over the activity at this time as a substitute by participation by Greg Lake though it was in the situation of the predicament. However, Greg Lake secedes the band at once after the concert held in Japan. Perhaps, it is told that there was details set up in the substitute in consideration of the character of the voice of John Wetton and Greg Lake. However, it is said that it was necessary to change the progress of Chord according to the tune. And, the problem by the memory of lyrics might not have been an advantageous a situation at all for Greg Lake.

John Wetton joins the band again in February, 1984, goodness or more leaves, and Steve Howe has left the band immediately after this. Work to look for the guitar player for the band by using the period more than about half a year from this time continues. It succeeds though the rumor of the dissolution of the band went around, too in the embrace of a new guitar player in the band by John Kalodoner to which it takes charge of the director with Geffen as a result. The person was Mandy Meyer.

When April, 1985 was thick as the rumor of the announcement at first, the work of men who had started recording in November, 1984 for the production of the album was whispered. However, the pursuit of an elaborate rehearsal and an advanced music character has spent the period more than half a year by the time it reaches the master tape of the album at last. The performance part of the guitar concerning the recording of this album spends time on the completion of this album by saying that the sound source recorded adding about three guitar players besides Steve Howe and Mandy Meyer exists according to a certain theory.

The part thought about as some respects when thinking about this album might be in the point that the guitar player has alternated from Steve Howe to Mandy Meyer. The sound of the band might have given the listener a fresh impression and a powerful impression by this alternation. A technical part of Steve Howe accompanied individuality. It might be a well- known fact among listeners. However, the performance of Mandy Meyer might be excellent to put out the flavor by making good use of various tones.

Next, there might be respect where the directionality of the band and the union of the sounds were established to some degree by this album, too. The album might be ruled in this album attended with shape being refined for a sense of pop arranged in the whole volume and a dramatic part. It is said that John Wetton that has temporarily left the band writes and there were 20 accumulated tunes or more. In addition, after it joins the band again, ten tunes or more are being offered to the band. John Wetton and Geoff Downs extract the tune that narrows the tune from among this material and collects to the album finally. One mental part might be reflected in the album as for the part where Interior Minister respect of the part and man who appointed the war at the Kon futurity included in lyrics of the tune to the theme is drawn. By the way, "Astra" of the album name agrees with the shade of meaning of space. At first, the name where this album name was called "Arcadia" was given. However, it is said that it changed in haste because Duran Duran used the same name as another project.

As for "Go", a powerful rhythm and a grand melody rule the whole. The sound of the guitar is also variegated. Part of symphonic that flows to the whole. As for an expression of feelings melody, the music character of the band is expressed enough. It might be a tune a variegated sound of the keyboard and to emphasize the music character of Asia exactly.

"Voice Of America" gives the impression to which the sound of the keyboard that flows gently is refined. The sensibility of a powerful ballade that overflows overall is expressed well as a flavor of this band. The melody that rises gradually as a refined chorus and a progressing composition is a feature.

"Hard On Me" might be Rock where a grand melody of the band was expressed enough. The sound and the sequence of the keyboard give the part of symphonic. Twining of the sound of the guitar and a variegated sound also give the band a new impression. The tune has a grand melody as much as possible. The band including the parts of a few POP is performing well.

"Wishing" reflects making the sound in which the age is exactly reflected in the tune. The progress of expression of feelings in close relation to a steady rhythm and complete Chord might indeed have the flavor as Asia. A bright melody and the composition might give a good sense of security for the listener. And, the keyboard and the chorus are having the impression of the tune decided.

"Rock And Roll Dream" might have the part of the ballade with a little heavy atmosphere. Progress of expression of feelings melody. Or, the atmosphere of the tune is decided in union the band. Sound of guitar to give expression to one's feelings. Or, it is continuous of a variegated sound of the piano and the keyboard to introduce into the tune. And, majors Chord twine and an intensely advanced composition shows off proof of which the tune is not simply composed. The orchestra has been effectively introduced in this album. Passage where they exactly also gave the arrangement to the respect will be able to be discovered.

The feature in "Countdown To Zero" is to introduce a sound Kon futuristic. A variegated sound in which it listens to different one after another for the impression of the tune respect as a result might be proof into which they develop further. It listens to respect of dramatic of the tune from solo of the guitar and the introduction of the narration.

The part of the piano and the song with expression of feelings pulls the tune from Intro of the fanfare to "Love Now Till Eternity". The introduction of a grand melody and Syncopation might be the compositions of the tune in which they are skillful. Part of processing of beautiful piano melody and chorus. The processing of the part where the atmosphere of a little parade is recollected and the refined sound is expressed well.

As for "Too Late", the charm that the band has is expressed. Part of minor Chord and majors Chord using properly. Sound of keyboard that gives parts of a few Pop. The construction of the part of the sound of Rock of the guitar to it and the melody has a good flow. The tune gives the listener the impression of Pop/Rock refined as much as possible.

"Suspicion" is a tune with a beautiful melody. Part of song to express melody that gives sound of strings and feelings. Or, the union of the rhythm and the guitar is expressed well. There might be an impression that the atmosphere of the ballade and Rock exists together. The keyboard has succeeded in changing the impression especially by the tune and the expression.

"After The War" is Rock with the flavor of a very progressive part and good symphonic in the content of this album. Aggressive..rhythm..expression of feelings..melody..progress.Or, it is partial where a variegated sound and the rhythm are developed. The music character that the band had might be exactly consolidated in this tune to some degree. The composition is very moving.

This album might play the role of the compilation at this time as their music characters in the studio album that they left in the 80's.

Review by lazland
2 stars It's 1985, and the wheels had well and truly begun to fall off of the mighty commercial bandwagon that was the supergroup, Asia. Steve Howe had left in a huff, only returning for guest spots when Wetton had gone into the sunset, until the much vaunted recent reunion. He was replaced by a bloke called Mandy Meyer, of whom it could be politely said that not many people outside of his immediate family had truly heard of at the time. My research for this review uncovered the ultimately uninspiring fact that he also recorded an album later with Krokus. To state that he was not much of a replacement for a genius is putting it somewhat mildly.

This album is a mess, and that is being rather kind, and a long term future of ever more bland, commercially unsuccessful, releases, twinned with a massive catalogue of completely unnecessary live releases, beckoned.

There are perhaps three tracks on this album which come a little bit close to recreating the glories that were evident in spades on the debut, and sporadically on the second. These are the anthemic openers Go and Voice of America, whilst Rock And Roll Dream is also a good pomp rock track.

There seemed to be a great deal of confusion as to where the band wanted to take themselves, which is surprising given the ego fuelled rows that saw Howe leave under a cloud, disillusioned with a lack of songwriting input. On Countdown To Zero, we even have a hilariously bad attempt at cod Gary Numan type monotones by the once great Wetton.

The remainder of tracks are instantly forgettable pap, and the other feature of this album is just how poor the production is. At times, the band really struggle to make themselves heard coherently, which is a shame, because certainly Geoff Downes' keyboards are really rather good amongst the dross recorded. These are highlighted to best effect on the closer, After The War, which is, I am afraid, no more than a poor man's Wildest Dreams.

This album marked my personal disillusionment with Asia, a phase that was to last until the reunion album Phoenix. It is very forgettable and one wonders at just how three superior, vastly talented, people such as Wetton, Downes, and Palmer could allow themselves to be so let down by a finished product.

Two stars. One that is most definitely for completionists only, and I am being a little bit generous in my rating.

Review by stefro
1 stars The final merciful nail in the coffin of Asia's first phase, this third album from the ill-advised pop-prog supergroup is yet another example of the rule of diminishing returns. Released during 1985, peddling the same brand of anthemic, fantasy-themed AOR as it's predecessors and featuring three of the four original members - former Yes alumni Geoff Downes(keyboards, vocals) ex-King Crimson, UK and Family member John Wetton(bass, vocals) and ELP's Carl Palmer(drums) - and with new member Mandy Meyer(guitarist) replacing the departed Steve Howe(ex-Yes), 'Alpha' manages the frankly rather herculean feat of being even more insipid than the group's previous records. Any progressive instincts from the once revered line-up seem to have been carefully airbrushed out, leaving behind a hollow, commercial confection drenched in glutinous keyboards, simplistic melodies and a startling lack of invention. The album's failure came as no real surprise - they'd already got away with it once - and the Asia name was soon dissolved as the various members sensibly pursued other projects. Very much a product of it's time, 'Astra' is arguably the career nadir for all involved, showing just how far once-great musicians could fall if they really put their minds to it.


Review by The Crow
2 stars A short-lived new phase for Asia!

After the fiasco of joining forces with the missed Greg Lake and parting ways with Steve Howe, Asia tried to retrieve the right path with Astra, joining with the young and talented guitarist Mandy Meyer. But the result was an uninspired and very foreseeable album with some of the lowest moments in the band's history.

Meyer's heavier approach to prog gave some of the song a litter "heavier" feeling, but that was not enough to recover the energy and strong songwriting that Asia had on their first album. Let's talk about the songs...

Go is a lousy attempt to make another hit, just very predictable. Voice of America lacks some kind of hook, and its chorus is a just shameful. Hard on Me is better, a good AOR song with strong riffs. One of the highlights? of the album. It strangely remembers me of what John Payne would make in this band years later.

Whishing opens with a beautiful keyboard arrangement, but after that it turns into a poppy AOR tune which lacks real interest beyond its beautiful guitar bridge. But while Rock and Roll Dream is an obvious attempt to make something progressive and symphonic, is by far the best track on the album. And the funniest moment despite its repetitive chorus.

But then comes Countdown to Zero, a pitiful ecological song with bad songwriting. And so, the album goes on till the end... Love Now till Eternity is just uninspired, Too Late is another lousy attempt to make a hit, and Suspicion is far from being memorable despite its good keyboard solo.

After the War is another attempt to sound progressive and symphonic, but it's just pompous. But it contains a good guitar solo and good guitar melodies, giving an idea of how good Meyer really was and how wasted he was in this record.

Conclusion: the first Asia album were by no mean great records, but pretty enjoyable nevertheless. But this Astra does not reach the good copositive level of Asia and Alpha, despite its good guitars and lavish production, making hearing this disc a boring and uninteresting experience, despite a pair of good songs. For this reason, I consider this album worthy just for fans of Asia's first era, is there are still some out there.

Best Tracks: Hard on Me, Rock and Roll Dream.

My rating: **

Review by patrickq
2 stars I'm a fan of Steve Howe, so maybe that's why I think Astra is where Asia went wrong. Other than Howe's absence, Astra was written, performed, and produced by the same people who wrote, performed, and produced Asia's first two albums, Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983).

Actually, there's one other difference: whereas those first albums had been produced by Mike Stone, Astra was produced by Stone and Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes. Perhaps this was the point at which Downes's control of the band began. Even by 1985, Downes and drummer Carl Palmer were the only two continuous members of Asia, and Downes would become the only original member when Palmer left in 1991. Although he seemed to be a quiet partner in the Buggles (1979-1981), Yes (1980), and Asia (1981 - ), Downes apparently desired to be a producer as well - - perhaps like Trevor Horn, his Buggles partner. In fact, according to plenty of sources on the internet, he "worked extensively as a producer with such acts as Mike Oldfield, Thompson Twins, and GTR." I'm not sure "extensively" is accurate; as far as I can tell, he co-produced one song for Oldfield ("Magic Touch," 1986) and another for Thompson Twins ("Nothing in Common," 1987). He did produce the entire GTR album (1986), although I'm not sure that's something to be proud of. What all of these works have in common is a short-lived, electronics-heavy rock exemplified by Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 1986 album Liverpool.

Astra has much the same sound. But while "Magic Touch" and "Nothing in Common" were good songs, the songwriting on Astra was relatively poor. The lead single "Go" is pretty good, and I have to admit that as much as I want to hate it, "Rock and Roll Dream" has an awfully catchy chorus. But there's not even a "When the Heart Rules the Mind" here. Perhaps not surprisingly, the tour to support Astra was cancelled.

I'm tempted to suggest that the ill-fitting production style of Astra would never have happened without Howe, but Howe was the one who wanted Downes as the producer for GTR. The real problem is the quality of the songs themselves - - and Howe hadn't written that much of Asia's first two albums anyway.

Astra isn't completely terrible, but it's inessential for anyone other than Asia collectors or completists. "Go" is available on most of the group's greatest-hits albums and as a standalone download. I'd suggest listening to Asia first, and if you like that, Alpha.

Latest members reviews

3 stars I continue to the third Asia album from 1985 called "Astra" and just as their previous one "Alpha" did I like it. I haven't heard their first, I have to remind me to do it. Now the cover doesn't go in bright happy colours, now it's purple and dark. It's like someone, a girl in outer space with a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1280567) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Sunday, September 21, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars The main problem with 'Astra' lies in a quaility of songwriting. The album is composed of mediocre numbers with rudimentary melodies which go nowhere. Maybe there are a couple of songs that justify 'Astra's existance, but I'm not sure. If I were in a position to salvage one or two songs from t ... (read more)

Report this review (#992984) | Posted by Shad | Sunday, July 7, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars If an album is meant to tell the story about the 1980s AOR and plenty-of-hair rock scene, this album may be the one. This album is the follow up to the not so great Alpha album. Steve Howe also left Asia and Mandy Mayer is the guitarist here. Mostly guitar solos, that is. There is plenty of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#491633) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Thursday, July 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It is a bit unfair to review Asia abums as if they were a truly progressive band. It may not be the case, but that doesn't mean that the music is not good. This third album from the band is very underated. Maybe the fact that Steve Howe was no longer there did not please certain fans/critic ... (read more)

Report this review (#377873) | Posted by SEV1 | Monday, January 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Well I have to write this to restore some balance.... Asia may not be the prog giants that Floyd, Yes and Genesis were, but they did at least bring a flavour of the genre to the masses. Personally I don't see much to choose between their first 3 albums. Astra does have harder edged guitar cou ... (read more)

Report this review (#308002) | Posted by gingernut | Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Though I enjoy some songs that Asia have made, I certainly do not enjoy most of their releases. A good half of their material sounds exactly the same as the song before it, but that dosen't really matter here. Sometimes the formula works, and sometimes it dosen't; it does not work at all her ... (read more)

Report this review (#307989) | Posted by Jazzywoman | Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I read a positive review of this album and had to second the opinion. People unjustly dump on this album because Howe has departed and then label it as overtly pop. Steve Howe is not missed by me at all on this album, as Mandy Meyer powerfully and melodically backs the core of Asia which is ... (read more)

Report this review (#197431) | Posted by danzx | Monday, January 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The last album of classic Asia... or actually, almost-classic Asia as Steve Howe already had to leave the band after troubles within the band, first forcing John Wetton to leave, but finally leaving the shortest straw to Howe, who was replaced by Mandy Meyer. It's not that surprising that this ... (read more)

Report this review (#137399) | Posted by Casartelli | Sunday, September 9, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars After "Alpha" Steve Howe has been fired of Asia ( or quit the band, it depends of the version) . And in definitive it's a good news .... Mandy Meyer isn't a guitar's genious but he plays what is necessary to this kind of music : good riffs, good solos. John wetton seems to refind a little bit ... (read more)

Report this review (#26796) | Posted by H.NOT | Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As far as the John Wetton-era Asia albums go, this is probably my favourite. And yes, I am not ashamed to admit I am an Asia fan. Astra goes for a more symphonic sound than their earlier releases, but to me it is that epic style of melodic rock that made Asia such a wonderful listen. Sure it i ... (read more)

Report this review (#26794) | Posted by Rob The Good | Saturday, February 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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