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Asia - Aqua CD (album) cover




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2.86 | 203 ratings

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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

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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