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ALPHA

Asia

 

Prog Related

2.79 | 310 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars After a stunningly successful debut album that surpassed the wildest dreams of the 80s supergroup ASIA, the band, made up of the 70s prog heavy weights vocalist and bassist John Wetton (King Crimson, UK), guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), keyboardist Geoff Downes (Yes, The Buggles) and drummer Carl Palmer (ELP), wasted no time trying to follow up the multi-platinum super smash that created a new form of progressive pop. Having hit #1 on the album charts as well as scoring a #4 Billboard hit with "Heat of the Moment," ASIA proved to be one of the most unexpected success stories in the new wave infatuated early 80s.

Unlike the self-titled debut which weaved in 70s progressive rock elements that were crafted into catchy pop infused melodic ear worms, ALPHA on the other hand left behind many of the pompous grandiosities and focused more on the pop side of the equation with the hopes of an even more lucrative sophomore experience that would keep ASIA relevant as a new force in the 80s music scene. Unfortunately the album failed to even come close to the debut's phenomenal reception however ALPHA still cracked the top 10 on the album charts and two top 40 hits in the form of "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes."

Despite the album going platinum and keeping the band somewhat relevant in the changing market place, the album is generally seen as a big dud that derailed the momentum generated by the debut and as a result Steve Howe would be the first of the superstar cast to jump ship which proved to be the right choice as the music's quality would plummet to a pathetic low on the following "Astra," an album so utterly devoid of relevance that i scratch my head in amazement that this project was deemed worthy of further exploration.

While ASIA is a group that hardened proggers love to hate, i have a soft spot for these kinds of prog pop projects that focus on irresistible melodies while adding small packets of prog power to give that extra bombast. There's no denying that ALPHA was a step down from its power-packed predecessor but all in all i can't say ALPHA doesn't have many great tracks on it. While side A which was referred to as ALPHA was clearly the stronger of the sides (side B was penned the Beta side), the album contains a wealth of catchy prog infused pop songs that displayed many of the attributes of the debut.

While "Don't Cry" was a suitable first single that barely cracked the top 10, "The Smile That Left Your Eyes" is a power piano driven ballad that i actually love quite a bit. After that the track "The Heat Goes On" is a stellar organ led rocker that displays Wetton's best vocal style, the best guitar work of the album as well as nice keyboard led jams towards the end. The rest of the album starting with "Eye To Eye" seems to be a little more forgettable however as the second side seems to recycle some of the riffs and melodic grooves of the far better ALPHA side of the album. "Never In A Million Years" and "My Own Time" are also both nice tracks.

The track "The Last To Know" initiates the biggest gag reflex as the band was clearly trying to craft the perfect ballad, the sort Celine Dion would make a career out of however "True Colors" exhibits a more memorable keyboard hook with softer verses and more bombastic choruses, however for the most part other than that one track i find it impossible to remember what any of the side B tracks sound like. ASIA had their brief day in the sun and it was apparent that the project was slated to be more of a one hit wonder type project that just happened to get lucky and have slight success on this sophomore unit.

This is probably the time when the band should've just called it a day but to many a progger's chagrin continues to the present day cranking out new products in this style ad nauseum. In conclusion ALPHA is a worthy consideration for roughly half the tracks on board but for only those who don't mind a little 80s pop playing the 70s exploitation game. Personally i pretty give up on ASIA after this album. "Astra" was a major turd in the punch bowl and left me with zero interest in checking out even one album that followed. To me ASIA is a two album band and nothing can convince me otherwise. OK, maybe with Ron "Bumblefoot" That joining the lineup, i'll at least have to consider it.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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