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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars A plethora of ballads

This is the second of two collections of outtakes and advanced demos which did not make it onto the bands official releases. As such, this album is very much for fans/collectors only. The period covered by both this collection and Archiva 1 is the late 80's and early 90's when the band recorded the first three albums ( "Aqua", "Aria" and "Arena") of the Payne era. As with "Volume 1", the quality of the music here is understandably variable.

While a few of the tracks are near to the standard of those which appeared on the three albums, it can be pretty clear at times why others were left off. "Archiva 1" is notably the better collection, the tracks on "Archiva 2" being generally dull and run of the mill.

Among the more notable tracks is "Showdown", a rare cover version by the band of a Jeff Lynne track which was a hit single for the Eclectic Light Orchestra. Payne had been involved in the post Lynne ELO Part 2 project, and he and Downes felt the track would be appropriate for the "Arena" album. Due to "musical differences within the band" however, the track was dropped. The version here is certainly inferior to the ELO originals (there is an early ELO variant called "All over the world").

"The Smoke That Thunders" was the first demo recorded for the "Arena" album. It was originally intended that Carl Palmer drum on the track, but as he was unavailable, samples were taken from the "Aqua" album, and "overdubbed in Palmer's style". He is thus credited as being the drummer on this track! It was also intended originally that a vocal be added, but this was never done, the track remaining an instrumental. It has close similarities to the "Sorcerer" track by the Eagles on "One of these nights", which was used as the theme to the "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" TV series.

"Armenia" is probably the best of this bunch. It is a pleasant instrumental of drifting guitar featuring Steve Howe. It was written for, but not used on, the Armenian earthquake charity album. "That season" is another strong piece, being a delicate, melodic track, which almost made it onto the "Arena" album.

A couple of the tracks here, "Moon Under The Water" and "Satellite blues" ended up appearing on Downes solo album, "Vox Humana", but both are dull and unadventurous. Many of the remaining songs are average pop rock, or pop rock ballads. The band's comment about the track "The right to cry" says that it was a contender for the Arena album, but was omitted as it was too similar to other ballads already included. The evidence of this is clear on "Archiva 2", which is rather over-laden with such tracks.

Those who enjoy the music of the early Payne era Asia, will find a few tracks here which are worthy of their attention. In general though, this is a sub-standard collection of songs which were rightly omitted from Asia's official releases.

The packaging includes brief but informative sleeve notes for each track, together with details of who performs on them. A budget double CD collection is now available which brings together the two "Archiva" albums in a single package.

Report this review (#26835)
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars A bunch of unreleased material from the last three albums... part two. And another mix of nice and insipid songs.

I would highlight the songs "Moon Under The Water" and "Don't Come To Me" (nice soft songs), "The Smoke That Thunders" (an instrumental that was supposed to be recorded with lyrics for the "Arena" album) and the closing instrumental "Armenia".

Rating: 73/100

Report this review (#71107)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
2 stars I could literally copy my review of Archiva 1 and just place the same text under Archiva 2. There really isn't any difference between these two archival compilations released in 1996 and featuring outtakes and unreleased material from the first three albums of Asia's Payne era.

Like Archiva 1, the music on Archiva 2 is chiefly AOR material, but quite substandard in quality to the usual studio album output of the band. There was a reason why these songs never made it onto an Asia album and it becomes quite apparent as one fights the urge to press that skip button on their CD player. I suppose the only really interesting song is a cover of ELO's Showdown. Frankly, if I had made a cover version like that, I'd be embarrassed to release it to the public. It really lacks the skill and performance needed to pull it off and comes off as a sad, almost Sesame Street-like imitation.

The other sore spot for me about Archiva 2 was that it and its predecessor should have been released in one 2-CD package instead of separate releases. If I had known the quality of the material on these were this poor, I would have never bought them. I suppose maybe Asia had anticipated releasing an Archiva 3, Archiva 4, etc. It's probably a good thing they didn't as whatever resemblance of quality they had over the first two surely would have dissipated completely with more releases. Funny enough, Asia did release another archival compilation in 2000, which featured a mix of stuff from the two Archiva releases and hits from their studio albums.

I guess this sort of thing happens when a band releases and repackages stuff over and over to milk it for all it's worth. Only for Asia fans. If you're not one, then don't bother with this. Two stars.

Report this review (#163099)
Posted Monday, March 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars Scraping the barrel clean

This is the second of the two Archiva compilations (continuing Asia's long standing tradition of having their album titles begin and end with the letter A). While these albums were initially released individually, they have since been released as a two-in-one 2CD edition. Both Archiva 1 and Archiva 2 cover the very same period of the Payne-era and as such the interest anyone can possibly have in such a compilation is limited, to say the least. Releasing two compilation discs full of leftovers from a period that produced only three original studio albums is really pushing it!

If you have the studio albums Aqua, Aria and Arena you will have a pretty good idea of the type of music involved here. Some songs stick out, however. But not in a good way! Satellite Blues, for example, would certainly not fit on those studio albums as it is totally different from what we are used to from Asia. It is, as the title implies, as Blues Rock number and it is as generic and ordinary as it possibly can get. We also have the Electric Light Orchestra cover Showdown, which is quite painful to listen to (or should that be Payne- full?).

The quality of the material here is certainly much lower than on the studio albums of this period, as can be expected from leftovers. But also compared to Archiva 1, this second compilation is weaker. In a way, Archiva 2 is the leftovers of the leftovers! You have to have some kind of Asia obsession (which is the title of one song here) to be interested in this stuff (and how many people have such an obsession? Not too many, I presume).

If you rate the Payne-era Asia albums highly and you want more of the same, Archiva 1 & 2 are worthy additions to your collection. At least Archiva 1 is. If you don't have those three studio albums, I would, however, certainly not start with these compilations before getting those original albums. Personally, I think that Aqua, Aria and Arena are good albums, but I find very little interest in these Archiva releases, particularly in this second one.

Report this review (#258833)
Posted Friday, January 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars I guess after releasing one archival album called Archiva 1, they had more material from the bottom of the barrel to release an Archiva 2 (or did they release both simultaneously?). I didn't consider the quality of the first one to be worth anyone's time (even mine, which was nicely wasted on it), and this one is actually considerably worse.

"Why did I buy this?" is the thought that crosses my mind while I write this short review. I don't know. It's sort of like the feeling one gets when they buy a salad and there are hot dogs in it.

There's even a terrible cover of ELO's Showdown that sounds as if the Brady Bunch had recorded it. You'd think that if Jeff Lynne had ever heard it, he'd take them to court for ruining his song.

Oh well, pop rock/AOR is what you get on this, and this is the bad stuff that never made it onto their string of 2-star early 1990s albums. Yikes!

Report this review (#510117)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2011 | Review Permalink

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