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ASIA

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Asia picture
Asia biography
Founded in London, UK in 1981 - Hiatus between 1986-1989 - Still active as of 2018

ASIA were formed by Steve HOWE (YES), John WETTON (KING CRIMSON, URIAH HEEP, UK ETC.), Geoff DOWNES (YES, BUGGLES) and Carl PALMER (ELP). They were of course immediately dubbed a "supergroup" (in the way as CREAM, EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER etc. were). Over the years the line up has gone through constant changes, with DOWNES being the only founding member still present (although even he has not been ever present). Greg LAKE passed though the ranks briefly in 1983 replacing WETTON, but his voice did not suit the material, and he left before recording any studio albums with the band.

WETTON's return in 1984 resurrected previous conflicts with HOWE, who left to be replaced by Mandy METER (KROKUS). ASIA effectively ceased to exist between 1985 and 1987, when DOWNES and WETTON attempted to rekindle the flame. They recorded a few tracks together, but WETTON soon moved on again, and DOWNES started working with John PAYNE on alternative projects. In 1989, WETTON and PALMER got back together forming yet another line up with John YOUNG and Alan DARBY. The line up changes continued into the 1990's, with DOWNES soon rejoining and bringing in the since long serving John PAYNE. By 1991, the band still only released three studio albums. With the release of "Aqua" in 1992, there started a relatively settled period for ASIA in as much as the band became very much a DOWNES/PAYNE project, with other musicians being brought in for recording or touring as required. A reunion of the original line up appears to have almost happened in the late 1990's, but the momentum was lost, and it never materialised.

With such well known names in the original ASIA , expectations were high that the new band would produce high quality prog rock in it's truest form. ASIA however had different ideas, and went for a far more direct and commercial sound. The quality of the musicianship was undoubted, but many fans of the source bands were left disappointed by the self titled debut album. Commercially, the venture was enormously successful, with the band enjoying both singles and album chart suc...
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ASIA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ASIA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 520 ratings
Asia
1982
2.80 | 321 ratings
Alpha
1983
2.56 | 244 ratings
Astra
1985
2.85 | 190 ratings
Aqua
1992
2.91 | 152 ratings
Aria
1994
3.33 | 159 ratings
Arena
1996
3.28 | 165 ratings
Aura
2000
3.11 | 153 ratings
Silent Nation
2004
3.20 | 191 ratings
Phoenix
2008
3.11 | 159 ratings
Omega
2010
2.91 | 145 ratings
XXX
2012
2.80 | 119 ratings
Gravitas
2014
2.80 | 40 ratings
Asia feat. John Payne: Recollections - A Tribute To British Prog
2014

ASIA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.79 | 60 ratings
Asia Live: 09-XI-90 Mocквa
1990
2.47 | 13 ratings
Now: Live In Nottingham
1997
2.20 | 10 ratings
Asia Live In Osaka
1997
1.22 | 12 ratings
Live In Koln
1997
2.19 | 12 ratings
Asia Live In Philadelphia
1997
3.15 | 7 ratings
Live At The Town & Country Club
1999
2.75 | 8 ratings
Live Acoustic
1999
3.13 | 12 ratings
Ensŏ' Kai (Live in Tokyo 1983)
2001
1.47 | 6 ratings
Alive In Hallowed Halls
2001
3.92 | 13 ratings
America - Live In The Usa
2002
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live at Budokan
2002
2.21 | 5 ratings
Dragon Attack
2003
2.28 | 8 ratings
Live in Buffalo
2003
2.13 | 4 ratings
Live in Hyogo
2003
1.61 | 6 ratings
Live in Massachusetts '83
2004
2.63 | 7 ratings
Live In Nottingham
2007
3.64 | 54 ratings
Fantasia - Live in Tokyo
2007
3.71 | 7 ratings
Extended Versions
2007
3.26 | 12 ratings
Spirit Of The Night - The Phoenix Tour Live In Cambridge 2009
2010
1.33 | 3 ratings
Live Around the World
2010
2.62 | 15 ratings
Resonance (The Omega Tour 2010)
2012
2.88 | 8 ratings
High Voltage: Live
2014
4.00 | 2 ratings
Live in America
2015
2.75 | 14 ratings
Axis XXX Live in San Francisco
2015
3.19 | 7 ratings
Symfonia - Live in Bulgaria 2013
2017

ASIA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.16 | 24 ratings
Asia In Asia (VHS)
1984
2.36 | 14 ratings
Classic Rock Legends (DVD)
2001
2.20 | 17 ratings
Live In Moscow 1990 (DVD)
2003
3.17 | 16 ratings
America: Live in the USA (DVD)
2003
3.70 | 39 ratings
Fantasia - Live In Tokyo (DVD)
2007
3.60 | 10 ratings
Spirit Of The Night - The Phoenix Tour - Live in Cambridge 2009
2010

ASIA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.50 | 66 ratings
Then & Now
1990
2.17 | 38 ratings
Archiva 1
1996
1.88 | 39 ratings
Archiva 2
1996
3.04 | 8 ratings
Anthology: The Best Of Asia
1997
2.69 | 19 ratings
Rare
1999
3.44 | 20 ratings
Anthology
1999
3.07 | 9 ratings
Axioms
1999
2.33 | 3 ratings
Archives - The Best Of Asia 1988-1997
2000
2.87 | 22 ratings
Heat of the Moment: The Very Best of Asia 1982-1990
2000
3.15 | 4 ratings
The Collection
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Quadra
2002
3.34 | 25 ratings
Asia - Anthologia - 20th Anniversary Geffen Years Collection 1982-1990
2002
3.79 | 18 ratings
Gold
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Heat of the Moment - Golden Hits Live in Concert
2005
2.40 | 10 ratings
Archiva 1 & 2
2005
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Collection
2016

ASIA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.15 | 8 ratings
Only Time Will Tell
1982
4.00 | 5 ratings
Heat of the Moment
1982
3.25 | 4 ratings
Don't Cry
1983
2.20 | 11 ratings
Aurora (EP)
1986
3.00 | 6 ratings
Long Way From Home
2005
2.31 | 10 ratings
Asia featuring John Payne - Military Man (EP)
2009

ASIA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Asia by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.17 | 520 ratings

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Asia
Asia Prog Related

Review by MaxPap

4 stars Asia is one of those 80's albums I found in my dad's small remaining LP collection. He also has Alpha, the second album of the band. He always found the cover of these two records impressive and just straight-up beautiful. And it's true, Roger Dean is a great painter. I'm sure these great covers attracted some people into buying the album back in 1982.

Although Asia is a supergroup composed of 4 well-known prog members (Steve Howe from Yes ; John Wetton from King Crimson ; Geoff Downes from Yes ; and Carl Palmer from ELP), the band itself is not very progressive. It followed the 80's music movement and from the first song, you can easily tell it's a 80's prog-pop style of music. You have to know this before trying the album, as I know some people here got VERY disappointed upon the first couple of songs.

But Asia is not an album that's entirely pop. Some songs (Time Again, Wildest Dreams, Cutting It Fine) contain brilliant passages. You also have the pop classics (Heat of the Moment, Only Time Will Tell), classic love songs but are somewhat enjoyable nonetheless. I personally love the upbeat feeling that "One Step Closer" has.

I won't go into much further detail. If you can tolerate something more simple than general prog, chances are you'll love this album. It's simple, but simple done well.

 Aqua by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.85 | 190 ratings

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Aqua
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

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 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 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, 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.

 Asia by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.17 | 520 ratings

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Asia
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As a concept, Asia has been widely derided, at least since the group started to fall apart sometime after their second album. Greg Lake, himself briefly a member in 1983, characterized the concept as "corporate." And there certainly is something corporate about the group itself, as well as this, their debut album. But I'm not sure exactly what it is.

Maybe it's the vocal sound. It's a chant that's equal parts Yes and Kiss. It's monolithic, not unlike a board of directors speaking with one emphatic voice that is not to be questioned. Kind of corporate.

Or maybe it was the band's instant success. The sales expectations for Asia might have been similar to those of early 1980s albums by U.K., Rainbow, etc.; in other words, decent, but not top-ten. John Wetton's voice had never been on a hit single. None of these guys had any kind of star appeal. Why did Asia hit the jackpot? (OK, to be fair, Journey's Escape, released a year prior to Asia's debut LP, was a smash, hitting #1 for one week in the US and winding up as the #5 album of 1981. Asia was #1 for nine weeks and was the #1 album of the year. On the other hand, Escape had three top ten singles, compared to one for Asia. Anyway, Escape was the second album produced by Mike Stone, and Asia was the third. So some Geffen Records execs might have expected at least a Top Forty album.)

Then there's the fact that Asia was a supergroup assembled by a record company's A&R people. Definitely sounds corporate. Prior supergroups - - like Cream, Blind Faith, and Crosby, Stills and Nash - - are looked at differently because they're believed to have emerged organically. Sounds like a fair belief. Of course, it's possible that these guys might've found each other without A&R people.

But it took more than A&R mechanisms to make Asia a hit. The fact is, the album is full of catchy art-rock (or art-pop if you'd like). The hits - - "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" - - still sound fresh (to me, anyway), with "Sole Survivor" and "Here Comes the Feeling" nearly as strong. I'll also mention the almost jazzy "Time Again," the most "prog" sounding track here.

But the real gem here is one I've never heard on the radio, and one which I haven't seen on a greatest-hits album: "One Step Closer." It's a charming duet sung in harmony by lead vocalist and bassist John Wetton and guitarist Steve Howe. Keyboardist Geoff Downes also adds both a nice lead vamp and a complimentary rhythm part to the verses. "One Step Closer" is a bit oddly placed, coming after "Sole Survivor," which might be the heaviest song on the album. But it seems like Asia is sequenced from most to least commercial. The four longest songs make up Side Two of the vinyl LP, and the first three of these ("Wildest Dreams," "Without You," and "Cutting It Fine") are definitely the album cuts. "Here Comes the Feeling" closes things out with a return to a slightly poppier sound during its chorus.

For whatever reasons, CD issues of Asia haven't included "Ride Easy," a harmless Wetton-Howe song that was originally released as the b-side of many issues of "Heat of the Moment" in 1982. Nonetheless, the song has been released by Geffen on several Asia collections.

Overall, the performances on Asia are very good, with some especially strong playing by Howe throughout. The rhythm section of Wetton and drummer Carl Palmer is solid, though neither is virtuosic. With Howe playing a lot of lead parts and Wetton rarely carrying the melody, Downes is often the key instrumentalist, a role for which he's well suited. My only complaint is that Wetton needs to strain to hit some of the lead-vocal notes.

Thanks to Stone, the production is excellent; Asia has a better sound than nearly any record I've heard from 1982.

Despite the quality of this album and of Alpha (1983), the group's sophomore effort, Asia will probably always be viewed with suspicion by many prog-rock fans. After all, this is corporate, commercial rock. But it's also a good collection of art-rock songs.

 Astra by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1985
2.56 | 244 ratings

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Astra
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

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 pretty 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.

 Silent Nation by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.11 | 153 ratings

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Silent Nation
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

2 stars On the cover of Asia's Silent Nation is a striking image of two men. In many ways they're ordinary and anonymous. Each is a white man dressed in a suit and tie, walking down the middle of the street in a sepia photo in what looks like late-depression-era New York City. One of the men is wearing sunglasses, further emphasizing his anonymity. What's immediately eye-catching is the fact that neither man has a mouth.

This music on Silent Nation is similarly anonymous and ordinary, and to carry the metaphor one step further, it doesn't have much to say - - or, to be fair, it doesn't have much to say beyond the ordinary.

The best lyrics on the album are those which seem to have been given the least thought. Unfortunately, the songwriters (singer John Payne, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and on two songs, future bassist-singer Billy Sherwood) attempt the occasional clever turn of phrase. For instance, the title song seems to vaguely address government surveillance ("the eagle is listening today") by conflating it with other inevitabilities of big government (e.g., "no longer have a name / a number will do"). Confusingly, singer John Payne argues that "it's not up to me to change what has been done," and then says "we must change what has been done" before reverting back to his claim that "it's not up to me to change what has been done." My issue is not that the lyrics don't make sense; I'm all for alligator lizards in the air. The problem here is that the lyricists seem to have set the bar too high for themselves. And didn't realize it.

Some have referred to Silent Nation as a concept album, but I don't see it. There's a concept underlying the title track, and the album artwork fits the concept. And the concept is so broad that you might find hints of it in the lyrics of one or more other songs. But that's as far as it goes.

There are a few exceptions to the ordinariness of Silent Nation; "Blue Moon Monday" has some odd synthesizer moments and a nice false fade-out. But "Long Way from Home" wouldn't be far from home on the adult contemporary chart of the early 2000s. The verses of the similar "Midnight" sound like Mike and the Mechanics. And so on.

Silent Nation is a far cry from Asia's 1982 debut album, recorded by bassist-vocalist John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, guitarist Steve Howe, and keyboardist Geoff Downes. By 2004, the band had consisted for more than a decade of Downes and bassist-vocalist John Payne, with a revolving cast of drummers and lead guitarists. I was underwhelmed by the first Payne-Downes album, Aqua (1992), but decided to give Silent Nation a chance, partly because Sherwood and drummer Jay Schellen made some contributions. Unfortunately, Silent Nation pales in comparison even to the lackluster Aqua.

Two stars for an uninspired album that I'd recommend only to Asia collectors or maybe Billy Sherwood completists.

 Asia - Anthologia - 20th Anniversary Geffen Years Collection 1982-1990 by ASIA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2002
3.34 | 25 ratings

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Asia - Anthologia - 20th Anniversary Geffen Years Collection 1982-1990
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Anthologia is my kind of Asia compilation. Since it includes all three of the band's Geffen albums (Asia (1982), Alpha (1983), and Astra (1985)), plus seven other Asia songs released on singles and compilations between 1982 and 1990, it includes nearly every Asia song I like (and plenty that I don't). At the same time, Anthologia does not contain any alternate takes or mixes, or any demos, early versions, or studio run-throughs - - it's made up entirely of previously released material.

Not all of that previously-released material is great, of course; Astra wasn't very great, and none of the four songs released on the 1990 compilation Then & Now were even as good as Astra. But Asia and Alpha, plus the non-album tunes "Ride Easy" and "Daylight," are worth the price of admission. 

I'd recommend Anthologia: The 20th Anniversary / Geffen Years Collection (1982-90) to anyone interested in accessible prog-rock.

P.S.: As far as I know, the only Asia song released before 1991 that's not included on Anthologia is "Gypsy Soul," released in 1987 on the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Over the Top. However, that song wasn't released on Geffen, and to plenty of the band's fans, it wasn't a real Asia song anyway (it was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder; John Wetton's vocals were the only thing connecting "Gypsy Soul" to Asia).

 Then & Now  by ASIA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
2.50 | 66 ratings

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Then & Now
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Then & Now is a 43-minute album includes four new songs alongside six of Asia's 1982-1985 songs, including their three big hits.

I try to avoid accusing record labels of "money grabbing" by releasing music in inconvenient or expensive packages intended to milk fans of their hard-earned money. After all, record labels are profit-driven and they generally don't consider ethics; certainly in the 1990s, record companies were milking consumers at every turn. Neil Strauss, in a1995 New York Times article, referred to a "$16.98 list price" for "most CD's by established stars," a cost he said was "more than 100 times the cost of the materials used to manufacture it." Most retailers would initially sell a $16.98 CD for less when it was new, but "in the next few months," the price of that CD "will creep up $2 to $6 at most ... stores." (US$17 in 1995 is equivalent to more than $27.50 in 2019, but brand new CDs retail for much less today.)

Anyway, Then & Now was a ripoff even by 1990s standards. The "mini-album" wasn't as commonplace as it had been in the early 1980s (in the US market, anyway), but the CD "maxi-single" was emerging. It seems likely that Geffen Records could've made a profit from this material without combining it with half of a greatest-hits package. Compounding this issue is the fact that the new material on Then & Now was substandard.

Side One (the Then side) is comprised of "Only Time Will Tell," "Heat of the Moment," and "Wildest Dreams" from Asia's self-titled 1982 debut, and "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" from Alpha (1983). "Voice of America," from Astra (1985) is appended to the end of Side Two for some reason; I'm guessing that the reason was the group's inability to come up with a full side of new material. Another possibility is that, as an obscure song from a relatively poorly selling album, "Voice of America" might've snuck under the proverbial radar, appearing to be a new song.

Besides "Voice of America," the other four songs on the Now side were new recordings. The album's single, "Days Like These," was contributed by an outside songwriter - - a sign, perhaps, that Asia was hoping to target the same market as Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. Alas, there was very little room in this market by the summer of 1990, as grunge, "unplugged," and other modern/alternative rock genres were poised to deprive "classic rock" of much of its radio oxygen.

"Summer (Can't Last Too Long)" and "Am I in Love" are also pop-radio-friendly; only "Prayin' 4 a Miracle" (talk about a tone-deaf title!) sounds aimed specifically at AOR radio. "Prayin' 4" was written by lead singer and bassist John Wetton with Sue Shifrin (who had co-written hit singles for Heart, Tina Turner, and others). Also credited as a writer: Shifrin's then-husband, David Cassidy. Now don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong, in my book, with outside songwriters or with trying to write hit songs. But I'm pointing out that Asia was changing direction - - and that the band ill-suited for their new direction. Interestingly, when Asia had a #4 pop hit in 1982 - - from the number-one pop album of the year - - they'd done it completely on their own. Pop fans came to them, not the other way around.

With a shaky line-up and no additional new material on the horizon from the band, Geffen appears to have cut their losses by releasing this dud before dropping Asia from the label.

Then & Now is a poor album for a number of reasons. To summarize: it's a full-priced album whose four new songs would only appeal to people who already own the other six. And not only is the album a bona-fide money-grab, the 17 minutes of new material is of low quality.

P.S.: Then & Now was rendered completely redundant with the release of Anthologia: The 20th Anniversary / Geffen Years Collection (1982-90), which collected Asia, Alpha, and Astra; the b-Sides from this period, and the four tracks from Then & Now.

 Alpha by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.80 | 321 ratings

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Alpha
Asia Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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.

 Phoenix by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.20 | 191 ratings

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Phoenix
Asia Prog Related

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars Phoenix arose from the ashes and that maybe marks the return of the original lineup to the band. Those who still expect some experimenting or progressive rock from Asia, will be again disappointing. This is a very decent intelligent pop/rock record with mature musicians sitting atop of their instruments and delivering a strong outing that can aspire both commercially and artistically. The album starts almost identically to any of their 80's album - the riff and atmosphere remind of that. The first track is the most catchy and commercial one, but affectious melodies come several times through the record to the surface. Wetton sounds relaxed, confident and so do other members, not content to prove anything but that they can do competent music even in their 60's. Arrangements are good, mood is changed several times, emotions are genuine. The standout tracks are 2 (symphonic feeling), 4(instrumental intermezzos and Yes touches), 5 (great second melancholic part), 8 (most experimantal yet accessible track).

A very solid album that can be recommended even to Asia beginners because it is pleasant and easy to digest, too.

 Alpha by ASIA album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.80 | 321 ratings

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Alpha
Asia Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ah, what happened here? The sophomore jinx?

Asia's self-titled debut really wasn't that bad, especially as an early-1980s pop/AOR offering from a band clearly aiming more for commercial success than pure artistry. But Asia is rightly viewed as an album with three or four strong songs, filled out with songs that were less remarkable, though not bad. Any songs left over from the Asia sessions were, one would assume, even less remarkable. Plus, how confident could these guys have been that there'd be a follow-up for which to hold songs aside? As I understand it, there wasn't as much time to write and record Alpha; after a longer-than-initially-planned world tour, the members of Asia caught up on their individual lives, then came back together to capitalize as quickly as possible on having had the Billboard #1 album of 1982. Alpha was released about 16 months after Asia.

The result is more of the same. On one hand, that's not bad under the circumstances. On the other, how much more of the same do we need? Wikipedia states that Alpha is less progressive and more pop-oriented than Asia, and in what appears to be a textbook example of an "echo chamber" effect, I've seen this repeated many, times, including on Prog Archives. Whereas this claim may have some merit, the balance between progressive and pop is only slightly different between the two albums. What is definitely true is that Steve Howe is credited as a co-writer on just one Alpha track, where he is listed to having contributed to more than half of Asia. But in my estimation, of the 21 songs between the two albums (I'm including cassette bonus tracks here - - remember them?), only one is really a Steve Howe song anyway ("One Step Closer," which I consider Asia's best song). Put another way, except for this one track, I didn't notice Howe as a composer on Asia, so the absence of his name from the writing credits on Alpha doesn't represent a major change between the two albums.

One song on Alpha, though, really stands out: "Don't Cry" is a beautiful piece of art-pop, nearly as good as "One Step Closer" and by far the best of the songs with the patented Asia vocal sound. The rest of the album hangs together nicely.

A final thought: which is more poorly named, the band or the album? I hope it's clear why I question the band name; meanwhile, the term "alpha" indicates the very first in a series. Just being picky.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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