Asia (1982)

1. Heat of the Moment 2. Only Time Will Tell 3. Sole Survivor 4. One Step Closer 5. Time Again 6. Wildest Dreams 7. Without You 8. Cutting It Fine 9. Here Comes the Feeling


O ne of the strangest experiments, I think, in the history of rock and roll. Not strange that such an experiment was attempted, but strange how successful the end result turned out to be. Back in the late sixties/early seventies, there were a lot of "prog" rock bands around that were either loved or hated. None of the critics ever loved them, and fans seemed to be split about 50/50. One thing that was consistent about such bands (King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, etc.) is that they never had a steady lineup. The members seemed to fluctuate quite regularly, and it was always an event if one of these bands put out, say, three albums in a row with the same lineup.

So it shouldn't really surprise anyone that a brand new group would be formed with bits and pieces from such well known groups. Asia featured John Wetton from King Crimson, Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Steve Howe and Geoff Downes from Yes (although it should be pointed out that Geoff Downes was only featured on one Yes album, he was actually more famous for his one-hit wonder group The Buggles). What was really weird was that by the time the 1980's arrived, no one was really listening to these prog rock dinasours anymore - they certainly weren't getting played on top 40 radio. So imagine everyone's surprise when this group debuted their first album and it jumped all the way to the top of the charts backed by a couple of strong singles.

So what exactly was the deal here? Well, first, we must analyze and discover that the "prog" part of "prog rock" was tamed down significantly. There are no twenty minute epics, no overly complex song structures, and no fantastical weird mythological like stories. The band, for the most part, plays straight ahead music. Yes, there are some elements of these guy's past lives featured throughout, but not enough to scare younger audiences away. In fact, you could make the argument that the sort of music that the guys were playing was so unique at the time, that it was a bit of badly needed jolt. Not surprising, prog-rock would also make a small comeback during a portion of the new decade.

The music here is rich, dreamy, surreal, and really is a great combination of all the members and their strengths. John Wetton has the perfect, deep resonating voice for such a project, and no other type of singer could really fit the bill here (they actually did replace him for about a decade and a half with poor results). Steve Howe is still the beautiful guitarist extraordinaire, and those that can recognized his playing can definitely hear his presence on this record. Carl Palmer always had a very "heavy" sound in the recording studio, yet he never overplayed. His drumming just sounded very rich and intense. As for the "new" guy, Geoff Downes, well he's very good at what he does in the keyboard department, co-wrote many of the songs and, as time would tell (pardon the pun) would be the only guy featured on every Asia album.

So the music is very rich, heavy and bombastic, but the songs are tight and short enough to where they never put you to sleep. The album is chocked full of great melodies (especially on the Downes co-penned songs, Howe's writing was always a bit more eclectic) and producer Mike Stone brings out the best of all the elements that these guys had to offer.

So they became an immediate sensation, and never really went away. Sadly their popularity waned, as did the quality of all future releases. Of course the critics hated them since day one. What else is new?

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