Friday, May 11, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 266 - Asia : Asia

Album - Asia
Artist - Asia
Key Players – Geoffrey Downes – keyboards and vocals. Steve Howe – guitar and vocals. Carl Palmer – drums and percussion. John Wetton – lead vocals, bass guitar

Produced By – Mike Stone

Release Date – March 1982

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I heard the tail end of “Heat of the Moment” on satellite radio.

Overview – This is the debut album from the UK super group “Asia”. Formed in 1981 the bands four members each game from veteran bands. Wetton was Roxy Music and King Crimson (to name a few) Howe from the band “Yes”. Downes was also in “Yes” as well as “The Buggles”, while Palmer is most well know as part of “Emerson Lake and Palmer”. The band was formed after the demise of bands like Yes and ELP so there were many musicians qualified for this super group that was the idea of an A+R man. It was released to mixed reviews with the critics but rock fans took to the album. The album would sell over 10 Million copies worldwide and the album would go to #1 in the US and was the best selling album of 1982. By the end of 1983 Wetton was forced out of the group and the band continued on with limited success. By 1986 the band folded...or did they?

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The nine song 44 minute album opens with the bands biggest single
“Heat of the Moment” (peak at #4). Howe plays the big arena rock chord riffs before Downes Palmer and Wetton hit on the downbeats. Wetton has a powerful voice that pulls your right in. The vocals are just sung over the lone guitar and some hi-hat strikes. After the second verse the band has a breakdown with Downes running across the keyboard and Wetton on bass strikes before the final verse gets underway. The chorus' have a nice blend of the backing and lead vocals with Palmer often thundering across his drum kit. Howe takes a second short solo as the song starts to fade out and Palmer is quick on his drum rolls and even the bass seems to come back up in the mix. They take a final run at the chorus and it fades out. Another charting single for the band follows in “Only Time Will Tell”. Downes has a keyboard intro then Palmer comes in and it all builds like a big 80's stadium rock song. When the vocals being it all calms down and has a bit of a ballad feel. Wetton once again is in fine form and his voice is perfect for the band sound. As the track hits the chorus the full band comes together and then there is a choppy instrumental burst before the band comes back together for the second verse. The song continues with the same formula foregoing any lengthy solos by the band members and with that the track fades out. The whole band clamors together as “Sole Survivor” gets underway. They seem to step aside or Palmer and Downes to take the track in the melody direction. Howe has a few short bursts on the guitar before Wetton begins to sing. Early on Wetton hits a pretty high vocal note and seems to handle it well with out much wavering. The mix seems to be keen towards Palmer and his cymbal strikes and Howe gets to show off some on the guitar. “One Step Closer” also has Downes at the intro and for the first time the band does seem to have have “prog rock” feel with some great drum work from Palmer. The vocals seem to be a lot slower and the band more focused on the delivery of the vocals. The keyboards feel a bit dated here and you'd be reaching for your jean jacket and lighter for the encore. Downes seems to rotate to piano at times as well taking some of the electric feel off it. Howe has his first lengthy solo on this track as well. “Time Again” finds the three opening up strong and then fading some with a colossal gong from Palmer. It takes a moment then it seem to really “chug” along. Hate to use that word, but again we are getting in to the mid section of the record and the prog influences are flowing. The track remains vocal free for over the first minute. After the second verse the band gets a good run. Seeming to jam and be open to taking the track outwards. Howe has a decent solo with Palmer really keeping a tight hold on things. Downes rotates between piano and keyboards and back. “Wildest Dreams” finds Downes and Palmer locking horns with Howe playing the guitar over it all. The vocal chant at one point is different for the band, but Wetton still shines. Palmer then gets his turn rumbling across with kit with Downes giving big booming notes to accent the drum hits. “Without You” starts of quiet and slowly with Downes the lone player. Wetton begins the vocals and Palmer seems to back off from the kit some, but then it all crashes down. The big moment doesn't keep the tempo up, it just is “louder”. Downes seems to be the focus on this track with the heavily accented keyboards and Palmer is up to the challenge keeping the track tight. Howe solos and Palmer finds his tom toms compliment the same lengthy run that Downes does.“Cutting it Fine” finds Howe on acoustic guitar and then Downes matching him note for note on a sound that harkens to mid evil times. The drums get it back to the prog feel and the everyone seems to be on board. Palmer is an outstanding drummer using his drum kit to the full potential. Howe and Downes come back around with the same progression as the intro and there are solid backing vocals and harmonies. Wrapping up the album is the track “Here Comes the Feeling” which finds Wetton tossing out big bass notes, and this is first time I've really noticed the bass. Palmer, Downes and Howe all seem to gel early and the track is a good representation of what they are about in the prog rock breaks and big keyboard runs. The harmonies are strong as expected. A solid closer.

Where are they now? - Okay...I'll do my best here. There ended up being two versions of the band. One was lead by Downes and new singer/bassist John Payne. They'd see a revolving door of musicians help in the studio and on tour. Wetton and Downes had another version of the band but that dissolved by 2006. There are two versions as noted, Asia featuring John Payne and then “Asia” (they go by “originalasia” on the web). With all that, the “original four” have reformed. They have recorded a new album to coincide with their 30th Anniversary. Called “XXX” it is due in stores on July 2nd (Europe). You can check out the extensive list of performers and time lines on their very well maintained wiki page.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have not seen the band live.

FDF Overall Take – There is no lack of talent in this band that is for sure. One needs to remember it was released at the time of “arena rock” with Journey, Styx etc. It feels campy at time, but the skill set is there for some shining moments. A “best of” collection might suit most, but this is a perfect time capsule capture of the music of the early 1980's to me personally.


Get caught up using the official site here

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Heat of the Moment official video

Live version of Heat of the Moment

Only Time Will Tell

You can track down the record 


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