By James Baase
Over three decades ago a “supergroup” formed that consisted of former members of classic progressive rock bands King Crimson, Yes, The Buggles, and Emerson Lake & Palmer. That group called themselves Asia and their debut album of the same name was released and held the #1 position on the Billboard album chart for 9 weeks and was the largest selling album in the US in 1982.
Asia has seen many members come and go over the years, but the original four members, John Wetton, Steve Howe, Geoff Downs and Carl Palmer re-collected themselves in 2006, secured the exclusive rights to the band’s name, and embarked on a world tour with a CD and DVD to follow. They have been touring and creating music ever since.
To mark the 30th anniversary of their incredible debut, Asia has released the aptly named XXX. The CD is typical Asia and sounds very much like they did in 1982. The songs “Tomorrow The World”, “Bury Me In Willow” and “I Know How You Feel” are driven by signature 80s keyboard chords and drum beats. “No Religion” is a bit more of a rocker with guitar chords more prominent.
The first single released, “Face on the Bridge” kicks it up a little with more energy and is a standout with its big sound in Wetton’s vocal layering and the band’s incredible musicianship. More of the same is apparent with “Al Gatto Nero”. As noted by its title, “Judas” is a catchy rocker about betrayal that highlights the guitar work of Steve Howe and, along with the prior two tracks, makes up the best three songs on this CD.
Toning it down a little to close out the album, “Ghost of a Chance” is a simple slow ballad with seemingly weeping guitar and alternating piano.
The original members of Asia are creating music like nobody else is these days. They’ve kept true to their style and John Wetton’s unmistakable voice has held up well over the years. The musicianship is impeccable and there is a distinct clarity in their instruments that makes this an enjoyable album to listen to in its entirety as background music. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “Heat of the Moment” 30 years ago and I was hoping for a song that would jump out and grab today’s younger crowd like it did for me at age 15. Although that isn’t going to happen with this collection of songs averaging 5 ½ minutes in length; each firmly ensconced in a 1980s style, I think Asia fans will love it. After all, this is the real Asia.
For more on Asia check them out at www.originalasia.com