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Asia
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
If you want 10-minute suites with lengthy instrumental noodling, this is not the album for you...despite its amazing pedigree featuring members of Yes, ELP, and UK (and, by extension, Tomorrow, Bodast, Atomic Rooster, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, King Crimson, Roxy Music, and, of course, the Buggles). These instrumental virtuosos strip everything down to a tight, melodic core and simply play these songs like a house on fire. It's got plenty of proggy elements, but it's all fairly concise. All of the tracks here are radio-friendly powerhouses, and the album sold by the ton, standing tall at #1 on the album charts for an astounding 9 straight weeks. The critics, of course, hated it. But it still holds up, more than 20 years later. "Heat of the Moment" is where English flash and drama meet the Spector-ish "Wall of Sound," and it makes for a fantastic single. Gotta love the riffage from Steve Howe! On "Only Time Will Tell," soaring harmonies and a memorable melody powered this track into the Top 10 as well. Geoff Downes proves that he is by no means a "second tier" keyboardist with his wonderfully dexterous playing and nuanced sonic textures. A tennis match was allegedly the inspiration for "Sole Survivor," and it jumps back and forth appropriately with a hard-hitting edge. The stately "One Step Closer" and the rocking "Time Again" also feature soaring harmonies and strong lead vocals from belter John Wetton. Carl Palmer steps to the fore with the tricky percussive showcase, "Wildest Dreams," before the band cools down with the majestic "Without You"--Wetton really shines vocally here. The album closes on a rocking note with "Here Comes the Feeling." Prog purists gagged on this album, but Asia captured a spark and sound that riveted listeners in the early 1980s. Sadly, they were not able to maintain this standard as consistently and brilliantly throughout the rest of their career, but for a few brief, shining moments, Asia ruled the music world.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2004
If you're into all kinds of music, especially classic rock, and love hooks and melodies without real concern for lyrics, or you don't get hung up on small things (of any sort), and are perhaps under the age of 35, chances are, you'll love this album. If you're over 35, cranky, egotistical, and demand only the most virtuoso Math-rock from your musicians (early Yes, King Crimson), you might not like this album.

You see, Asia was all about having fun. The lyrics were sappy, the playing short, tight, consise and very poppy. So don't expect to hear anything like King Crimson, ELP, or Yes. You'll hear ever-so-slight influences of the band member's previous groups, but nothing substantial.

Speaking of the band...Wetton never sounded better than on Asia's debut. With King Crimson, his voice always sounded hollow and grainy to me. He got better as time went on. Steve Howe's guitar playing was still excellent, and coupled with Geoff Downes on keyboards (who was in the previous Yes line-up with Howe) there are some moments that recall their Drama album from 1980. Carl Palmer on drums sounded excellent as well.

"Heat of the Moment" sets the tone for the record by kicking things off with a bang. This was a huge radio and MTV hit in 1982, and you'll likely hear this on classic rock radio today. Listen to this song five times and I dare you to get that chorus out of your head. It can't be done. The middle instrumental section is breathtaking.

"Only Time Will Tell" is perhaps the best song on here. The keyboards and piano are beautiful, and I love the production on Wetton's voice. The quiet build-up to that first chorus, and the "whoooosh" of Palmer's drum that sounds like a tidal wave is what hooked me to this.

"Sole Survivor" is powerful, straight-ahead arena rock. Another catchy chorus, and it features some excellent Hammond organ playing from Downes. The interlude and build-up, again, is gut-wrenching. As the song fades out, the band just keeps going. I have never heard Palmer or Howe sound more alive in a basic rock 'n' roll fashion than they are in this outro.

"One Step Closer" is the album's one true weak point. Steve Howe is higher in the vocal mix during the verses (Eh?), and the lyrics are pretty bad. However, I can say that it's a very original song...I've never heard anything like it really, and it has some nice little jingly keyboards on the verses. If it wasn't for this merely-okay song, my rating might have gone up a notch.

"Time Again". Wow. Heavy guitar opening into an echoey, eerie vocal intro and a gong, which segues into some fierce playing by all around. One of the best, and a killer concert opener. Even though almost all vocals are Wetton on the album (including overdubbed background singing) the layered sections really sound good. Check out those dissonant piano/guitar shots traded back and forth by Howe and Downes that follow each chorus.

"Wildest Dreams" is the band's take on war and the horrors surrounding it. It uses various lyrical imagery to recall all of the various wars throughout humanity's collective history. This song contains perhaps Steve Howe's fastest, most intricate solo of all time, as well as a snappy, rhythmic drum solo from Carl Palmer.

"Without You", along with the previous track, are Asia's best lyrics on the album. This song is very melancholy and dramatic. Lots of lovely keyboards, and Wetton's smoky vocals on the first verse are haunting. The song starts slow and builds up to a fast-paced middle section before Howe gives a blazing, powerful solo and brings the song to an end ever so slowly with some tasteful acoustic guitar. Then you're treated to one last chorus before the song fades over a keyboard-driven march.

"Cutting It Fine" begins with Howe playing the main melody on his acoustic -- then Downes plays it as a keyboard line -- and then everyone joins in as we're led into the song, this time with a lot of venom in the lyrics and vocal phrasing. Take note of Geoff's vocoder during the choruses near the end (it took me many listens to notice it) -- "Cut...Ing...It...Fine." The song seems to fade out for good...

...Before we're treated to what is essentially a Downes solo piece. It starts slow, on a piano, and then adds layers and layers of keyboard textures and distant drums, creating this grand march that seems to never end as it fades out. One of the most poignant and beautiful moments on the album. The actual title of this section is "Bolero". Geoff Downes still plays a version of this during his solo spots on Asia tours today.

"Here Comes The Feeling" ends Asia's debut record on a positive note, as the lyrical protagonist is reunited with his lover and all is well with the world. The instrumental bridge is the best jam-like moment the original Asia line-up ever had, and is my favorite part of the song.

Over the years, many people have slammed this album. I don't understand why. For what it is and what it tries to be, it's perfect. It's NOT a serious rock record. It's just fun, emotional, raw prog-pop, served up early 80's style. Back in the day, one critic mentioned (paraphrasing) "The lyrics make no sense. Five songs about wanting to break up with their girlfriends, and three about how much they love them." The way I see it, that's the point! The album is like a series of snapshots of all the relationships I once had, both good and bad memories, and it came upon me at the perfect age in the late 90's, when I was almost 18 years old. It satisfied my itch for harmony vocals and catchy choruses in a pop format (I was a big fan of 80's Rush and Yes), as well as having the instrumental intricacy that I loved from Yes and ELP.

If you have a CD burner, tack on the B-side "Ride Easy". It makes a good album-closer. Also, here's hoping that Geffen will remaster and repackage this sometime soon. The booklet needs lyrics and some photos. By the way, the cover art is among Roger Dean's best; the Chinese dragon rising like a phoenix from the waters, ever-chasing the golden orb of knowledge.

When I listen to this perfect musical stew of incredible hooks, harmony choruses and chunky keyboard and guitar riffs, I close my eyes and see all of the imagery associated with Asia (the continent)...dreamlike imagery of dragons, mysterious Japanese geisha, Buddhist temples hidden in deep forests, giant robot mechs battling it out, 80's Nintendo game soundtracks, and sprawling Neo-Tokyo anime cityscapes. In other words, all the cliches of Asia that an American boy will absorb having grown up in the last thirty years.

I was 2 years old when "Heat of the Moment" hit the radio waves, yet it's ironic that I would become such a massive fan later. I could tell you dozens of stories related to each song...they were the soundtrack to my life throughout the last several years, providing inspiration and empathy through breakups, ecstatic reunions, leaving home for the first time, depression and darkness, and then eventually back to a joy for life and a spiritual renewal.

I actually can't listen to this album very much these days, because I played it literally hundreds of times, and I seriously burned out on it for awhile. Yes kids, you can overplay your favorite CDs.

3 stars for casual rock/AOR/prog fans + 2 more for the emotional connection it gave me
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2006
THE BAND: John Wetton (lead vocals, bass), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Steve Howe (guitars), Carl Palmer (drums & percussion).

THE DISC: (1982) 9 tracks clocking in at approximately 44 minutes. Included with the disc is a minimal 2-page fold out including song titles/credits/times, and musicians. All songs written by Asia members. Album cover art by Roger Dean. Recorded at Townhouse Studio, London, England. Label - Geffen.

COMMENTS: I had mixed feelings about Asia's debut album when it first came out in '82. One of the first true supergroups that I can recall - Wetton (most notably from King Crimson and UK), Howe (Yes), Palmer (ELP), and Downes (Buggles and Yes). Steve Howe and Carl Palmer were ungodly superstars in their perspective bands during the 70's. I remember buying the vinyl based on the strength of "Sole Survivor". I remember thinking with these progressive musicians at the helm, there'd have to be some 10-12 minute spacey head trips. That's where the mixed feelings came in. All the songs were in the 4 to 5 minute range ("Here Comes The Feeling" is the longest track at 5:42). Wetton and Downes were the main writers here... and Downes prior catalog with the Buggles was "pop" to the max. In retrospect, I now know why Asia had that pop feel - it was Geoff Downes all along. Not that it's a bad thing... Asia's sound just wasn't what I was expecting. This album is heavy on keyboards. Steve Howe's guitar remains mostly in the background outside of a few shining guitar solos. The bass work is great. Carl Palmer's drumming is steady, but it's nothing flashy like his days with ELP. Wetton's vocals are top notch. It's the songs that eventually made me come around, as it did for so many listeners (and radio stations). Asia's debut spent 9 weeks at #1 on the U.S. album chart. "Heat Of The Moment" (reaching #4), "Sole Survivor" (#10), and "Only Time Will Tell" (#17) were huge Top 40 hits. Billboard named the Asia debut as album of the year. Compilations are saturated with songs from their 1st album - "The Very Best Of Asia: Heat Of The Moment 1982-90" has 6 of the 9 songs from it's debut, and "Asia - Gold" (2005) incredibly contains all 9 songs. A commercial success to say the least, and fans of its members former bands cried "sell out". All I can say is - you can't please everyone. There's no denying the songs are catchy... with my favorites being "Sole Survivor", "Only Time Will Tell" and the heaviest song "Time Again". One of the top rock debuts from the past several decades. If you want to own one studio album of theirs - this is the one! As of 2006, I still look forward to a digitally remastered version with extensive liner notes to be released. This is a classic album from the 80's (5 stars).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Given all the middle of the road shlock that came out in the early 80's, this album was a breath of fresh air. Great melodic rock hooks with progressive art rock leaning, that still sounds fresh today. Of course the rock critics and snobs who roll their eyes at prog rock of any sort will attempt to diminish this piece of work as formulaic pablum, but don't believe them. The fact that they were labeled a prog "supergroup" made them all the more a target by the predictable music critic establishment (i.e. Rolling Stone, etc).

I love music that takes your mind on a journey...Radiohead, Yes, XTC, etc. And I surely put this album in that category. Though Asia's subsequent albums were somewhat uninspired and worthy of lackluster reviews, this one is gold, where every song is great. If American radio wasn't so predictable, 4-5 songs here would be classic rock staples, but of course they are rarely played, other than "Heat Of The Moment". You'd never know this album spent 9 weeks at #1 by the respect this it gets. Just once I'd like to hear "Time Again" instead of "Jet Airliner" or "Sweet Home Alabama" for the Nth time.

If you don't already own this, get it. I originally bought it on vinyl, but it sounds even better on CD.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
Asia was one the first albums I ever bought, and to this day I still get a charge listening to it. I recall seeing the video for Heat of the Moment back in the glory days of MTV and took an instant liking to that song. Roger Dean's amazing album cover then sealed it for me.
As the young kid I was back in 1982 I didn't know anything about the background of these four awesome musicians. Netherless I immediately loved the songs on this album and the unique flair the music had compared to much of what was popular at the time. John Wetton's vocals simply blew me away, Steve Howe's guitars..intense, Carl Palmer's drumming.. powerful and Geoff Downes diverse keyboards created a very unique sound.. a big sounding yet incredibly melodic rock group.
In the years following I became a fan of Yes, ELP, and the like, yet I still love listening to this album and it's follow up Alpha. Most definately one of the best albums of the 1980's!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2010
This version of Asia's "Asia" is musically my favorite but sonically it wasn't as much and the recent "remastered" renditions (I own 2) were much worst. This 24kt remastered version provides a clean and fully dynamic recording that it is extremely enjoyable with multiple details I did not notice before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2001
This is one of those discs that I've played often for the last fifteen years and I hear something new with each listen. Asia was four individual virtuosos from mostly prog-rock backgrounds who came together to play pop/rock with a decidedly progressive feel. The result of this debut was stunning. Not only are the songs top-notch, but the playing and singing are absolutely mindblowing. Check out the vocal harmonies on Time Again and Without You, the energy of Wildest Dreams, the dreamy and unexpected ending of Without You, and the sublime piano outro of Cutting It Fine. This piano part could be an entire separate song or theme for a movie, it's so beautiful. Also, Steve Howe's guitar and John Wetton's superb singing are standouts throughout the entire disc (not to mention Carl Palmer's drumming).
ASIA definately starts out in a pop/rock vein with the first two tracks being the AOR radio hits. Heat of the Moment is actually the weakest of all the cuts, in my opinion, although it's still a great song. Only Time Will Tell, however, is one of the best on the album in spite of the fact that it's one of the least adventurous--the melody and orchestration are just incredible. After these two cuts, the album takes on a more progressive sound, while still having it's roots in rock. Key changes, outside harmony, and adventurous interludes abound in track three through the end. This disc is a must for any musician or rock fan and it's a shame that the first two tracks are the only ones familiar to most people.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2000
I was fortunate enough to buy the Asia/Alpha double recording on cassette and have listened to it for years with the utmost pleasure. So now I'm purchasing each separately on CD for better sound quality. Both are well worth many great listening hours!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2004
This album IS the 1980s. "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" are two of the musical highlights of the decade and this album is almost as solid as those two singles. I have read criticisms that the album is too "cliche'd." I'm not sure what is meant by that as I thought "Only Time Will Tell" had a very unique sound for a single. This is not an ordinary pop album. It has a powerful, progressive sound yet a sound that is also accessible (progressive rock moves into the 1980s). "Without You," for example, starts out as a ballad and then launches into a killer guitar solo with keyboard in tow, then settles down only to explode once more. "Cutting it Fine" is a rocker until it reaches a very interesting slow piece at the end. The music takes the listener through different emotions. Although I can't give this classic any less than 5 stars, I think some of the songs are overdone, such as "Time Again" and, especially, "Wildest Dreams." The POW! POWPOW! part of the latter track seems a bit much to me unless the band was simulating war sounds to keep with the theme of the lyrics. Still, it seems overpowering in this song. On the other end of the review spectrum, perhaps this album is overrated; however, the next two Asia albums (Alpha and Astra) are painfully underrated, so it all evens out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 1999
What can I say about this album that others haven't already rightly pointed out? I must agree with so many others in that I don't understand why so many critics knocked this one. I think it deserved to sell 9 million copies. I love every song on it. The words, music, arrangements, and even the Roger Dean album cover, are all so beautiful, powerful, and emotional. Some of the songs are sad ("Without You"), others are positive ("One Step Closer"). Some of the songs are downright explosive; some explode with blood-pumping elation ("Here Comes the Feeling"), while others explode with anger ("Cutting it Fine"). The common denominator is that they are all very moving.
Steve Howe is probably my #1 favorite guitarist; he's more than just technically impressive; he has a unique style of playing, writing, and arranging that's kind of like jazz, rock, and avante-garde all at the same time. I mean he plays the guitar almost as if he's from another planet.
John Wetton is one of my favorite bass players. To really hear him at his most adventurous, you'd have to listen to his work with King Crimson. Crimson tended to be more experimental, while Asia was more pop-oriented, so the bass parts might be more conservative here in a way, but they are solid and powerful. Wetton also has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard; he's one of my very favorite singers.
Of course, I could also heap lots of praise on the rest of the band. Carl Palmer is one of my favorite drummers. Geoff Downes is wonderful with keyboards. I hope it sells another 9 million copies!
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