on November 12, 2000
This is one of the top Asia's nine studio albums to date, and (questionably) the best of the Wetton era. It's hard for me to understand why this terrific album gets bashed the way it does.
This is the first real risk Asia took, as progressive bands tend to push the envelope musically and concept-wise. After getting a #1 self-titled album in '82(a terrific one), Asia released 'Alpha' in '83 using basically the same formula that had worked for them a year before. Although a good album, 'Alpha' tasted like a butter-based-just-out-of-the-oven wedding cake, there was hardly any innovation and/or experimentation with it musically. 'Astra' was Asia's first risk as a progressive band, it did away with their can't-miss-formula to create an awesome and over-produced album (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). The keyboard work is excellent, Carl's drumming is tight and Wetton's voice, well, as passionate as ever. The most overlooked part of the album, in my opinion, is the incredible and heart bending guitar work by ex-Krokus Mandy Meyer. Replacing virtuoso Steve Howe, Asia took a great risk in bringing a hardcore and metal oriented ax and hence took their music to a whole new, strange level. Meyer has an incredible sense of melody and blended well with the overall concept of the album. He solidified Asia's music providing a strong backbone. Today, Asia chooses strong guitarists, most likely as a result of Mandy's contribution to this album.
Sadly, this great line-up never played an official gig together. The commercial expectations on the album were too high and although it sold more than 600,000 copies and got two singles in the top 40, their tour was canceled. I bought this album 13 years ago (wow!) and it still sounds like something that should be on the radio these days. Alongside albums like Rush's 'Grace Under Pressure' and 'Power Windows', 'Astra' was so far ahead of its time that people, not even today, seem to fully appreciate it. Notice "Go", "Wishing" (a melancholic ballad), "Countdown to Zero" (featuring the original THX sound byte) and "Too Late"(with one of the best guitar solos ever). "Rock and Roll Dream" has the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra backing Asia, it is strange that the mixing was modified so much that one could easily confuse them with overdubbed keyboard work. A worthy list of love, remembrance and Cold War angst songs. This is an album worth buying if there ever was one, and for the price listed here, it's a bargain. If you appreciate commercial progressive rock, you won't be disappointed.
I've been listening to Astra with a new stereo system (since I first wrote this review) and have picked up small arrangements and nuances that I had missed before, the level of craftsmanship and detail is incredible. If you haven't already, you really ought to listen to this!
on August 18, 2015
Asia returned in 1985 with high expectations even without Steve Howe now replaced by Mandy Myers of Krokus fame. For some strange reason a lot of fans weren't moved by this disc as much as the previous albums but in reality this was a solid effort by the band. Songs Go, Voice Of America, Suspicion & After The War were exceptional with Myers guitar riffs rocking. Asia's sound was of a rockier style on this collaboration of music. Again this album was truly a good record it's just that it was a bit different & deserved a 4 star review.
on February 27, 2006
How unfair it is that Asia release two decent-but-unspectacular albums (despite some catchy hits) and they both sell millions, and then the band finally make a *great* Asia album with their third release and it bombs. Oh well....Nonetheless, the guys in Asia should be very proud of their third album, 1985's "Astra." By this time, guitarist Steve Howe had left---he and singer/bassist John Wetton were not getting along---and he was replaced by Mandy Meyer, formerly of the metal band Krokus. With Meyer onboard, "Astra," though not a masterwork, is THE Asia album that Wetton, keyboardist Geoff Downes and drummer Carl Palmer (with Howe) had only hinted at with their first two albums, despite those phenomenal sales. The band get tougher-sounding on "Astra," the music & production has more bite to it, and, quite simply, the songs are better & more memorable than previous ones (with a few obvious exceptions like their big hit "Heat Of The Moment"). This is still arena rock, but this time around, it's great arena rock. "Go" is quite possibly Asia's best rocker ever. "Voice Of America" is a classic power ballad. "Wishing" shows the band's pop side, and it's a very catchy number. "Suspicion" is another winner, a dreamy, atmospheric mid-tempo piece. Other home runs on "Astra" include the masterful hands-pumped-in-the-air rock of "Countdown To Zero," "Rock And Roll Dream," and "After The War." Wetton, Downes & Palmer are all in top form, and while Mandy Meyer is no Steve Howe, he is an excellent guitarist, his hard-rock style giving the band a good, fresh shot in the arm. But despite the band's truly best efforts & the high quality of music on display, "Astra" peaked on the U.S. album chart at a feeble #67. Afterwards, Asia would go through many different personnel changes, with keyboardist Downes the only remaining original member. It's a shame that "Astra" was not received well back in 1985, but I say do give it a chance. Even though there's no hits on it, I think it's the best album Asia have ever done. So buy it! If you like "Asia" and "Alpha," chances are you'll enjoy---and be pleasantly surprised---by "Astra."
on July 9, 2000
Astra, Asia's third full-length album, was released in 1985. It consists of ten songs. The material is in a pop rock musical direction. Altogether, the songwriting is good, the musicianship is tight, and the sound quality is satisfying. Throughout, the music has a majestical quality. I like John Wetton's distinctive, smooth, meat-and-potatoes vocal delivery; besides handling the vocal duties, he also plays the bass guitar. Geoffrey Downes--my favorite keyboardist--does a gratifying job with the keyboard work. Guitarist Mandy Meyer turns out an effective performance. When it comes to the harmony vocals, I find them to be pleasing. Though I find all of the tracks to be listenable, the ones that I enjoy the most are "Voice of America," "Wishing," and "Suspicion." Wetton provides plaintive, industrious vocals on the melancholy "Voice of America," a composition that also features an impressive refrain. The pretty-sounding "Wishing" displays earnest, emotional singing from Wetton. Starting off with a nicely tailored keyboard intro from Downes, the charming "Suspicion" also exhibits a sleek, magnetic keyboard solo from him. Other cuts that I like are "Go" and "Rock and Roll Dream." The album-opening "Go" is catchy and energetic and sports stately keyboard playing from Downes. At almost seven minutes, the epic, adventurous "Rock and Roll Dream" features the playing of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The CD insert does not include the song lyrics. The album cover artwork is creative and interesting. The disc is just over 45 minutes. Astra is a recommendable piece of work.
on July 2, 2008
What we have here is a much-maligned effort that does not deserve the bad rap inflicted by some on this Web site as well as reluctant buyers of this LP over the years.
Sure, the band's inaugural "Asia" smashed its way into the best-seller charts three years before with a heavy dependency on lead guitar from Steve Howe. By the time "Astra" came along, Howe was gone and the capable Mandy Meyer took his place.
I applaud the band here, especially singer/composer/bassist John Wetton, for stretching the bounds of creativity. It's a drive that's marked his career, as he was always one to exit the safe, four-lane highway from time to time to challenge the riskier, unknown paths to the sides.
In "Astra's" far-reaching melodies, Wetton and his lineup break out of the claustrophobic confines of simple guitar-bass-keyboard-drums and add a wider range of sounds yet still keep their trademark Asia harmonies.
From the echoes in "Go" to the ballad-like "Love Now Till Eternity" to the anxiety-filled "Suspicion" to the end-game "After the War," this LP offers a much broader smorgasbord of sound than Asia's previous two efforts.
"Astra" didn't take the first few times I listened. But then something clicked -- or, rather, it cracked the veneer of Asia's previous predictability, and it's been near the top of my CD heap ever since.
Enjoy it for what it is, a nugget of quality music in a decade when such work was, by the standards of the '60s and '70s, elusive.
on August 2, 2015
If you like Asia and don't have this one then you need to add it. It is definitely a "cold-war era" product with lyric references to what was going on in the world in the 1980s. This was their third album after the self-title debut and Alpha.
on December 15, 2005
I liked this disc, so much so that I also have the cassette tape and LP versions.
Of the original Asia lineup, Steve Howe has been replaced By Mandy Meyer. One of my good friends mentioned he liked Mandy's playing, (and he hates Asia).
As I understand it, Greg Lake had tried out to become the replacement for John Wetton, but the chemistry wasn't there. Wetton was asked back into the band, and in short, asked Howe to leave the group a few weeks into the sessions, citing that he couldn't work with him. Howe packed up and left, noting in a recollection it was fine with him, and after "Alpha" didn't know the direction the band was going anyway. What would be great is to hear the un-issued studio sessions from that three-week rehearsal period. Maybe the Geffen label will grace us with that in the future. Given the commercial failure of "Astra", it's highly unlikely, but so was an Asia reunion, and that's happening now in 2006, 23 years after disbanding. You never know...
If the "re-release out-take, un-issued recordings CD, plus extra" ever happens, I will sing to the hills for you to purchase this fine in its own right disc. It should be noted that Asia laid down some 25 tracks for the album (CD now), releasing the best ten. One un-issued track later appeared in the "Then & Now" CD, called "Am I In Love?".
This is definitely a little different taste from previous Asia material, somewhat still on the pop side.
Also here are two songs co written by Carl Palmer, my favorites of the disc, "Hard on Me", and "Too Late". I do own Carl Palmer's "Applied Rhythms" instruction book. In it he writes that "Go" was made in answer to Van Halens "Jump", and is a very good song. "Rock and Roll Dream" is another great song, with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing at the end, a very interesting arrangement. There really isn't a track I didn't like.
All of these songs can be heard on the discs "Anthologia" and "Asia Gold", which is where my suggestion lies in hearing them having been re-mastered. Apparently Asia felt there were a few flaws then went back and released the "Asia Gold" disc.
"Astra" is definitely a pick for the completest of collectors, or Roger Dean cover art nut (I'm one), or those who have the other 3 Wetton era discs.
on December 10, 2003
I bought ASTRA back in November of 1985 when it came out and I was very happy with the results. I loved all of side one: GO, VOICE OF AMERICA, HARD ON ME, WISHING, ROCK AND ROLL DREAM. But I didn't love side two...though I liked it.
Over the years the songs on side two that hold up are TOO LATE, LOVE NOW TILL ETERNITY and AFTER THE WAR. The sound quality is a little eighties washy, but good enough if you let your ears adjust to it. I would love to hear the first three ASIA albums remixed and remastered to sound more twenty first century. It is some of the finest music ever recorded in eighties (or any decade), along with the great Deep Purple.
P.S. I love reading all the reviews and seeing all the different favorite (or highlight) songs,
I think this proves that overall it is a great record with ten solid tracks.
on September 9, 2014
I concur with other reviewers that this album has some great cuts in it... if one can get over the tinny mastering. The album sounds to me like there are catchy, punchy songs in there, but someone at a mixing board came and sprayed a can of sonic Scotchgard over the whole effort, leaving it trebly, and thin sounding. Mandy Meyer has tasteful musical ideas and doesn't seem to shred for shred's sake, but his more typical distorted sound renders Asia a tad more convention. In a couple instances, his guitar solo sounds flat-out murky, as though he's in a bottom of a well. The newer albums by Asia (from Phoenix onward) have a more balanced EQ to my ear, and flat-out sound richer. If they could take these catchy songs, and add depth/bass to them in a remastering overhaul, it would be a triumph.
on January 27, 2013
A great Rick album that was over looked back in the eighties. Some of the songs are a little dated now but are still good. The vocals are great, the guitar work shreds and the drumming and keyboards are phenomenal! Great album even of you are not a fan of Asia.