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MP3 Music, April 15, 2008
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Digitally remastered and expanded two CD edition. Legendary band Asia released the biggest selling album in the world in 1982. The original line-up of the band reunited in 2006 and recorded the studio album Phoenix in 2008. This album features original members Geoff Downes (Yes/The Buggles)/Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (ELP) and John Wetton (King Crimson/UK). The Phoenix album gave rise to the hit An Extraordinary Life, which has been played all around the world, including as the theme to America's Got Talent advertising. This expanded edition collects together the original European version of the album, the two bonus tracks and the US only remix into the same place for the first time ever! The artwork is housed in a six panel digipack to match the rest of the Asia reunion era catalog. The artwork is by Roger Dean. This release is the first on the band's own Asia Music LTD imprint.
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1) As a young'un I was a huge fan of the first release "Asia". It's the biggest reason I got into 70's progressive rock and discovered Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, UK, etc. As much as I loved "Asia" (the album), I admit after discovering the original bands Howe, Wetton, Downes, and Palmer had played in, I realized "Asia" was a watering-down of their musical abilities. There was little in any of the music of "Asia" that taxed their respective talents on a level equal to early Yes, ELP, etc. BUT, there was a feel and energy with the first album that helped negate the complaints of how "de-progged" their music had become. These guys appeared to be enjoying playing together, writing simpler songs, and enjoying the merits of executing them well.
2) For most of the folks pulled into Asia (the band) by their first or second album, the drug-on-too-long, Geoff Downes version wasn't ever really "Asia". And that's the simplest reason why they were so easily "closed down" and replaced with the "original" line-up. John Payne (from the Downes-led, new version of the band) must have felt a bit of sting in the announcement that the original line-up was pre-empting his work and use of the Asia name, but I'm sure lots of other folks (including me) didn't care so much.
So, I'll mostly look at the CD in comparison to the work from the original line-up.
And how is it? Well, as some review mentioned, it's kind of like meeting up again with an old friend. They look familiar and sound familiar, but they've aged a bit, slowed a bit, and mellowed a bit as well. The good news is it DOES sound sort of like the same musicians who made "Asia" (the CD). It just sounds like they're not quite as nimble and spry. The BAD news (for me, maybe not so many other folks), some of the songs have lame lyrics (not a first for Asia) and are obviously-crafted pop tunes (not a first for Asia either). But, Wetton's voice sounds good, Howe gets in quite a few licks that sound Howe-ish, Downes gets to use some big bold brassy synth patches, and Palmer keeps a steady beat, not unlike his earlier role in Asia.
So the classic Asia elements are there, just in a version diluted a bit from the first Asia album. As well, the music has been arranged and mixed to focus more on Wetton's voice. On the first Asia album Wetton's lead and multi-tracked backing vocals were catchy and clear, but the arrangements let the instruments take prominence as well, and there was better balance between vocals and instruments. On this, the guitar and keys do occasionally come out front, but not as often as I'd like. Unfortunately, a lot of the keyboard and guitar work seems frequently just complimentary background for the vocals. Lastly even the recording, mixing and mastering seems "nicer" and less aggressive than the first CD.
As a side note, it's interesting to see that 2 of the songs were written entirely by Steve Howe (no collaboration). Part of the reason Howe left the band in the early days was he felt the band was getting too commercialized and his music was getting squeezed out for album selection by the more radio-friendly Wetton-Downes tunes. Appropriately, the 2 less trite, less poppy songs on here are the Howe-penned tunes.
So, if you're looking for something with a similar (though not exact) feel to the first couple Asia albums, this definitely delivers. It just doesn't do so with a boatload of energy. As for Asia videos let me recommend the "Live in Tokyo" DVD from the 2007 tour over "Live in Moscow". For a group of geriatric rockers, they pull off quite a nice show.
Most recent customer reviews
It is a very slow paced album.Read more