Asia - Asia
On March 18, 1982, "Asia" released their debut eponymous album.
This is a supergroup of "Progressive Rock" refugees, who sought to survive the "cold winter" that befell on the Progressive genre, beginning in the late 1970s.
As well remembered, the 80s were very difficult for the "Progressive Rock" music. Bands like "Gentle Giant" and "Van Der Graaf Generator" disbanded, others like "Yes" and "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" took their last breaths as Prog icons, and other bands such as "Genesis" were simply reborn and became big pop bands.
This process did not skip the members of "Asia", who found themselves in a difficult reality in the early 1980s, that required them to "recalculate". Bassist and singer John Wetton led "King Crimson" for several years during the early '70s, replacing founding member Greg Lake. After the "King Crimson" breakup, Wetton moved to play with "Roxy Music" where he met, among others, keyboardist / violinist Eddie Jobson. The two formed "U.K." with drummer Bill Bruford and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, but after two excellent albums the band disbanded, in 1980. Similarly, guitarist Steve Howe found himself "out of job" in the early 80's, after 11 years with "Yes", during which he played on all of the band's major albums and was responsible for designing its sound. "Yes" officially disbanded on April 18, 1981, after the commercially failed "Drama", in which singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman were replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, both from the new wave band "The Buggles". The harsh reality did not miss drummer Carl Palmer. After the great failure of their album "Love Beach", the supergroup "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" also decided to break up and thus created the opportunity for cooperation between the four members of "Asia".
In 1981, Howe, Wetton, Palmer, and Downes founded "Asia". Seemingly, this is a meteoric progressive lineup. A collection of superstars from the world of Progressive Rock, that has created high anticipation among fans of the genre. However, with the intention of remaining relevant in the Progressive "Ice Age", this new band chose to base itself on a more distinctive sound of the 1980s, which focused less on musical virtuosity and more on commercial accessibility.
The result was an accessible and catchy Pop/Rock album with light Progressive buds. You will not find long and complex progressive rock pieces here, but there is definitely an experienced and cohesive band, with a distinctive sound and style of its own. This musical style rests on Palmer and Wetton's steady and tight rhythm section, but mostly on Howe's rough riffs and Downes' melodic and catchy keyboards. All the right elements exist in this album. The sound of the band is rough, but the music is very accessible. Downes' sound and melody blend in with Howe's short and catchy solos and above all Wetton's caressing but powerful voice. The music is catchy and accessible, but there are quite a few unexpected musical transitions and improvisational pieces by each of the members, which remind us that they are still four (or at least three) prog giants.
The opening track "Heat Of The Moment" is the greatest hit from the album and probably also the biggest of the band that has released 13 studio albums to date. This is the first single released from the album and it best presents the band's special style. It's based on Steve Howe's dirty riff, Downes' catchy melody, and Wetton's clear and powerful vocals. Immediately after that comes "Only Time Will Tell" which was composed by Downes and Wetton and leans on a catchy keyboard riff and a particularly sweeping chorus. Wetton's cruel bass sound and Howe's clever guitar work, with the short sentences, make it one of the most beautiful on the album. "Sole Survivor" is reminiscent of "Yes" in its early seconds, but then when Wetton starts singing we move to a more 80s sound. Howe's nice guitar solo and Downes' flute-like keyboard solo remind us of the two's glorious past. "One Step Closer" opens nicely with an instrumental section that sounds to us like a hybrid between the sound of "Yes" and "Kansas". This is without a doubt one of the most interesting songs on the album. Similarly, the opening of "Time Again" also reminds us of the progressive days of the band members, especially the energetic part that is a bit reminiscent of "ELP". Howe's guitar solo here is just perfect, Palmer's drumming is great and he's even having some fun with Jazz. Wetton's powerful bass and vocals and Downes's keyboards adorn everything with eighties beauty.
The other side of the album is the more "Progressive" side, where prog fans could find some comfort. "Wildest Dreams" includes quite a few changes of rhythm and style. "Without You" is a pleasant ballad and not so typical of progressive, but the solos, the transition part, and the musical development from the middle of the song prove that it is not a simple "hit" song. "Cutting It Fine" is one of the most interesting on this side of the vinyl. It opens quietly and calmly with Howe's acoustic guitar, but very quickly evolves into a sweeping and energetic track with an amazing Downes piano solo. "Here Comes The Feeling" ends the album in an epic way with a strong melody and catchy chorus.
"Asia's" debut album was a huge commercial success. It has sold over 10 million copies and has topped the charts in several countries. It is the band's best-selling album. The band continued to operate for another 4 decades but has never repeated the commercial success of this album.
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music