Asia: Asia

Hey, it’s another post about listening to records… one of many, I’m afraid. I keep listening to the same albums over and over, neglecting others that I like perfectly well simply because of choice paralysis. I have, I dunno, 50 records or so, and sometimes I can’t decide what I want to listen to. There’s no such thing as a random album shuffle on a turntable… though in fairness, Apple never bothered to carry that feature over from iPod to iPhone, presumably to some sort of massive collective head trauma.

Anyway, being the type-A person I am, I thought it might be a fun diversion for a few weeks to listen to my records in something like alphabetical order. And then write about them, because that’s what I do. So please enjoy the most me series of blog posts ever… or don’t, depending on how you feel about me.

2016-02-13 10.19.54

Asia, Asia
1982, Geffen Records

This is the only album by Asia I own, and I don’t honestly remember buying it, so that should tell you more or less everything you need to know about how I feel re: Asia. The band, I mean. The continent is pretty great in many parts.

I feel like, all things being equal, I should love Asia. It was a “supergroup” comprising members of some of the great prog bands of the ’70s: John Wetton from King Crimson’s best lineup, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes from Yes, and Carl Palmer from the highly respected law firm of Emerson Lake & Palmer. And yet its music sounds nothing like anything any of those bands ever did — it’s super-sterile, big-guitar rock in the vein of Boston or Journey but much stompier and less adventurous. I mean, Boston had its most enduring AOR success with “Foreplay/Long Time” a song that begins with such an extended musical exercise it was split into its own track, and Journey’s most beloved hit ever is probably “Don’t Stop Believing,” which has an incredibly unconventional structure for Top 40 fodder. On the other hand, Asia had “Heat of the Moment,” which is big and catchy and hook-driven and totally standard rock fare. That track, incidentally, kicks off the album, and the band’s catalog is all downhill from there. Way to peak early, guys.

There are some memorable songs on this record, but they’re very front-loaded — “Heat of the Moment” is followed by “Only Time Will Tell” and “Sole Survivor,” after which the album drifts into increasingly cheesy and painful territory. Asia was clearly a lot of talented dudes who had performed in successful but not insanely successful bands thinking, “Right, we’d like to make a lot of money now,” and getting together to create pure radio fodder. And hey, good for them.

Unfortunately the style and structure of these songs fails to play to the band members’ strengths, especially Wetton and Howe. Howe hammers out loud, crunchy chords with the best of them, but he never really has much opportunity to show off the rest of his incredible range and skills; his nuance is wasted on arena rock. And Wetton’s husky voice goes a long way toward adding some much-needed heart to this antispetic music, but the album proves remarkably short on slower, more emotional songs that would allow him to really warm up to what he does best.

I’m also a bit sure how I feel about a band of Englishmen calling themselves “Asia,” since their only real connection to the continent appears to have been that their ancestors may have helped colonize cities there. There’s no Asian influence to speak of in this album — be it Russian, Indian, Middle Eastern, or Pacific Rim — and aside from the random Chinese-style dragon Roger Dean painted on the cover, the group may as well have called themselves Music So Sterile You Can Operate With It.

Anyway, there’s an annoying skip on one of the tracks on side two, so in the unlikely event I pull this one out of the record case to listen to, I’ll probably lift the needle after Sole Survivor.

Rating: 2 Steve Howes bored out of his mind/5

6 thoughts on “Asia: Asia

  1. I always enjoy your music writings, and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Though I’m in complete befuddlement at how to square the sentiments in this review with Asia showing up on your list of top 10 favorite bands.

  2. I actually had no idea Asia was responsible for “Heat of the Moment.” That song was definitely mainstream rock and I always assumed Asia was a highly technical Prog band, considering their lineup.

    My love of Prog began with my introduction to the heavier side of the 2nd wave stuff in the 80’s (Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, etc.) and extended to the earlier Krautrock once I discovered that. I do appreciate all Progressive music, though. Minus Asia, maybe.

    Keep the music entries coming, I really enjoy them!

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