Like the Phoenix of the title of their 2008 album, Asia has risen from the ashes and made their first studio album with their original lineup in a quarter century. The remarkable thing about Phoenix is that in pure sonic terms, it could have appeared as the sequel to Alpha in 1985 instead of the Steve Howe-less Astra, which is a remarkable achievement in many ways, but what makes the album more interesting is that it is suffused with a sense of mortality. This is no doubt due in part to singer/songwriter/bassist John Wetton's brush with death via open heart surgery in 1997, but his frankness in regards to death gives Phoenix an emotional pull that Asia lacked on their twin blockbusters of 1982's Asia and 1983's Alpha. This makes Phoenix a richer experience, but the nice thing about the album is that it's also easy to appreciate on a simpler musical level, in how the band has a suppleness when they stretch out into multi-part suites while retaining a knack for big, arena pop hooks. All this adds up to a comeback that is surprisingly compelling and surprisingly moving, something that only die-hard fans may have suspected the band still had in them.
- Release Date:
- Emi America Records
Performance CreditsAsia Primary Artist
Steve Howe Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Steel Guitar,Vocal Harmony,Group Member
John Wetton Bass Guitar,Vocals,Group Member
Geoffrey Downes Keyboards,Group Member
Hugh McDowell Cello
Carl Palmer Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Technical CreditsSteve Howe Producer
John Wetton Producer
Geoffrey Downes Producer
Carl Palmer Producer
Mike Ragogna Executive Producer
Phil Carson Management
Martyn Dean Cover Design,Computer Editing
Martin Darvill Management
Steve Rispin Producer,Engineer
Dax Kimbrough Executive Producer
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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It is SO hard to turn back the clock and pick up the pieces, to take up the mantle and relive those glory years but Asia, hot from a year and a half successful reunion tour, have managed to beat the odds and have released an accomplished record. Having the original quartet (Wetton, Downes, Howe and Palmer) in the same room again was the first miracle. The next was releasing this worthwhile record. Howe and Palmer have more than kept up their chops over the years with Yes and ELP reunions plus various side projects. But the real treat, as always with Asia, is the songwriting of Wetton and Downes. For really, Asia is a balance of two great songwriters and two virtuoso musicians. Highlights: "Never Again", "An Extraordinary Life" (which the band currently showcases live), "Nothing's Forever", "Sleeping Giants", "Parallel Worlds" and "Wish I'd Known All Along." This is a good mix of progressive music and pop melody. There are few, if any, weak tracks. And while, some tunes may be very similiar to the recent Wetton/Downes Icon projects (also highly recommended) and others are definitely a throwback to the sound of the 80's, these songs are informed with heart and vision worthy of the band's phenomal first record. I have read some fans' reviews who wish to dredge up comparisons to the Payne years, or the Asia as Downes solo period. For me, the magic of Asia has always been THIS quartet and starting with Astra, the magic began to wane quickly. In fact, Payne and the other ex-Asia members now call themselves Asia featuring John Payne! I love it! Warring over that almighty dollar that only the magic of the Asia name brings. (It's almost like a schism in a major religion...or worse, the great divide of Trekdom with the Old and New Generations!). Well, with Asia, what is old is NEW AGAIN! The Phoenix rises! This is the quartet that brought it to life in this first place!
I've missed Asia throughout the 90s. Oh, there was a band who called itself Asia, even using the Roger Dean-created logo. But that band was not, in any practical sense, Asia. Most of their work didn't get near Asia's quality, except perhaps Aqua and Arena, and even then it didn't sound anything like the band they were substituting. What do you expect with only one original member and a vocalist who sounds nothing like John Wetton? To me, the last Asia album was the grossly under-rated Astra-- until now. As soon as Phoenix started playing, I felt like all was right in the world again. It's all there: the huge but less sterile production, the familiar guitar riffs and licks, the big keyboard passages-- like the band was put on ice back in the late 80s and then reanimated back to life. That being said, this music is not stagnant. These venerable rockers have some new tricks up their sleeves, including two fantastic three-part suites that at times sound more like UK or classic Yes. "Alibis" is the song ELO wish they could have recorded, while songs like "Wish I'd Have Known" playfully incorporate world music into the set. If this were 1988, it would have been a huge hit. Perhaps it's just old wine in new bottles, but it's done extremely well. A couple of songs are perhaps a little sappy-- but only a couple, and they do grow on you. All said and done, this is Asia's-- TRUE Asia's-- finest recording yet.