Geffen, 1982

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The Daily Vault panel has developed a kind of rhythm in recent months when it comes to greeting new recruits. As the new writer gets acclimated and joins our e-mail discussion list, two or three folks on the panel will wish them well -- and then, with perfect comic timing, Jeff Clutterbuck will chime in with this tongue-in-cheek piece of advice: "Just leave your soul at the door and everything will be fine."

I have no idea what Geffen Records' A&R rep said to the four guys in Asia when he signed them, but "leave your souls at the door" seems like a decent guess.

Asia's inaugural lineup of guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), drummer Carl Palmer (ELP), keyboard player Geoff Downes (Buggles/Yes) and bassist/lead vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson, Roxy Music, UK) collectively constituted one of the premier assemblages of pure musical talent ever convened. With those pedigrees, fans had every right to anticipate a brilliant set of complex, multilayered progressive rock.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250


Except these four players had by 1982 all apparently tired of slugging it out in the cerebral, musically challenging prog bands that had fallen out of favor during the punk/new wave era. They'd been in the music business long enough to understand how the game worked, and what it might take to get back on the radio.

Thus was born Asia, a group that sounds like Yes, King Crimson and ELP teaming up to record a Survivor tribute album.

To give them credit, they nailed their demographic. Spandexed arena rock fanboys and girls flicked their lighters by the thousands to "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell," turning a quartet of aging prog-rockers into 1982's Next Big Thing. If only there was one single redeeming feature about this album after you get past the Roger Dean cover.

Alright, maybe there are one or two things. Numbers like "Time Again" and "Cutting It Fine" do offer little teases of a more complex prog approach to the music before lapsing into lame Top 40 schlock. And while I've said some pretty harsh things over the years about Steve Howe's willingness to take this ride, after listening to this disc again I'm willing to offer this mea culpa: Howe's nimble runs on the fretboard are actually the highlight of the album.

That said, it amounts to lipstick on a pig. This album is as creatively bankrupt as they come, full of trite lyrics, bland melodies and melodramatic arrangements that only amplify the stench this stuff is letting off. Bombast works when the music is actually grand; here it sounds like nothing quite so much as musical reputations crumbling before your ears.

If you want specifics, we could go into excruciating detail about the utter saccharin pretentiousness of "Only Time Will Tell" and "One Step Closer," Wetton's awful can't-hit-the-note singing on numbers like "Sole Survivor," and the truly embarrassing "we fight / for king / and country" chorused background vocals on "Wildest Dreams" -- but frankly, I don't get paid enough for that.

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I thought this album was the greatest thing since sliced bread when it came out in 1982. It was more mainstream than Yes, and not way out there like the Prog bands out at the time.

Time has not been kind to it. Listening to it after all these years makes it more like a time capsule than anything of truly lasting value.

But for all the hype and press it got, Asia plays like a masterpiece next to Alpha, which followed in 1983.
It makes sense that you would dislike this album, considering you get a hard on for teases of a 'complex prog approach'. Since you know so much about Asia, you should know that that was never their attention.

This album sold more than any Yes or King Crimson release ever did, and this is in spite of elitist pigs like you.
I see, so it annoys you that I am fond of the idea of four of the better-known figures in the history of progressive rock playing -- shocker -- progressive rock. Would it annoy you equally if I said I preferred watching the San Francisco Giants play baseball over, say, ice dancing?

I think the guys in Asia intended to cash in by making an arena rock album that would appeal to the lowest common denominator, and I think they succeeded in their intention. All it cost them was a little bit of my respect.
This album isn't very good, most AOR albums are crap. My problem was your issue with it not being prog, when that was not their intention. They don't have to play prog, I can understand your frustration with Yes going commercial but this was a different band.

© 2006 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen, and is used for informational purposes only.