Album Of The Week - Asia - Asia
Moving on from our late nineties funk, we move backwards to 1982 for one of our first supergroup offerings - the eponymous debut album from prog-rock masters Asia.
One of the first things you'll notice in the picture is the truly fantastic cover art, courtesy of long-time collaborator Roger Dean. Roger Dean has worked with other progressive bands such as Yes and this dragon/mythical beast artwork has become a cornerstone of Asia albums from way back in 1982, right up to the recent Gravitas, which is also brilliant.
It may seem odd to say, but I find this artwork so striking that it currently resides as my wallpaper on my computer, complete with another Roger Dean piece entitled Squawk - you can find that here - https://www.pinterest.es/pin/324470348145312989/ - it comes from the second album from Welsh rock group Budgie.
As debut albums go, it's hard to look any further than the Asia album. It's got an eclectic mix of tracks and features, overall, an tremendous sound collage from some of the best musicians that prog-rock has to offer. Indeed, this LP spawned Asia's biggest and most well-known song, Heat Of The Moment. It's typical of some early eighties AOR (album-orientated-rock) too, with a somewhat similar correlation to bands like Journey and Whitesnake. Despite its typicality, this doesn't at all detract from how fantastic the song is, with a great guitar solo from Steve Howe and an exemplary vocal from the late, great John Wetton.
There's also some deeper cuts such as Sole Survivor and Time Again that are equally sinister and indeed exemplify the more progressive side to the band. On Time Again specifically, the heavy drumming from Carl Palmer, of Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame, sets the tone perfectly for one of the darkest songs present. Its six minute or so duration shows the progressive pedigree that the supergroup had to offer, with former members of King Crimson (Wetton), Yes (Howe, Downes) and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Palmer) present to allow the prog-rock to flourish for a wider audience. I love Time Again and would argue its the album's best work.
Cutting It Fine is typically AOR in nature with its vocal harmonies, but portrays some progressive aspects with a fantastic guitar solo from Steve Howe and a thumping bassline and indeed vocal from John Wetton. This track is a wonderful showcase of what Asia are about, with both of the above entwining with Carl Palmer's energetic drumming and some amazing work on keys from Geoff Downes.
Overall, the Asia LP is one I've loved for many years and one that I really do recommend. It brings the prog genre to a wider audience and makes it perhaps a little more accessible. I truly adore the works this album presents and it is one of the best of all time.
More musical magnificence to come next week!