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Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Nite Retro

Welcome once again to Friday Nite Retro here at Left in Aboite, the weekly feature where I highlight the music and story of some of my favorite bands. Tonight we're looking at one of the first "supergroups", which are groups comprised of members of other successful groups who have banded together for a new joint effort. The players this evening are:

- Geoff Downes - keyboards & bg vocals (Of Yes and The Buggles)

- John Wetton - bass & lead vocals (Of King Crimson, UK, Uriah Heep and Family)

- Steve Howe - guitar and background vocals (Also of Yes)

- Carl Palmer - drums (Of Emerson, Lake and Palmer)

These four artists were the original founding members of Asia, and it is their short initial success that I'm covering tonight.

Asia's debut album enjoyed considerable commercial success, spending nine weeks at number one in the U.S. album chart. The singles "Only Time Will Tell" and "Heat of the Moment" became huge Top 40 hits, with the latter cracking the Top Five, and remaining a stadium favourite at U.S. sporting events.

Heat of the Moment

Only Time Will Tell

The tracks from the Asia debut have stood the test of time and are played on classic rock stations throughout the world today. The Asia debut has become legendary in the genre of classic rock. The US tour also did extremely well, selling out every date on the '82 and '83 tours, while the MTV channel played their videos on heavy rotation. Billboard named the Asia debut as album of the year.

Asia became known as pioneers of phase two of the progressive rock era by avoiding long winded forays that included, to at least a greater extent than phase-one, enough commercial polish to attract radio airplay outside of album-rock circles. Yes' 90125 and Big Generator, ELPowell's Emerson, Lake & Powell in 1986, and the GTR album would all follow in the Asia debut album's footsteps.

However,neither their second effort, Alpha, or any following Asia album was able to replicate the chart success of the first. The power ballad "Don't Cry" entered the Top Ten in 1983, while "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," a fan favorite for John Wetton's vocal performance, charted inside of Billboard's top 40. But Rolling Stone panned Alpha as an over-produced commercial album while others lamented that Howe and Palmer were effectively reduced to session musicians. However, many Asia fans favor Alpha over the debut.

Don't Cry

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes

Wetton temporarily left, but rejoined the group in 1985 for their third album, Astra. Steve Howe also left and was replaced by Krokus guitarist Mandy Meyer. Howe enjoyed brief and very minor success with GTR, another supergroup formed with Steve Hackett of Genesis. From Astra, here is the modest hit (#47) "Go" featuring Meyer's guitar work:


Asia has had numerous twists in it's membership over the years and, although you probably weren't aware of it, they are still together. The four original members have recently reformed, and on March 16, 2007, it was announced on the band's Web site that Asia will be going into the studio this year to record a new album for release in early 2008. All four original members will contribute. This will mark the first recorded material from all four original members since 1983's Alpha.


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