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Asia: XXX

The third album of new material since the long-awaited reunion of the four original members of Asia finds them celebrating the 30th anniversary of that landmark debut release both by way of the XXX title and also Roger Dean's artwork which echoes past themes. Steve Howe, John Wetton, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes have now made more music together since their 2006 reunion than in their short-lived heyday when it all went horribly wrong after just two albums and the quality of XXX confirms that they are very much back in business. As with predecessor Omega (2010) XXX has been produced by Mike Paxman (who has more recently worked extensively with both Status Quo and Uriah Heep) and he has ensured a crystal clear and polished end result.

If you loved the classic debut album then XXX will be one of your albums of 2012 this is a great example of Asia doing everything they do well and much more. The songwriting partnership of Wetton and Downes is stronger than ever and they seem effortlessly able to come up with catchy choruses and melodies time after time memorable lead single "Face on the Bridge" being a perfect example. Geoff Downes is very much at the forefront throughout with his keyboards driving many of the songs and taking a number of solos. That is not to say that Steve Howe is underemployed with his two songwriting credits "No Religion" and "Judas" being direct rockers that highlight some delicate interplay between guitar and keyboards. John Wetton's vocals are sounding strong and clear and still have that distinctive style that was pefectly in tune with commercial radio back in 1982 "Al Gatto Nero" and "Tomorrow The World" have those clever lyrical turns of phrase that Wetton is renowned for and would have been sure-fire hits in a time when such things mattered.

There is a real buzz around XXX which is more than justified three decades since their formation Asia have released an album that is the sound of a band rejuvenated and is a "must buy" for fans old and new alike.

Track Listing
1. Tomorrow The World (6:47)
2. Bury Me In Willow (6:01)
3. No Religion (6:36)
4. Faithful (5:37)
5. I Know How You Feel (4:53)
6. Face On The Bridge (5:59)
7. Al Gatto Nero (4:36)
8. Judas (4:43)
9. Ghost Of A Chance (4:21)

Added: July 3rd 2012
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 6726
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Asia: XXX
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-07-03 13:54:11
My Score:

This album marks the 30th year of this super group since their 1982 debut. After their reformation with the original lineup, they released two albums, Phoenix in 2008 and Omega in 2010. Now, they're here with their third album, the aptly titled XXX.

The songs are built on a strong foundation of melodic sensibility, perfected by Downes' keyboard and Howe's guitar work. The duo craft trademark Asia hooks and inject them into the compostions seamlessly. The lush, open sound production certainly enhances their delivery, leaving enough breathing room for John Wetton's vocals. Often times, his voice is treated with an overlay of reverb to give the songs deep space and resonance. The 'midnight mix' of the ballad "Faithful" cuts out most of the other instrumentation of the original version and puts the entire emphasis on Wetton's vocals, morphing it into a totally new song in a sense. Wetton's harmonies are sublime, too. "Bury Me in a Willow" is classic Asia, with its gripping 80s pop feel while the backing tracks of "No Religion" continue to loom over the arrangement as the rest of the band builds webs of melodies over sparse chord progressions. Steve Howe's guitar tone is to die for: clean and articulate. He adopts a wide range of techniques, from briefly blues-inflicted touches to funk-infested grooves and crystal-clear acoustic passages. Songs like "Reno" and "Ghost of a Chance" actually feature brief acoustic 'solos' which feel like songs within songs themselves. Carl Palmer proves he is one of the most unique drummers in all of rock. What some may consider questionable and uneventful is actually where this man's strengths lie. His deceptively simple yet powerfully accented beat constructs suggest he understands the need of the songs the best, impelling each piece forward with deftly nuanced cymbal and percussion work. Keyboards are as integral to this album as any previous disc. With richly textured symphonic pop hooks and melting piano lines, Downes is the key figure punctuating the melodies and bringing the tracks to their conclusion. Thanks to Mike Paxman's production work, there is even a blazing organ solo on the album that strangely connects the band to Uriah Heep.

Fans of Asia must hear this album, even if they gave up on them back in 1992. This could be the album to reassure them that the band they once loved is still solid as a rock.

Asia: XXX
Posted by Simon Bray, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-22 09:37:07
My Score:

As I review albums and sometimes (more than I'd like) buy them I tend, every few months to put them into some kind of rank order for our end of you lists. XXX has gone straight to the top with a metaphorical bullet. This is a band at the very, very top of their game from note one until the end. It sounds great and thanks to utterly brilliant songs deserves to be remembered as their very best album.

XXX oozes class from the keyboard fills on Tomorrow the World to Steve Howe's economic solos (most tracks) to highly commercial rockers such as Judas and Al Gatto Nero on which Carl Palmer taps his cymbals like a demented cymbal tapper! As one of the few who appeared to really enjoy John Wetton's last solo album Raised in Captivity I'm pleased to see the quality threshold being suitably high especially on Bury Me in Willow which is by far the best song I've heard all year. It's a lovely meditation on death and is in every way wonderful and deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. As a fellow Englishman I can only assume that being buried in willow not in oak is a cricket metaphor which to these ears only adds to the message in this very special song.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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