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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: 9697
Language: english

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Asia: XXX
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-11-01 15:26:06
My Score:

The AOR and progressive rock fraternity took a collective gasp when the four heavyweights of the prog scene who had made up the initial and by far most successful line-up of Asia, put a long history of disagreements behind them to reform for the 2006/07 25th anniversary tour. Even though reviews for the tour were overwhelming positive, it was still a further surprise when the foursome announced that a brand new album, 2008's Phoenix, would follow. Omega kept the momentum up two years later, but now as the band celebrate 30 years of existence, comes the aptly titles XXX. While both of the comeback albums so far have exceeded initial expectations, the band's third album in four years is set to put both of its predecessors firmly in the shade, with nine songs that glisten and sparkle with vibrancy from start to finish making for an excellent release.

Amazingly at the age of 63 and after some serious health issues, singer and bassist John Wetton has never been in better voice, something which is illustrated time and again right across XXX. However in a quartet of what was once thought of as super-egos, the most telling aspect of this album is just how integral each of the four musicians are to the stunning end results. The beautiful heartfelt "Bury Me In Willow" finds Wetton shining behind the microphone, while Geoff Downes' keyboard contribution lays the foundation for most of what makes the likes of "Al Gatto Nero" and "I Know How You Feel" so vibrant, and for four old blokes, amazingly fresh! The overall sound of the album is as sharp as a shard of glass, resulting in each and every hi-hat strike, cymbal smash and tom roll, of which there are many, sound absolutely vital and when they are being created by the might of Carl Palmer, well to be fair, they are. That leaves the guitar work of Steve Howe and while the Yes veteran may not be quite as often at the forefront as Downes, a quick blast of the aforementioned "Al Gatto Nero", where he jousts with the keyboards throughout, or the scintillating six string solo on "Face On The Bridge", leaves you in no doubt about just how important his contributions to this album are. The standard version of XXX comes with only nine tracks (there is a limited version with a further two bonus numbers), however with all of the songs clocking in at over four minutes thirty (four are over six minutes), the songs are given room to breathe, evolving as they do so. "Judas" is the most instant, catchy, sing-along of the bunch, with a chorus that will stick in the mind for days, while the lengthier "Tomorrow The World" and "No Religion" strike a clever balance between virtuoso solos, group workouts and memorable choruses, always ensuring that even the seven minute "Tomorrow..." never outstays its welcome.

Thirty years on from their multi-million selling debut; the original four members of Asia have proved that the blueprint that made the band so popular all those years ago can still sound amazingly relevant now. Is, as some are suggesting, XXX the best thing that Asia have created? For me, not quite. However when you consider just how good the 'Asia' album was, and still is, the fact that XXX runs it so close, is still a huge recommendation.

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.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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