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Asia: Gravitas

People say the funniest things... for example, Asia drummer Carl Palmer suggested that Gravitas, the latest release from the resurgent Asia, reminded him of Van Halen! Really??

Admittedly singing bassist, John Wetton, basically scoffed at that suggestion and so he should, as the déjà-vu of introducing a new guitarist replacing the re-Yesward bound Steve Howe kicks in, in earnest. So has the, basically, previously unknown Sam Coulson given Asia a guitar-kicking up the jacksy? Well, no. This is Asia doing what they do and doing it well, through a collection of melodic, gently Progressive, mid-paced Rock with hooks and memorable choruses. If you haven't been seduced by Palmer, Wetton, Downes and Howe, now Coulson, before, then you won't be here either. But I doubt that's the point. The faithful will be in raptures no doubt, even if for a fan of the band, like myself, Gravitas seems to lack a little...well....gravitas. "Joe DiMaggio's Glove" shimmers and shines, providing a merry dance of emotions, "Till We Meet Again" employs a militaristic march and a fine, fine guitar solo (Coulson can seriously play by the way), while adding soaring harmony backing vocals and a trademark Downes/Wetton keys-bass trade-off that almost turns into a waltz. However, even with time thawing my initial nonplussedness towards this album, I simply can't shake off the feeling that what Asia have served up this time simply stands too close and similar to the band's three comeback albums. And in truth I'd probably put any of Phoenix, Omega or XXX in the CD player before this.

That all said, Gravitas is still good stuff and while my comments above could and indeed are pretty negative, it doesn't actually mean that I haven't enjoyed this album (I have), or that it is poor (it isn't). However when you set the bar high and Asia have, then there is an expectation that you'll continue to vault over it with style and grace. Both of those aspects are still in evidence (especially on the melancholy "Russian Dolls", where Wetton's voice shines, and the slow building atmospheres of "Valkyrie", where Palmer gives such an assured percussive performance), yet somehow there's a trailing foot that maybe doesn't quite knock said bar to the floor, but it does cause the sort of wobble that makes the crowd gasp in anticipation of fault.

Gravitas is a good album from a band who usually deliver great albums. We can forgive them a slice of the ordinary, when so much extraordinary has come in the past. The next step may be telling though.

Track Listing
1. Valkyrie
2. Gravitas
3. The Closer I Get
4. Nyctophobia
5. Russian Dolls
6. Heaven Help Me
7. I Would Die For You
8. Joe DiMaggio's Glove
9. Till We Meet Again

Added: March 29th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Asia Online
Hits: 2154
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Asia: Gravitas
Posted by Jordan Farquharson on 2014-07-06 03:23:42
My Score:

This new Asia CD does not sound like the other ones. It rocks harder, and is more orchestral, symphonic, and classical at the same time.

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