I'm an Asia fan – always have been and probably always will be. But even if I wasn't (and there are plenty of progressive-music lovers who aren't), I'd still walk away from the second edition of Asia-The Heat Goes On with respect for the numerous musicians who've populated the band since Geoff Downes, John Wetton, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer joined forces at the beckoning of A&R giant John Kalodner for 1982's self-titled debut album. Props also go to author David Gallant, who despite running the official Asia web site, was smart enough not to let any "fan boy" tendencies he may have had get in the way of telling Asia's dark and troubled story.
And what a story it is. Asia – propelled by the name recognition of its members' previous bands (Yes, ELP, UK) – went from playing stadiums on the heels of that memorable debut to performing acoustically at a semi-private California zoo 21 years later. In between there was plenty of infighting (often between Wetton and Howe), numerous lineups (which included past or present members of such notable outfits as Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Slade, Thin Lizzy and, yes, Krokus), sour deals with fledgling labels (Great Pyramid Records, anyone?) and general bad luck (burst pipes at the band's studio ruined equipment and recordings in 1995).
Gallant chronologically covers all of Asia's phases, providing insight into many of the band's releases along the way — plus studio-session details, info about the main players' side projects and revealing remarks from many of Asia's guest musicians. This second edition of The Heat Goes On also features a new cover and a larger format, new chapters updating the band's activities between 2001 and now (including anecdotes from 2003's low-key but enjoyable Asia Across America tour), a two-page Asia family tree, track-by-track commentaries on the debut from Downes and Wetton and on 2004's Silent Nation from Downes and longtime singer/bassist John Payne, and an exclusive and entertaining albeit brief interview with Kalodner. All in 140 pages!
All that said, the majority of quotes Gallant uses are unattributed. Granted, the author provides a source list at the end of the book, but it's difficult to tell just how much info he gleaned from his own interviews and how much he relied on other sources. He also could have provided more critical commentary about individual songs.
The Heat Goes On, nevertheless, accomplishes a worthwhile goal by creating a serious rock bio about serious musicians for serious fans. Other bands should be so lucky.