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Asia: Anthology (Special Edition)

Much has been thought, written and said about John Wetton's departure from Asia nearly 15 years ago. While many listeners followed Wetton's lead and left the band for dead after 1990's tepid Then & Now collection, keyboardist Geoff Downes quietly went in search of a new vocalist and bass player to help take Asia into the next decade and beyond. He found John Payne, a singer with greater depth and more drama than Wetton could ever muster. Unfortunately, the new Asia's music wound up gertting released on obscure labels and went virtually unheard outside of the band's hardcore fan base until InsideOut Music signed the band and released Silent Nation in 2004.

But prior to Silent Nation, Asia actually released four other albums during the Payne-era including Aqua in 1992 (which included appearances from original Asians Steve Howe and Carl Palmer), Aria in 1994 and Arena in 1996, followed by a hard-to-find compilation called Anthology. All four titles have now been remastered as part of InsideOut's elegant "Special Edition" series allowing some listeners to rediscover Asia while rewarding longtime fans with warmer and richer versions of songs that retain the original Asia sound while stretching it in new directions.

Anthology, originally released in 1997, contains 9 songs from Aqua, Aria and Arena the AOR-influenced "Who Will Stop the Rain?" and "Anytime," along with the progressive "Two Sides of the Moon" are particularly reflective of the band's output during this era. The album also included five re-recorded versions of early Asia hits like "Only Time Will Tell," "Heat of the Moment" and "Go." While considered sacrilege at the time by Asia's staunchest loyalists, these recordings over time have become more acceptable and respectable. A version of GTR's Downes-penned "The Hunter" and a new tune called "Different Worlds" rounds out the package.

If you're unfamiliar with the Payne era and the Anthology tracks spark your curiosity, may I respectfully recommend the "Special Edition" reissues of Aqua (featuring two live tracks from the post-Wetton period), Aria (featuring an acoustic bonus track and the video for "Anytime") and Arena (with yet another acoustic bonus track). All three feature a different cast of musicians joining Downes and Payne (including Al Pitrelli, Michael Sturgis and Elliott Randall), and all three benefit from vibrant remastering, insightful liner notes and vintage photographs. Even though versions of these three albums have been re-released by different labels over the years, InsideOut's versions stand as the definitive ones.

Anthology Track Listing:
1) The Hunter
2) Only Time Will Tell
3) Arena
4) Anytime
5) Don't Cry
6) Aqua Part One
7) Who Will Stop the Rain?
8) The Heat Goes On
9) Two Sides of the Moon
10) Reality
11) Go
12) Feels Like Love
13) Someday
14) Heat of the Moment
15) Military Man
16) Different Worlds
17) Time Again (Acoustic Bonus Track)

Added: August 22nd 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Asia Web Site
Hits: 2481
Language: english

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