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Asia: Omega

When the original line up of Asia, John Wetton bass and vocals, Geoff Downes, keyboards, Steve Howe, guitars and Carl Palmer on drums, reformed to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of their formation, few observers believed that the reunion would last long. Well here we are some four years further down the line and not only have the foursome stuck together, they have also managed to record a live CD/DVD as well as a studio album and now in the shape of Omega comes reformation album number two.

Released in 2008, Phoenix was an amazingly consistent set of songs from a group of musicians who hadn't recorded together for over two decades, and while some people found the smooth, melodic, soft rock with a touch of pop and prog to be just a little too polite for them, many, like myself, were completely gobsmacked by just how damn good the album was. So with my expectations now at the opposite end of the spectrum, have Asia gone and done it again? Well the short answer is yes, although truth be told, it did take a little time for me to come to that conclusion.

Omega is an excellent set of songs that continues in the same vein as its predecessor, with the majority of the tracks being happy to stay mid-paced, gently effective in execution and uplifting in lyric. This is the spectrum that Asia, of all incarnations, have delivered best in and with tracks as strong as "I Believe" or the anthemic "End Of The World" this release is no exception. "Emily" is a jaunty piano led pop rocker that sees one of many excellent vocal performances from John Wetton, who thankfully after his health problems, seems to delivering better than ever and with the atmospheric mid section is one of the most involving listens on Omega. "Listen Children" has trademark Downes/Howe interplay, as they continually jostle past each other for the limelight. Downes fires off some wonderful keyboard dashes, before Howe wrestles back control in a restrained, yet vigorous manner that only he can achieve and the chorus is the wonderfully layered textures we've come to expect from Asia.

Other highlights come thick and fast in the shape of the soaring and poignant "Holy War", the acoustic strum of album closer "Don't Wanna Lose You", where Wetton's phrasing is remarkably and surprisingly Oasis "Wonderwall" like as he croons the lyric "Cause I Don't Know How". The best true ballad on the album is "Ever Yours" with its layered synth strings and between them Downes and Wetton prove they haven't lost that chemistry they've always displayed.

As ever the rock of the show is drummer Carl Palmer. Asia's blueprint has never really allowed him to show his flair, skill and dexterity behind the kit, but it is his impeccable time keeping that grounds Omega and allows his band mates to shine. Probably his most flamboyant performance is on album opener "Finger On The Trigger", where he has the space to flourish a little more. It is a strange choice of track to begin the album with, not because it isn't an up tempo instantly catchy track, but because this song originally saw the light of day on the second Wetton/Downes Icon album and whilst not a carbon copy, it would be fair to suggest it is true to the original. Having said that, it is a great track.

If you really weren't convinced by Phoenix, then I'm not sure that Omega will lead you to believe that Asia are for you, however for the rest of us, this is a classy and essential addition to the stellar Asia catalogue.

Track Listing
1. Finger on the Trigger
2. Through My Veins
3. Holy War
4. Ever Yours
5. Listen Children
6. End of the World
7. Light the Way
8. Emily
9. Still the Same
10. There was a Time
11. I Believe
12. Don't Wanna Lose You Now

Added: June 3rd 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band's Web Site
Hits: 8147
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Asia: Omega
Posted by Dean Pedley, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-06-03 11:57:13
My Score:

One of the more unlikely reunions over the past few years was when Messrs. Palmer, Wetton, Downes and Howe reconvened for a tour and ultimately a new studio album in the shape of Phoenix. It was difficult to see what was in it for Palmer and Howe, both busy with solo endeavours, as they often give the impression of being able to sleepwalk their way through Asia's slick AOR tunes which are hardly taxing for such seasoned pros. For Downes and Wetton, however, it was an opportunity to rekindle the song writing partnership that spawned "Heat of the Moment", "Only Time Will Tell", "Sole Survivor" etc and provide one last chance to get back to performing in arenas around the globe. Whilst Phoenix was more than a little lightweight it did find Asia back in the Billboard Charts and seemingly did well enough to convince the quartet to offer more new music in the form of Omega.

One listen to opening track "Finger on the Trigger" and as if all of the years between the debut album and Omega have never happened. An immediate hook, Wetton's trademark vocal and the polished Asia sound it's a gloriously nostalgic romp back to the bands heyday. That said, the opening song is pretty much as good as it gets for Omega which has more than its fair share of filler and is decidedly middle of the road. Throwaway titles such as "Ever Yours", "Light the Way" and "I'm Still the Same" simply sound like a band that are going through the motions and delivering a bland product to an impatient record label. The conundrum with Asia has always been that if you look at the resumes of the four musicians then they should have been an expansive prog rock tour de force and yet they ended up as nothing more than bright and breezy AOR; pleasant to listen to in the background but with little real substance. Omega represents the last letter in the Greek Alphabet and surely this will mark the end of the road for Asia as a band that offers us new music. They will always find a place on the nostalgia festival circuit running through the debut album ad infinitum but those who appreciate what Steve Howe and Carl Palmer are really capable of would be well advised to look elsewhere.

» Reader Comments:

Asia: Omega
Posted by james kelley on 2010-05-06 20:20:03
My Score:

i liked it sounds about the of alpha and i thought this album didnt get a fare shake and that is the true and omega is in that class i feel this should get air play. i felt that phoenix should have gotten it. they never same to get the credit they deserve and that is the trueand wont this time around either.

Asia: Omega
Posted by WrinklyWrocker on 2010-04-29 12:24:13
My Score:

Bought the album on its release. Thankfully it 'does exactly what it says on the tin', pure Asia, excellent tracks, excellent musicianship, just as you would expect from these steller chaps. I loved Phoenix, really love it, and in many ways, although twenty something years on, it is every bit as good as the first album. High expectations therefore for Omega had I! Have it on my i-pod and also on CD in the car, so have been blasting it out for a few days now, I love it, what else can I say, go get it, you will not be disappointed, some really good tracks guys. The original line up really do bond and play well together, remove anyone and its just not Asia. I look forward to further releases, bring it on ;-)

Yours Wrinkly W.Rocker

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