Asia (band)

From Academic Kids

Asia is a progressive rock group. It was formed in 1981 as a supergroup, with former members of Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and The Buggles.



Asia began with the apparent demise of Yes and Emerson Lake & Palmer, the two flagship bands of British progressive rock. Under the auspices of David Geffen's record empire, a supergroup would form from these ashes.

Buggles/Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes and Yes guitarist Steve Howe formed Asia with bassist John Wetton, whose star had risen briefly as the frontman for King Crimson and UK. The latter group had formed the model on which Asia would base itself. Superstar rock drummer Carl Palmer joined the band later in the process. Future Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin considered joining the group, but dropped out early to concentrate on his solo career.

The band's early offerings were considered disappointing by music critics and fans of traditional progressive rock, who found the music closer to radio-friendly AOR pop. However, Asia clicked with fans of such early-1980s arena acts as Journey, Boston, and Electric Light Orchestra. Rolling Stone gave "Asia" an indifferent review, while still acknowledging the band's musicianship had been a cut above the usual AOR expectations.

Asia's eponymous debut album enjoyed considerable commercial success, spending nine weeks at number one in the american album charts. The singles "Only Time Will Tell" and "Heat of the Moment" became huge Top 40 hits, with the latter cracking the Top Ten, while remaining a stadium favorite at U.S. sporting events. Both songs featured Geoffrey Downes' keyboard wizardry, with John Wetton's throaty voice at the helm.

One criticism remains that Wetton and Downes' songwriting relied too heavily on love balladry and keyboard hooks. But in comparison with their next two "classic" albums, "Asia" did tend toward progressive rock, with the anthem "Wildest Dreams" showcasing Carl Palmer's superlative drumming. "Soul Survivor" also remains a memorable track, reminiscent of Yes. The U.S. tour also did extremely well, while the MTV channel played their videos on heavy rotation.

However, neither the second album, Alpha, nor its singles, repeated the chart success of the first. The power-ballad "Don't Cry" barely entered the Top Ten in 1983, while "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," an affable John Wetton vocal performance, barely charted in the U.S. Rolling Stone rightfully panned "Alpha" as an over-produced commercial album, while others lamented that Howe and Palmer were effectively reduced to session musicians.

Unsurprisingly, John Wetton and Steve Howe quarrelled over the direction of Asia. In 1984, Wetton left the group briefly, while ELP frontman Greg Lake replaced him for the highly publicized "Asia in Asia" tour in Japan. Thereafter, Asia reformed without Steve Howe, who also despaired that Yes had enjoyed a successful rebirth with Trevor Rabin as its new guitarist. However, Howe would enjoy a brief success with GTR, another super-group formed with Steve Hackett of Genesis, and produced by none other than Geoff Downes.

The third Asia album, Astra, was a commercial failure, largely because Geffen cancelled the tour due to lack of interest. Mandy Meyer of Krokus provided more of a hard-rock guitar approach, in keeping with the trend. Yet the band enjoyed a modest hit single, "Go," with Meyer's guitar heroics center-stage. In 1985, this Asia line-up died, although Wetton resurfaced with a 1987 solo album, Wetton-Manzanera, based on Asia material. Asia also made a contribution to the Sylvester Stallone film soundtrack to "Over The Top."

Geoffrey Downes revived Asia in 1989, to a mediocre reception even from its former fans. They toured the former Soviet Union in 1990, while "Then And Now" featured their previous hits and new singles. "Days Like These" charted briefly in 1991, generating a small amount of MTV airplay. Pat Thrall joined Downes, Palmer, and Wetton, who performed classic material and even King Crimson songs. John Wetton left in 1992 to focus on writing new albums.

However, Downes found a new lease on life with Asia. Enlisting new musicians, he led Asia through the 1990s with a series of well-produced but unremarkable albums. The comeback album, "Aqua" 1992 featured sessions from Steve Howe and Carl Palmer, but John Payne's raspy voice was ill-suited to replace John Wetton. Downes' environmental single, "Who Will Stop The Rain" attracted some radio attention, but the "Aqua" club tour featuring Howe (whose presence was heavily promoted) angered even the band's most ardent supporters, when a clearly indifferent Howe only took the stage halfway through the show. However, the tour was successful enough to warrant the band's longevity.

Geoff Downes' group would release Aria in 1994 and Arena in 1996. Aria featured former Megadeth lead guitarist Al Pitrelli, who would leave Asia during the short Aria tour. This underscores the fact that the keyboard-driven band often faced trouble keeping a regular guitarist. Furthermore, Arena featured three different session guitarists, (including Ian Crichton of Saga). In the late 1990s, Downes and Payne opened the Asia vaults, releasing the double-disc Archiva, a collection of bootleg shows from both the Wetton and Payne eras.

The 2001 Aura album showed a return to progressive rock form, but without recapturing the commercial success of the first album. However, the group continued to tour small venues in America, riding on nostalgia alone. In one show at Detroit, MI in October 2004, Payne and Downes joked about the failure of Aura to capture commercial success, predicting that Asia would go to Hip Hop and R&B, even playing a R&B jingle with acoustic guitar and keyboards.

2004's Silent Nation picked up some unexpected exposure on the Internet. The album, mainly in Payne's control, managed to chart better than 1992's Aqua. The group began a acoustic tour featuring only Downes and Payne. In early 2005, the full band toured in Europe, performing in settings ranging from small clubs to medium-sized arenas.

The band currently consists of original keyboardist Geoff Downes, John Payne still on bass, along with two veteran musicians, drummer Chris Slade and guitarist Guthrie Govan.


Other musicians joined and left after a short time (including Greg Lake), without recording any material with the group. Yet more played as session, guest or live artists without formally joining Asia.


(studio albums only)
  • 1982 Asia (Downes, Wetton, Howe, Palmer)
  • 1983 Alpha (Downes, Wetton, Howe, Palmer)
  • 1985 Astra (Downes, Wetton, Meyer, Palmer)
  • 1992 Aqua (Downes, Payne, Howe, Pitrelli, Palmer)
  • 1994 Aria (Downes, Payne, Pitrelli, Sturgis)
  • 1996 Arena (Downes, Payne, Sturgis, Ibrahim, Randall, Hotei, Jardim)
  • 2001 Aura (Payne, Downes, Howe, Crichton, Randall, Thrall, Govan, Slade, Sturgis, Colaiuta, Jardim, Levin)
  • 2004 Silent Nation (Downes, Payne, Govan, Slade)

See also

External links

id:Asia (band) pl:Asia (grupa muzyczna)


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