Album Reviews

Asia – XXX Review

Released By : Frontiers Records

Genre : Progressive Symphonic Rock

Link : http://www.originalasia.com/

 

Lineup:

John Wetton – Vocals,Bass

Steve Howe – Guitars

Geoff Downs – Keyboards

Carl Palmer – Drums

 

Tracklist:

01. Tomorrow The World

02. Bury Me In Willow

03. No Religion

04. Faithful

05. I Know How You Feel

06. Face On The Bridge

07. Al Gatto Nero

08. Judas

09. Ghost Of A Chance

 

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review I have a confession to make. Upon my first listen to ASIA’S new studio album XXX it didn’t really grab me at all. Looking back over my notes from that initial listen I had written things like, “A little boring”, “A bit too safe”, “Too nice and no guts” and a few other little tidbits of genius that I won’t get into at the moment. This got me to thinking about the latest RUSH album that was released a little while ago and how much of a let-down that album was, and also the YES comeback album last year, which was also sub-par at best. I was sure that three of the most important progressive acts in the history of music couldn’t all release duds one after the other, so I decided to leave XXX alone for a little while and come back to it. Okay, while I’m willing to admit that ASIA aren’t as heavily embedded into the ‘progressive’ side of things  as the other two bands mentioned, you couldn’t deny that prog-rock has always been a strong element of ASIA’S music. Anyways, during the off-time I re-listened to the latest RUSH and YES albums, and also to a couple of my favourite ASIA classics.

Okay then, here’s the part in which I admit that I was so very wrong, because after letting this album get into my brain and under my skin I have to say that XXX is a truly fantastic album on all fronts and features some of the best ASIA music in nearly two decades. XXX is a pretty apt title too as this music is like porn for your ears. The neo-prog elements of the band’s sound have never been too much of an obtrusive force, and once again here on XXX there is just enough of it to keep neo-prog fans salivating while not scaring off those into a more standard sound. The symphonic elements are played up massively here though and it’s almost as if Geoffrey Downs is trying to atone for the poor YES album he was a part of last year by bringing out some of his best keyboard work in a long time, and gee it’s pretty thick into the mix too. John Wetton’s vocals here are also a constant highlight and he sounds as good as ever, he also sounds much more interested here than what he did on his solo release last year RAISED IN CAPTIVITY. Let’s not understate the contribution of the other two original members here either as Steve Howe’s guitar work is perfectly subtle and punchy when it needs to be and drum-master Carl Palmer stakes a claim to remind everyone just how vital he is to the proper ASIA sound.

You’d be hard pressed to find a less than excellent track on XXX and the whole album plays very nicely from cover to cover. There are however a handful of genuine standout moments that will have symphonic rock fans picking their jaws up from the ground. Opener TOMORROW THE WORLD is almost a perfect neo-prog tune and would have fitted nicely on the stunning IT BITES album THE TALL SHIPS. It’s a great way to start an album and the perfect lead-in to what is left to come. FAITHFUL is a genuinely stellar ballad track, admittedly the lyrics are slightly trite and just a little bit too cutesy, but the vibe of the song more than makes up for it. FACE ON THE BRIDGE is an interesting track that combines classic seventies symphonic inspired verses, with a more modern day COLDPLAY-esqu vibe running through the chorus. My personal favourite moment of XX though, and one ‘m sure will be a strong talking point is I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL…What a fantastic classic ASIA song this one is. The very, very SUPERTRAMP-ish intro really adds to the classic feel and the eighties AOR vibe mixes in perfectly too.

ASIA have released some really, really good music in the past and while all of the different eras as far as line-ups are concerned have born at least some lasting fruit, there’s no denying now that the original line-up of Geoff Downs, John Wetton, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer is for all intents and purposes the quintessential combo. Hopefully they stick it out for a while longer and maybe even release another gem before calling time on their career. Long-time ASIA fans can safely go and lay their cash down for XXX and should do so immediately.

 

Written By ZeeZee

Rating : 9/10

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Comments

 

One thought on “Asia – XXX Review”

  1. I could not agree less! This album let me down in so many ways, AND this wasn’t just the one listen. I played it five or six times before reviewing it for my music journal (see here [url]http://www.musicbanter.com/members-journal/56019-playlist-life-trollhearts-resurrected-journal-139.html#post1205258[/url] and every time I listened to it it got worse. I could not believe how boring, stale, unadventurous and disappointing an album it is. And as for Wetton being “more interested?” You seriously think that when he sings “Judas” he’s putting any passion into the song? Or that damned infuriating “Al gatto nero”? What the HELL is that about??

    Sorry, but this album in my opinion is a very good argument for Asia to forget it. After 30 years, I think this shows they no longer have it and it’s time to call it a day. I honestly cannot see how you could call this a classic album, and the only reason I believe people would be collecting their jaws from the floor is from realising just how bad the album is.

    And I say this as a lifelong Asia fan, so I know what I’m speaking about. Sorry but I could not let such a diametrically opposed opinion on this album pass unchallenged. As Burt Reynolds once

     

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