[Review] Asia: Aria (1994)

[Kronomyth 7.0]
Sole Survivor, without the soul.

Prog fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Asia and, without Steve Howe and Carl Palmer in the band, there was ostensibly less to love about them. Yet Aqua was an effective reboot of the brand, so more than a few folks tuned in for their followup, Aria. If you liked the one, you’ll enjoy the other, since they’re similar by design. The big difference between the two is that Aqua was still trying to please prog fans, while Aria is a bombastic studio rock album with nary a trace of magic. I’m not knocking Aria by saying that; it is unabashedly over-the-top guitar/keyboard rock that wrings every ounce of drama from each song. By choosing not to serve two masters, Aria is in many ways the better album. It has a lot more of Survivor in it than Sole Survivor, true, but there’s no denying that, on a sonic scale, the results are impressive. These are songs of love and war played out on a grand stage by great actors. Had this music been released in 1985, Asia might have led a new breed of hair metal champions. And therein lies the only problem with Aria: as good as it is, it missed the boat for big rock by about ten years. Unless you were living in whatever they were calling Czechoslovakia that week, your life probably didn’t depend on hearing “Anytime,” “Summer” or “Remembrance Day.” Mind you, my initial reaction to this record was one of snobbish proggish disgust, but that would describe my initial reaction to every Asia album ever, and the truth is that, over time, some of the Asia albums eventually win me over. Aria didn’t take that long to win me over, or at least get me to a point where I could concede that the songs were remarkably and consistently catchy. Asia has always been a melodramatic act, but the nadir of their art was them spewing out other peoples’ lines (e.g., “Days Like These”). In many ways, Aria finds them sticking to their principles, even if the principal agents have largely changed. There will be some for whom an Asia with only one original member is too unoriginal, and to them I would mention that you can find as many Yes members in World Trade, if you’re so inclined.

The Songs
1. Anytime
2. Are You Big Enough?
3. Desire (John Payne/Andy Nye/Geoff Downes)
4. Summer
5. Sad Situation
6. Don’t Cut The Wire (Brother)
7. Feels Like Love
8. Remembrance Day
9. Enough’s Enough
10. Military Man
11. Aria (John Payne/Andy Nye/Geoff Downes)

All titles written by Geoff Downes & John Payne unless noted.

CD reissue bonus track
12. Reality

CD bonus tracks (Special Edition)
13. Military Man (acoustic)
14. Anytime (multimedia video)

The Players
Geoff Downes (keyboards), John Payne (lead & backing vocals, bass & guitar), Al Pitrelli (guitars), Michael Sturgis (drums). Produced by Geoff Downes & John Payne; engineered & mixed by Andy Reilly; mixed by Gary Stevenson.

The Pictures
Cover design & painting by Roger Dean. Sleeve layout/typography by Brian Burrows. Photos by Paul Rider.

The Plastic
Released on compact disc in April 1994 in the UK (Bullet Proof, CDVEST 8) and on May 10, 1994 in Japan (WEA, WPCP 5830). Also released on compact disc in 1995 in the US (Mayhem, 11073-2).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1998 in the US (Original Masters, 1 5523 2).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2004 in the UK (Snapper Classics, SPDCD159) and Russia (Snapper, SMMCD523) with one bonus track.
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc Special Edition in 2005 in Germany (Inside Out, SPV 085-48312) with 3 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on expanded Blu-Spec compact disc on September 19, 2012 in Japan (Columbia, SICP-20418) with 2 bonus tracks.

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