Asia: Astra (1985)

At the time, I was actually more disappointed in Roger Dean for illustrating this album than Asia for making it, since no one really had high expectations after Alpha. But there was that album cover and, with a Pavlovian response born of countless Yes purchases, I found myself leaving the store with Astra. I listened to it, filed it alongside those other overblown Asia albums and quickly forgot about it. Years later, whenever I listened to it, I would focus on the few songs I liked and comment (to no one in particular) that Mandy Meyer was a pretty good guitarist for a guy I’d never heard of before. But Astra is actually much better than that. The band spent more time on this album and it shows, both in the quality of the material and the painstaking production touches. Geoff Downes in particular is outstanding on this record; I wouldn’t have previously made the case for him as a prog keyboardist, and might not still, but he clearly has the capacity to make music of epic proportions. Wetton and Palmer are predictably excellent, and the new recruit (Meyer) provides firm support while wisely avoiding the temptation to step into Steve Howe’s shoes. Despite being their least commercially successful album to date, Astra may well be their most artistically successful album—at least among the early trio of “classic” Asia albums. It’s a shame I didn’t appreciate it more at the time, but what would the fun of aging be if we kept seeing and hearing the world in the same way?

Original LP Version
A1. Go (4:06)
A2. Voice of America (4:26)
A3. Hard On Me (John Wetton/Geoff Downes/Carl Palmer) (3:35)
A4. Wishing (4:15)
A5. Rock And Roll Dream (6:51)
B1. Countdown To Zero (4:14)
B2. Love Now Till Eternity (4:10)
B3. Too Late (John Wetton/Geoff Downes/Carl Palmer) (4:11)
B4. Suspicion (3:46)
B5. After The War (5:09)

All songs written by John Wetton/Geoff Downes unless noted.

The Players
Geoff Downes (keyboards), Mandy Meyer (guitar), Carl Palmer (drums), John Wetton (vocals and bass guitar) with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (orchestrated, arranged and conducted by Louis Clark on A5). Produced by Mike Stone and Geoff Downes; mixed by Mike Stone, Greg Ladanyi, Alan Douglas and Asia; engineered by Mike Stone and Alan Douglas. Executive produced by John David Kaldoner.

The Pictures
Cover design by Roger Dean. Cover photography by Willie Christie.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and CD in November 1985 in the UK and the Netherlands (Geffen, GEF/GED 26413), the US (Geffen, GHS/M5G 24072/-2), Argentina (CBS, 20725) and Japan (CBS/Sony, 28AP-3120/32DP-280) with lyric inner sleeve; reached #68 on the UK charts and #67 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in Japan (Geffen, MVCG-21008).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette on May 17, 1995 in the US (MCA, MCAD/MCAC-20851).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in Japan (Geffen, UICY-9125).
  4. Re-issued on elpee on September 3, 2013 in the US (JDC).

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