Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
“And now you find yourself in ’82. The disco hotspots hold no charm for you.” So sang the late, great John Wetton on Asia’s debut single “Heat Of The Moment” which will forever be date-stamped to the year it was released, yet the performances from Wetton & his bandmates Steve Howe, Carl Palmer & Geoff Downes make the song a timeless classic. The same can be said for their entire eponymous debut album. Following the supposed death of progressive rock by the end of the ’70s, the beast re-emerged here in a more radio-friendly guise, and its immediate success (multi-platinum #1 album with two Top 20 singles) had to be a surprise to everyone involved. Also, Roger Dean’s glorious album cover remains a thing of beauty after all these years. I already wrote about my love for this record in the second Great Out Of The Gate post, which you can read below.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 2:
This was a huge album for me when it was released a few months before my 16th birthday. The quartet of guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), drummer Carl Palmer (ELP), keyboardist Geoff Downes (Buggles/Yes) and bassist/vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson/UK) combined the top-notch musicianship of my favorite progressive rock bands with concise, catchy, radio-friendly songs. The result was a multi-platinum chart-topping album and single (“Heat Of The Moment”), and Roger Dean’s fantastic cover design was the perfect complement to the music. After punk & new wave turned “prog” into a 4-letter word in the music industry throughout the second half of the ‘70s, the beast awoke in 1982 and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Between their aforementioned #1 hit single and the two songs that followed (“Only Time Will Tell” and “Sole Survivor”), Asia opens with a 1-2-3 punch that’s hard to beat. They also strike the perfect balance between catchy & complicated on semi-epics like “Time Again,” “Wildest Dreams” and “Here Comes The Feeling.” This lineup would only last through one more album, but the Asia name has continued with multiple musicians throughout the years, Downes being the one constant throughout their career. Ironically, the original Asia reunited in 2006 and released three studio albums before Howe jumped ship to focus on Yes and his solo career. It’s been great to have Asia back in circulation again, but none of their subsequent recordings reached the same heights as their magnificent debut.
I have to imagine that even people who don’t like “prog” because they think of multi-part suites and self-indulgent instrumental noodling would find a lot to like here, with concise songs, instantly catchy melodies and tasteful musicianship. Without this record I’m not sure Yes would have experienced the kind of success they did with the following year’s 90125. Prog was alive & well in the ’80s & beyond.