Asia – Asia (1982) – CD review –
The progressive rock movement peaked in the early 1970’s, with albums like Fragile from Yes and the debut from Emerson Lake and Palmer. As the Seventies wore on, people grew tired of the endless noodling and the movement stalled. That’s what makes Asia such a surprise: four veterans of prog rock turning in a great pop record.
The key here is the delicate balance between virtuosity and melody; a classical guitar lick or keyboard flourish, a little drum fill, helps link the pieces of songs together, but unlike the old days, they get to the point much quicker (no song clocks in at over 6 minutes). The secret weapon here is guitarist Steve Howe; his clever fretwork adds an element of excitement to these tracks.
“Heat of the Moment,” the album’s most famous track, starts with his guitar, then the band answers with a double thud. “Only Time Will Tell,” begins with keyboards, then a soaring guitar, but deep down it’s a great ballad. The only dull moments are the bland “One Step Closer,” and the piano coda to “Cutting it Fine.” One of the strangest success stories of the early eighties. –Tony Peters