Alpha, Geffen Records, 1983.
Astra, Geffen Records, 1985.
Then & Now, 1990.
Aqua, InsideOut Music, 1992.
Aria, InsideOut Music, 1994.
Arena, InsideOut Music, 1996.
Archiva Vol. 1, 1996.
Archiva Vol. 2, 1996.
Rare, Resurgence, 1999.
Aura, Blue Storm, 2001.
Silent Nation, InsideOut Music, 2004.
Phoenix, Frontiers Records, 2008.
Omega, Frontiers Records, 2010.
When they appeared in the early '80s, Asia seemed to be a holdover from the '70s, when supergroups and self-important progressive rockers reigned supreme. Featuring members of such seminal art rock bands as King Crimson (John Wetton), Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Carl Palmer), and Yes (Steve Howe), as well as Geoff Downes from the Buggles, Asia did feature stretches of indulgent instrumentals on their records. However, they also could be surprisingly poppy, and that is what brought them to the top of the charts with their debut album, Asia, and its hit single, "Heat of the Moment." Alpha, their second album, also had a couple of hits ("Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes") but its follow-up, Astra, was a flop. The group disbanded in 1985, only to reunite in 1990 without John Wetton; John Payne took his place. After churning out a couple of new songs for a greatest-hits collection, the band hit the road, including two sold-out dates in front of 20,000 fans in Moscow, of all places. Thereafter, they toured sporadically and released the albums Aqua (in 1992) and Aria (in 1994).
Asia began with the apparent demise of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, two of the flagship bands of British progressive rock. After the break-up of King Crimson in 1974, various plans for a super group involving bassist John Wetton had been mooted, including the abortive British Bulldog project with Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman in 1976. Wakeman left this project at the urging of management, according to Bill Bruford. In 1977, Bruford and Wetton were reunited in UK, augmented by guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. Their eponymous debut was released in 1978. By January 1980, UK had folded after one lineup change and three recordings. A new supergroup project was then suggested involving Wetton, Wakeman, drummer Carl Palmer and (then little known) guitarist Trevor Rabin, but Wakeman left this project too shortly before they were due to sign to Geffen and before they had played together.Wetton's Caught in the Crossfire solo album (1980) did not fare very well in England.
In early 1981, Wetton and former Yes guitarist Steve Howe were brought together by A&R man John Kalodner and Geffen Records to start writing material for a new album. By this point, progressive rock bands such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer had folded, so many qualified musicians were available for this proposed group. They were eventually joined by drummer Carl Palmer, and finally by Howe's recent Yes cohort, keyboardist Geoff Downes. Two other players auditioned and considered during the band's formation were former The Move and ELO founder Roy Wood and South African guitarist/singer Trevor Rabin, who would go on to be part of a reformed Yes in 1983. Rabin, in a filmed 1984 interview included in the DVD 9012Live, said that his involvement with Asia never went anywhere because "there was no chemistry" among the participants.
The band's first recordings, under the auspices of Geffen record label head David Geffen and Kalodner, were considered disappointing by music critics and fans of traditional progressive rock, who found the music closer to radio-friendly Album-oriented rock. However, Asia clicked with fans of popular arena acts such as Journey, Boston and Styx. Indeed, Kalodner had once introduced Wetton to Journey's short-lived frontman Robert Fleischman, who had penned such Journey classics "Anytime" and "Wheel in the Sky," with a view to Fleischman becoming Asia's lead-singer. Fleischman was already known to bandmember Carl Palmer. However, as they worked on material together, Fleischman was impressed by Wetton's singing and felt the voice best suited to the new material was Wetton's own. Leaving Asia amicably, Fleischman returned to America eventually to work on several projects with ex-KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent. Rolling Stone gave Asia an indifferent review, while still acknowledging the band's musicianship was a cut above the usual AOR expectations.
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