The Rock Vaults
In the late 80s and early 90s, Central Music put together a roster for a series to showcase legendary British Rock Acts.
The series was designed for broadcast on television and a later release on VHS and Laser Disc. Unfortunately, the series never achieved the fame it should have and many of the shows were never released.
Now, Classic Rock Legends have been allowed to enter the vaults and release these shows on DVD. They all feature artwork by Roger Dean and extra footage.
This DVD is a 1990 show from Asia, featuring three quarters of the original lineup, that is, John Wetton on bass and vocals, Geoff Downes on keyboards, Carl Palmer on drums. Pat Thrall joins them on guitars.
This show features the band playing nine tracks from the first three albums and two from the (at that time) unreleased Then and Now. In addition, the DVD features a promo video for the song Praying 4 A Miracle and a rough mix of the video for Kari-Anne.
It’s quite exciting to see this lineup perform; the enthusiasm is palpable and the performance quite impressive. From Palmer’s thundering drums, to Wetton’s wicked bass playing and fantastic vocal work, going through Downes’ abilities at doing more stuff than one has a right to expect, it’s just great! And Thrall is quite at his place within his band and plays along as if he’d always been there.
Now some people might comment that the video is not up to current standards. Well, this was filmed in 1990, before digital cameras and high definition. In view of this, the video is more than adequate. I personally have no complaints about it. And the sound is definitely good.
It’s great to see the (almost) original Asia perform such tracks as Sole Survivor and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, with Wetton on acoustic guitar! And of course, Heat of the Moment. Definitely a great moment in time offered on this DVD.
The Heat Goes On: The Authorized Asia Biography
Finally, the much anticipated book by David Gallant is available. For those who don’t know David, he runs the official Asia website and the weekly digest.
I can personally vouch for David’s integrity and fairness, which makes this book that much better. Also, please note that although my name is in the credits of this book, that does not affect what I’m writing in this review.
I found this book quite refreshing, and on many levels. For one thing, David sheds light on many of the questions Asia fans have always asked themselves. Why did they break up back then? Why did John Wetton leave? Why did he come back? As there is only one original member left in the band, why do they still call themselves Asia?
David answers all these questions, and more, with an unbiased attitude. No playing favorites, everybody gets the same fair treatment. Quite refreshing.
The author follows the Asia journey from its beginning. When this project was simply an embryo, to what it now has become. David manages to avoid the pitfalls that too many other people fall into. His take on Greg Lake’s stint with the band is quite refreshing and although every character is treated with fairness, I’m sure David has made no enemies with this book. A simple fact: bands usually don’t work out because of the chemistry between the various members. No apologies should be necessary.
Definitely a must-read.
And Asia are back with their first new album in five years. I must admit that I didn’t really know what to expect with this new offering. I was not particularly enthused with the previous album, Arena, however, Aria (yes, all their non-live and non-compilation albums begin and end with the letter “A”: Asia, Alpha, Astra, Aqua, Aria, Arena, Aura, Archiva I, Archiva II) was one of the best Asia albums.
Putting it in the CD player caused me a few seconds of panic as it sounded like it would be a straight pop sound. Luckily, this lasted only five seconds or so. Awake is in the same commercial-prog league as Heat of the Moment or any other classic Asia song.
The album has a nice fluency to it. Although not a concept album, it feels as if it were. It just flows along quite nicely. The strongest moment is probably Free. Asia’s music always had a bite to it and it is carried wonderfully throughout, but particularly in this song.
There’s also a very strong moment with the powerful ballad Ready to Go Home. If this were played on the radio, it could easily be the biggest hit of the year.
After the instrumental, Aura, this version (as with the UK version), we are given three extra tracks. Asia are well-known for recording too many songs. Geffen could probably release a double CD of all the extra tracks from Alpha and Astra. Of course, as it wouldn’t sell three million copies, they won’t do it. Here, at least, we have the tracks that didn’t make it.
Not that they weren’t good enough, they certainly are, but they just don’t fit in with the overall feel of Aura. It’ like having a bonus mini-album after the CD.
The overall feel of the album is great. This is the one that could put Asia back on the map! If you’re in the US, you can catch them live.