It's been six years now since the original Asia line-up reformed for one reunion tour. Of course, they haven't stopped since, and have put out two new studio albums in the shape of "Phoenix" in 2008 and "Omega". They've also managed a couple of live albums and a few more trips around the world. Which is pretty good going, as Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer & John Wetton have a combined age of about a thousand, and are also keeping busy with other bands and solo projects. So, fair play.
Which would all mean sweet Fanny Adams if the music they were putting out wasn't up to much. But not only is it good, it's getting better. And this is probably the best album they've released since their debut came out thirty years ago. Of course, that's a big anniversary, so as well as this new album, there's a thirtieth anniversary edition of their debut album, a couple of DVDs, and another world tour that takes in the UK, Europe, Japan and America. This, dodgily titled album (which will hopefully see some traffic increase here), sees the band collaborating with well known producer Mike Paxman, and is out as a , deep breath, CD, collector's edition CD/DVD (featuring new music videos and behind the scenes footage), and on a limited edition vinyl.
The band are very confident about the new release. John Wetton says, "we're very pleased with, and confident about, XXX. It encapsulates, lyrically and instrumentally, the essence of the band today. However, it is the very same four people that gave you the original, iconic album 30 years ago. If you loved it then, you will love it now." And guitarist Steve Howe chips in with "we wanted to recapture the energy of the first album, ASIA has always been about great songs, fantastic musicianship and I am sure fans of the first album, will fall in love with XXX."
There's a world weariness about the opening track 'Tomorrow The World', before it kicks into full action, and goes on to incorporate everything that was pomptastic and melodic about their classic sound. John Wetton has had a few vocal problems over the last few years, but in the studio, they've worked some magic, and he sounds as good as he ever did. The rest of the band are masters at what they do, with Steve Howe knowing how to pull back from overpowering you with guitar, and Carl Palmer. Well, Carl Palmer gets on with being Carl Palmer. You know it's him. The songs sound as though you've been listening to them all your life, which is a neat trick to pull off this far down the line. It's a grand mixture of prog, AOR and classic rock, and even when they turn to balladry, as on 'Ghost Of A Chance', they more than pull it off.
You'll be hard pushed to hear a better slab of classic rock this year.