- Audio CD (26 April 2010)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Frontiers
- ASIN: B0039SFKSW
- Other Editions: Audio CD | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,975 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Asia, rock's first important super-group of the 80s - featuring members from Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and The Buggles – have a new album of original material – Omega.
Geoffrey Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and John Wetton, the four original Asia members, reunited in 2006, twenty-three years after all four had last played together. The much publicised reunion resulted in highly successful world tours, a double live LP and DVD (entitled Fantasia: Live In Tokyo) and an acclaimed studio album.
Formed at the dawn of the MTV era, Asia's first release was the best selling album in the world in 1982 and sat at the number 1 spot in the USA for 9 weeks, powered by the classic rock anthem, "Heat Of The Moment," and four other radio hits. Asia's 1983 sophomore album, Alpha, also went multi-platinum and enjoyed several hit singles, including the #1 smash, "Don't Cry".
Begun during the summer 2009, the writing and recording sessions of Omega, immediately showed inspiration and good feelings. "We were looking to create something different with Omega," says keyboardist Geoff Downes. "Of course, the sound of the 4 band members of Asia will always have a certain hallmark when we play together. That's a given. But we approached the song writing with a mind to getting a degree of variety into these compositions. Hence, you will hear areas of textures where arguably we have never gone before."
Lead vocalist/bassist/guitarist John Wetton: "Asia is an English prog-rock band with a pop edge, always has been, and hopefully always will be. Accessible, melodic, anthemic songs with great playing, luxuriating in a bed of lush orchestration, with lyrics that strike a sympathetic chord in even the most cynical heart. There you have it, Omega is a themed album in Asia's fine tradition, without the millstone of a concept."
Steve Howe adds, "the whole recording process has been inspiring and rewarding, and I'm very excited about the result". "I would say these are all strong individual songs," says drummer Carl Palmer. "It was a very smooth experience, and arguably one of our best records."
For the first time since the debut album, Asia worked with an outside producer, Mike Paxman (Uriah Heep, Status Quo) who managed to create a truly special sounding album with the highs, lows and lots of dynamics. He helped the band to put together a tapestry of sound, which demonstrates the rich strata of Asia's music. Paxman was able to achieve this through the songs, which spun real stories of actual events and experiences in locations around the globe. "The songs always have a message, hopefully positive," says Wetton. "My songs are almost always autobiographical, so there is hope and experience in there, too. The lyric will never leave you on a negative thought."
As with the most popular of Asia releases, the cover art specifically designed for the project by acclaimed artist Roger Dean. The concept of the title (Omega), and the 'Year of the Tiger' referencing of the cover art underline the fact that this is real Asia. John Wetton explains: "The title 'Omega', as any fan of the band will tell you, is 'very Asia' (as is the album, by the way). It no more means 'final' than 'Alpha' means 'the first' (which it wasn't). It's a great sounding/looking word, and a bookend to 'Alpha'. In many ways, musically and conceptually, the two albums share commonality."
Top customer reviews
Opener 'Finger On The Trigger' was a free download single and is a snorting rocker, very similar to 'Never Again' from Asia's previous album 'Phoenix', with some raw, jagged guitarwork from Steve Howe.
'Through My Veins' is a stark rock track with another great performance from Howe.
'Holy War, is classic Asia and works as a 'Wildest Dreams' for 2010. Nobody does war songs quite like Wetton and co. and the energy in this track alone blows raspberries in the face of the collective age of these musicians.
'Listen Children' and 'I Believe' are delightfully cheesy and 'There Was a Time' is one of the best bitter sweet ballads I've heard in a long old time.
Asia also show a bit of humour with the catchy 'Emily'.
'Omega' is packed with variety, there's everything here from big, stadium rockers, prog, pop and folk. It's a vibrant, lively album of music played by a completely re-energised group, full of confidence.
Steve Howe's guitarwork is outstanding throughout and John Wetton's vocal displays are stunning.
Roger Dean's artwork, just puts a cherry on the whole package.
Asia deserve some real success this year, and I hope they play a good chunk of this music on the tour because it's every bit as good as anything they've recorded.
And that's saying something.
The album's opener, 'Finger on the Trigger', is an old Icon track done as a straight ahead rocker. It's decent enough, but doesn't set the world alight. I can only think this is on here as the band didn't really have a song written to open with. After this, the album improves markedly; the Howe/Wetton 'Through my Veins' is excellent and the best of the two Howe contributions. 'Holy War' is the closest thing to a Payne-era Asia track on the album and has the most prominent keyboards - also an excellent track. 'Ever Yours' is the album's ballad and the only Icon-like track with its choral style vocal melody and it carries itself very well.
After this, the album loses its way a little. 'Listen, Children', whilst upbeat and catchy, has cringe-making lyrics; indeed, the first time I heard the chorus I laughed out loud. It's like they were putting something together for 'Sesame Street'. 'End of the World' has a nice After the War-style intro and a decent verse but the weakest chorus I have ever heard Asia write. The second Howe contribution, 'Light the Way', is a sprawling affair that only really picks up in the closing instrumental section and is the album's weakest track.
The final third improves. Bonus track 'Emily' recalls ELO's revival of the Beatles sound and does so very successfully, 'I'm Still the Same' is solid Asia stuff as is 'I Believe', which is in a similar vein to Days Like These, and the concluding track, 'Don't Wanna Lose You Now', works well even if the vocal melody is derivative of both Bryan Adams' 'Heaven' and Oasis' 'Wonderwall'. The albums real gem, though, is 'There Was a Time'. All four musicians are dominant without overstating their various roles. The song itself has a strongly Celtic flavour but is distinctively Asia. I love Downes' piano in this and the strength of Wetton's voice.
All in all, a worthy addition to their catalogue if not amongst their finest work.
In the context of most other stuff that is released these days, I have to award this album five stars even though I prefer its predecessor; the excellent 'Phoenix' album released in 2008. We've also had three excellent Wetton/Downes albums as well in recent years, so we're really spoilt. On production duties here is Mike Paxman who for many years worked with Judie Tzuke as co-writer, guitarist and producer. Mike co-wrote the classic 'Stay with me 'til Dawn'.
Kicking off this album is the very familiar 'Finger on the Trigger' from the 2nd Wetton/Downes album 'Rubicon'. Why record again ? Simple answer; Steve Howe. The guitar licks added to this really take the stirring song to further dimensions. The intro is improved also.
'Through my veins' is a mid-tempo second song which is a great second song for an album. One of only two songs on the album not written by the prolific 'Wetton/Downes' partnership - this is a Howe/Wetton collaboration. One of my favourites.
'Holy War' is much faster which contains a wonderful instrumental break two thirds of the way through that showcases Carl Palmers virtuoso drumming alongside Geoff Downes' keyboards and Steve's unmistakable guitar.
'Ever yours' is a slow ballad in the same style as 'Heroine' from the 'Phoenix' album. John's voice is very well suited to these songs and it was a treat to see 'Heroine' performed live on the last tour - let's hope 'Ever yours' in put into the set as it would make a nice contrast to the louder numbers.
The anthemic 'Listen Children' is fairly standard Asia-fare; what never fails to delight is the instrumentation; time a time again what could be ordinary fares are given little bells and whistles that take them above the ordinary. Ecoutez!
'End of the World' contains a chorus with what appears to be two voices singing; the other is probably Steve Howe although he is not credited with vocals on the sleeve. No mistaking him on guitar though. "Auto da fe" is mentioned in the lyrics which is a first!
One of my favourite tracks on the album is the other Howe/Wetton composition 'Light the way' with its stirring keyboard intro before the drums kick in. Great lively song with harmonies and Howes guitar continually much to the fore.
`Emily' is billed as the bonus track included with the limited edition digi-pack release. It's an unusual track lyrically for Asia and includes the line "you bat for the other side" which doesn't refer to cricket. It also repeats the line KAZ53313 at the end; goodness knows what this means? I have to say that for me this is the weakest track on the album.
Much better is `I'm still the same' which is probably the most poppy track on the album where John manages to evoke the ELO sound, but is none the worse for this. Just a great tune which would not feel out of place on Ken Bruce's R2 show if only Ken's Producers could get to hear it!
`There was a time' has an intro that somehow reminds me of the soundtrack to `Lord of the Rings' (no bad thing). It's nearly four minutes before Carl's drums strike out. An epic track that is quite unlike anything Asia have served up before; unlike...
...`I believe' is probably the track that captures best the original Asia sound from the 80s. Completely in the `buy Asia, get this' vein. No surprise, just quality but why not? It's just great.
The album closes with `Don't wanna lose you now' which is surely a title that has been used on countless songs before (or something very similar). It's a relaxed end to the album in contrast to the uplifting `An extraordinary life' that closed out `Phoenix'. A lilting tune that you feel could be performed as a laid back rather than bombastic encore to a live show. Did I spot an alto trumpet somewhere in the mix towards the end?
So in summary, this is recommended again; the band is still relevant in 2010. Keep them coming please.
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Most recent customer reviews
Something of a revelation. Hadn't checked out Asia's albums since Aqua (OK) and Arena, which I really didn't...Read more
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This is the ASIA that i grew up with.
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