Asia’s first album – 378

Asia!
Asia first album
Asia’s first album

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier, Bill Govier and VR Hoisington

This week I’ve been on holiday with the family so this episode will be a quick one. Mark and I have been listening to Asia’s first album on account of the upcoming Royal Affair Tour and more on all that in a few moments.

Listen and let us know what you think!

  • What does Steve Howe sound like?
  • Is this stuck in the 80s?
  • What will it sound like in 2019?

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Show notes and links


Asia first album –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTIhwePceV8 Cannot be embedded!

YMP Patrons:

Producers:

  • Jeffrey Crecelius
  • Preston Frazier
  • VR Hoisington
  • Bill Govier and
  • Wayne Hall

Patrons:

Aaron Steelman
Dave Owen
Mark James Lang
Paul Tomei
Joost Maglev
David Heyden
Martin Kjellberg
Paul Wilson
Bob Martilotta
Lind
Michael O’Connor
Peter Hearnden
Brian Sullivan
David Pannell
Miguel Falcão
Lobate Scarp
Chris Bandini
David Watkinson
Neal Kaforey
Rachel Hadaway
Craig Estenes
Dem
Paul Hailes
Mark ‘Zarkol’ Baggs
Doug Curran
Robert Nasir
Fergus Cubbage
Scott Colombo
Fred Barringer
Scott Smith
Geoff Bailie
Simon Barrow
Geoffrey Mason
Stephen Lambe
Guy R DeRome
Steve Dill
Henrik Antonsson
Steve Perry
Hogne Bø Pettersen
Steve Rode
IanNB
Steve Scott
Jamie McQuinn
Steven Roehr
Ken Fuller
Terence Sadler
Jeremy North
Tim Stannard
Jim
Todd Dudley
John Cowan
Tony Handley
John Holden
Joseph Cottrell
John Parry
Keith Hoisington
John Thomson
William Hayes
Barry Gorsky

Robert and David

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

25 thoughts on “Asia’s first album – 378”

  1. I was really looking forward to this episode. The first Asia album was the very first album I ever went and bought myself, as a pre-teen. I’m a bit agnostic about Asia overall, but I guess they get the blame for eventually loving the musicians’ parent bands.
    Listening to the lyrics, I got the impression John Wetton had just had a bad break-up before recording though!

  2. In anticipation of this episode I listened to this album for the first time in a long time. Like my previous attempts, I could not get past the first 2 or 3 songs. I’m sure there are probably some worthwhile moments in there somewhere, but I never made it that far. To each his own.
    Thanks Mark and Kevin for listening to it all so we don’t have to. Just way too pop and corporate Rock for me. To each his own.

  3. ….and another thing: Is it just me, or are concert tickets getting expensive? They seem to have taken a quantum leap in the last year or so. For example, the Royal Affair Tour – which is the reason we are discussing the Asia album. This concert in my area is at a venue that is not my favorite, and for the medium seats, not the best, a single ticket is US$ 179. Seems really pricey to me. What to you guys think? What’s it like where you live?

    Guy

    1. Crikey! I’ve never paid that much for a concert ticket although very close are the bad seats my wife and daughter and I have to see Ariana Grande in September (Yes, I know…)

  4. I bought the Asia album with great anticipation when it came out and I listened to it a lot that summer. I remember a Guitar Player article where Steve Howe talked about all the guitar overdubs that went into that album. At the time there was not even a hint from Steve that he was anything but completely on-board with Asia. I still enjoy Asia’s music and have many of their albums. I think Geoff is a fine songwriter and it should be noted that the universally accepted best song on Heaven and Earth – Subway Walls – is one of Geoff’s. His work with Wetton on Icon is excellent as well as his New Dance Orchestra stuff. So, I have a better view of that album than Kevin and Mark.

    1. Fair enough, Bob. I agree that some of the song writing is great and I enjoy the songs in isolation. I just can’t cope with one after another!

  5. I also gave it another listen for this episode…… it’s always been a guilty pleasure of mine, so it didn’t take much encouragement. There are still things I like about it, the singles in particular. But every song sounds like it’s soundtracking a jet fighter air show, every track has a huge grand sound to it. There’s very little nuance, except maybe “Only Time Will Tell” which does have a nice bit of build and pull-back to it. I can see why this was considered pompous at the time, especially as the new wave was bringing back the fun of dancing to 3 minute rock songs – the bombast sucks some of the fun out of this album, definitely. Their second album has the same problem, especially on the lead single “Don’t Cry”, which starts out with a bombastic fanfare and only goes bigger from there – Carl Palmer’s drums are just pounding right from the start of the first verse. It starts out without anywhere else to go, much like Asia’s career. And the ballad “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” has one of the worst mixed-metaphor titles I’ve ever heard.
    Some thing I’ll note: John Wetton has a nice stately quality to his voice that works well here. The very last song, “Here Comes the Feeling” has a nice slow down and pick up to it. Also, the album it resembles most is Drama, not 90125 – in fact, Asia and 90125 sound like the component parts of Drama perfectly split in half, but that’s just me.

    Incidentally, the original Asia line-up reunited about a decade ago, and I checked out the first album Phoenix out of curiosity – and if Asia’s first album is your thing, then I can highly reccommend it. I certainly thought it sounded more confident an album than Heaven and Hell did.

    1. Thanks Charles. Great thoughts – Looking from this distance the huge success of Asia does seem a bit puzzling. That was the 80s…

  6. I’m with Kevin on this one. So much depends on when you are exposed to different kinds of music but I loathed this record in 1982 as much as I loved so many of its antecedents. It’s the sound of musicians who had been at the frontier of rock for a decade getting spooked by the culture shift and climbing aboard the AOR bandwagon while trying to take their old audiences with them.

    I can’t help but think about that Steve Howe quote from Yesyears when he says something about so much of what Yes achieved in the 70s being down to a lack of industry interference predicated on a complete lack of understanding within the record company as to what they were up to. I listen to Asia and really feel for him. Nothing he has done before or since suggests any of how this record ended up was his idea.

    It’s like someone listened to the gloriously unhinged UK debut album and thought “this stuff could be really commercial if only we could just be rid of all this fusion nonsense and the get drummer and guitarist thinking straight”.

    It’s like someone at boardroom level listened to the gloriously unhinged UK debut album and thought “the singer has a fantastic voice for radio radio and this music could be really commercial if only we can just get the drummer and guitarist thinking straight”.

    If for some reason you’ve never heard the first UK album just listen to Holdsworth’s lead guitar entry point on the first track at around the 3 minute mark and take in what Bruford and Wetton are doing to support him while Jobson is off on a tangent headed somewhere else entirely. Then prepared to be slack jawed at where the solo goes from there. It’s magnificent, completely progressive, modern sounding without pandering and still poppy as anything as long as you have an attention span longer than the average 2 year old. It’s music that is radical and endlessly surprising, rocks hard when it needs to but is full of unusual yet memorable melodies and rhythmic hairpin bends. Essentially everything that Crimson were on Red (and continue to be to this day) and everything the Asia record isn’t. There’s more actual music in those 90 seconds than the entire AOR canon put together.

  7. Great podcast as usual and you both captured the polarised views that Asia often engenders. Too light for rock and not enough prog elements. I’m a fan of the band and the album for me is very 80’s and none the worse for it. Production is good but it would really benefit from a remix if the original tapes can be found. Geoff Downes did a great job across this album. They would’ve been a thing of wonder live in arenas at the time the album broke through. Pity it didn’t last beyond this album due to personal issues. The four members caught lightning in a bottle on this album and they couldn’t replicate it ever
    One of the best bits in the podcast was the weariness in Kevin’s voice as finally after 40 minutes he really cant bring himself to show too much love for it. You gave it a try mate. Mark obviously has more in his heart for the band.
    Finally, Kevin mentioned Asia featuring John Payne and it reminded me that they did a cover of Yes, It Can Happen with Jay Schellen on drums for their Recollections album. An interesting take but not adding too much new https://youtu.be/G71gheemt4U

  8. Wow, Kevin, you got my attention when you mentioned Fine Young Cannibals. I still have a compilation somewhere. But, really, Asia and Fine Young Cannibals together? I would have thought Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths together with FYC. And in the U.S., add in 10,000 Maniacs. Asia belongs more with Journey (which, say what you will, totally delivered some great pop songs. Stone in Love, for example) and the rest of that crowd.

    I remember being psyched when Asia’s first album came out at the end of my senior year in high school, because of Steve. And I liked it, but never as much as 90125. I’m a dissenter on this issue, but I never liked John Wetton’s voice as much as others do. It’s part of the reason why the King Crimson albums of his era don’t do a ton for me (but not the only reason) – and draw your own conclusions when I say that my favorite KC is the Adrian Belew era.

    But back to Asia, listening to it again now, I don’t love it. It seems that many of the songs start out as if they could be prog songs, with interesting guitar and keyboards, and sometimes interesting drums, but then they switch over to a pop hook and a chorus, and there you are. Still, there are some gems. Heat of the Moment of Course. NOT Sole Survivor. Wildest Dreams works for me. Lots of moments in the other songs.

    But I still hope the Royal Affair tour makes it to the Pacific NW — I’m sure willing to listen to some Asia songs along the way to Yes.

    1. Mmmm – nice 1980s pop line up you mention! Yes, I tend to agree about Asia as you know. KC – I can listen to all eras but I suppose I’d have to go for Red era if I was forced to.

  9. Ack – I forgot to mention that the Progressive Palavar guys have a long review of Jon’s 1000 Hands Tour, from a show in New Jersey. They are extremely positive about it, including the reggae Your Move. (Note that the Olias parts are not their favorite ….)

    1. Ah, thanks John. The difference in opinions over 1000 Hands continues to amaze me. More diametrically opposed than even those on Yes shows!

  10. I realize the boat’s already sailed on this topic, but………. ugh, if you really want to make Asia sound good, listen to Steve Howe’s dire follow-up project (I hesitate to call it a band), GTR. Now that’s some *real* MOR commercial stuff. Absolutely anybody could’ve recorded that, and all the talent involved doesn’t make it any better.

  11. Lovin’ this “other” Asia, particularly as they sound more 1969 than 1979.

    I actually quite like the first two “UK” Asia albums but the podcast has clarified why I can’t isten to a whole album althoug as individual tracks, I enjoy them.

  12. Interesting show. I’ve always appreciated the songs off the first Asia album, Wetton/Downes were a great songwriting team.

    How differently could the early 80’s been in Yesworld if Geffen had managed to pair Trevor Rabin up with Asia.

    https://youtu.be/h1-LvpYEnnE

    No 90125? Would XYZ have gotten any farther than they did? Would Jon and Chris have worked together again? And would it have been with Tony Kaye?

    All conjecture these days, but what tangled webs we weave…

    Great show as always

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