Frontiers Records (2012)
In 1982, America felt the impact of this melodic rock/AOR supergroup. You couldn’t escape a television set or radio station that wasn’t playing “Heat Of The Moment” or “Only Time Will Tell” from Asia. Internal struggles with style and songwriting duties fractured the band within 2 years- but they have been going steady once again since reuniting in 2006, with two more studio albums and numerous worldwide tours re-igniting their sound to a new generation of fans. 30 years as a recording entity, the original four of AOR group Asia see no need to slow down their studio and touring momentum, as “XXX” reinforces the fine musicianship and personal interplay between the members.
Bassist John Wetton may not necessarily be hitting his early 80’s highs on their self-titled debut, but his mid-range comforting voice still comes through on “No Religion” and “Judas”, two early favorites with my ears. Keyboardist Geoff Downes and guitarist Steve Howe reach back into their catalog of sounds and come up with more of their 70’s influences, especially the latter with his time in Yes as the sparse playing and build ups keep their slight progressive affinity still on the radar screen. Drummer Carl Palmer may not necessarily dazzle with his propulsive rolls and fills of yesteryear, but the material calls for a rock solid foundation and he delivers on “Bury Me In Willow” and the slightly funky/ Genesis-like “Face On The Bridge”.
The soothing harmonies for choruses within “Tomorrow The World” and “Faithful” remind me of why Asia still remains relevant in 2012- the knowledge and capacity to match up the right melody with the right chord sequences, and knowing when to elongate certain instrumental sections or when to just stick to the heart of the song. The band sticks to the core sound within current production parameters- and that’s fine by me, because this material will translate easily from record to stage.
Another AOR highlight for me - “XXX” isn’t scandalous - it’s as comfortable as a warm summer breeze.
Rating: 5.5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe