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Asia

Fantasia – Live In Tokyo

Review by Gary Hill

Yes fanatic and general prog head that I’ve always been, when Asia released their debut disc, I was all over it. They were the progressive rock supergroup of the time and they delivered with a killer disc. I saw them on their tour and it was also an incredible experience.

So, when I heard that they were releasing this brand new live album with the reunion of that classic lineup, I was interested, to say the least. So, how does it compare? I have to say that, assuming memory serves, this is an even stronger showing than that first tour. Now, if they'd just release this on DVD. The truth is, though, if you’ve ever been a fan of Asia, you’ll love this disc. If you don’t have any CD’s from this band, here’s a great place to start. They have never sounded better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Time Again
Coming in with the hard rocking sound they drop it back to a short vocal segment and then scream back out with a mode that resembles Drama era Yes. This drops back to a bass driven sound for the verse. This cut is recreated with all the little touches and nuances and sounds as good today as it did at the beginning of the 1980’s. The instrumental break seems extended a bit here.
Wildest Dreams
Another Asia classic, this one leads off with keyboard based balladic modes and then a series of alterations leads it into harder rocking modes. This one is another powerhouse and they deliver it with every bit of style and musical integrity.
One Step Closer
They continue with another track from the debut CD. It’s another killer classic, delivered in fine fashion here in the live setting.
Roundabout
Alright, in the very first sentence of this review I admitted to being a Yes fanatic. Well, then you would think I’d be gaga over this song. The truth of the matter is after seeing Yes live as many times as I have and listening to countless live recordings, it’s kind of outworn its welcome for me – at least as performed by Yes themselves. I’d be willing to bet they kind of feel like it’s the ball and chain they can’t get free from when they play live. That said, I have to say that this rendition really breathes some new life into it. John Wetton’s voice brings a fresh sound and vitality that makes this song live for me again.


Without You
Back to the classic Asia music, this has always been a personal favorite. It’s powerfully emotional and quite a beautiful piece of music. Once again, it’s performed here in a manner to at least matches and probably exceeds the studio version. The overall tone on this is simply incredible. The mid segment here is purely on fire and seems to incorporate a lot more than was there on the original recording.
Cutting It Fine
One more from the debut of the group, this rocker is another strong live performance. While not a standout on the disc, this is still a great tune.
Intersection Blues
If I remember right, when I saw Asia Steve Howe did a medley of “The Clap” and “Mood For a Day” as his solo segment. Well, this time around we get “Intersection Blues.” It’s classic acoustic guitar based Steve Howe.
Fanfare For the Common Man
I’ve always been enthralled by this Emerson Lake and Palmer adaptation of the Copeland composition. Asia definitely does it proud, putting in a powerful rendition right up there with ELP’s take on the composition.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Coming from the second Asia disc, this ballad is pretty, and it seems a bit more substantial as presented here. Still, I’ve always thought this was a little sappy and one of the weaker tracks the band (especially this incarnation of Asia) produced. It’s OK, but I think this space could have been better utilized by something else from the catalog.
Disc 2
Don't Cry
They lead the second disc off with this cut that also came from the second studio disc. While also a rather generic ballad, this one is much more potent than “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.” I’d have to say that it’s even stronger here and comes across as a very beautiful and emotional piece of music.
In the Court of the Crimson King
It’s interesting that the track they chose from King Crimson (you’ll note we get one song from each member’s most famous prog group outside of Asia) didn’t feature John Wetton when originally recorded. That said, considering the power of the song and its popularity, it’s still a good choice. They do an extended, but still truncated (from the original epic length on the studio release) version that is quite potent. John Wetton still sounds incredible and the mysterious textures of this composition work as well in 2007 as they did when recorded in the latter days of the 1960’s. Steve Howe’s guitar brings some interesting new flavorings to the mix.
Here Comes The Feeling
They move back to the debut Asia disc with this one. I’ve always really enjoyed this, and while they don’t break any new ground with it, when it’s this good, who cares. Still, they do manage to extend out the instrumental segment a bit and create some cool passages in the process. Both Geoff Downes and Steve Howe find chances to shine there. The outro gets some extensions, too.
Video Killed the Radio Star
Here comes Downes’ “other band” cut, with The Buggles’ classic (although you could argue that “Roundabout” captures both Downes and Howe). In any event, this track was the first video ever played on MTV, and that’s a cool piece of history that no other group can lay claim to. While I really enjoy this from a musical point of view, the vocal sound on the chorus just doesn’t cut it for me. It has to be an incredibly hard sound to capture and it’s the only place where the performance is a bit lacking. Still, the way they transform this one musically is brilliant.
The Heat Goes On
This track (from the second Asia disc) has always been a personal favorite and they transform it from a great studio track to a live rendition that shows a band that is firing on a thrusters and breaking new ground in terms of adding instrumental dimensions and new soloing opportunities on a tried and true format. Geoff Downes finds plenty of opportunity to take an extended accompanied keyboard solo here and Carl Palmer’s drums find the opportunity to solo as well (without accompaniment).
Only Time Will Tell
Downes’ keys open this with the familiar refrain and they launch into a track that is certainly one of their most well known. It also happens to be a great piece of music that’s packed with emotion and power. This is just as relevant today as it was when they first recorded it, musically and lyrically. It’s a highlight of the set.
Sole Survivor
This hard rocking Asia classic also translates very well. It was probably the most metallic track on the studio disc, but that doesn’t mean that there was anything lacking in the track. This is, was and will be a great piece of music. They throw in an extra guitar solo segment with Steve Howe sounding uncharacteristically metallic in his approach.
Ride Easy
Starting on piano, this one builds into a pretty ballad. I’ve always really enjoyed this number. It has always felt to me like some of the more ballad-like work of UK (Wetton’s band immediately prior to the first incarnation of Asia). I’m sure some would consider this to be not progressive rock enough, but just sit back and enjoy the track and you’ll find it doesn’t matter. Besides, they beef up the arrangement here bringing it closer to that prog mark.
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