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Asia

Aqua

Review by Gary Hill
I’d consider this to be a middle of the road Asia album. While it doesn’t suffer as badly from the weight of 1980’s hair metal infusion as some of their other releases, there’s enough of that here to keep this from being a resounding success. Guest appearances by Asia original members Steve Howe and Carl Palmer are a nice touch. I don’t know (although there are some progressive rock oriented songs here) that I’d consider this prog rock on the merits of the music. The presence of prog rock musicians, though, get it included in that section of Music Street Journal, anyway.
Track by Track Review
Aqua

The sounds of the ocean make up the first half minute or so of this. Then an acoustic guitar joins it becomes a beautiful balladic motif. It grows ever so gradually. Steve Howe really shows some intriguing musical chops in the form of intricate beauty.

Who Will Stop the Rain?
A more rocking number, this one also has Howe guesting. The vocal arrangement here reminds me a lot of Yes in many ways. Mind you, the lead vocal portion is a more hard rock (nearly metal) delivery, but the chorus of vocals and the whole arrangement on that section calls to mind Rabin era Yes.
Lay Down Your Arms
The vocal on the verse of this is soulful. Frankly, this song isn’t really progressive rock at all. Instead, it’s a straight ahead rocker that’s got a definite anthemic texture to it. That said, Downes’ keyboard solo section is very much in a Keith Emerson sort of style. 
Heaven on Earth
This is another straight ahead rocker. It’s good in that generic sort of way. It’s just not exceptional.
Someday
Here we get a vaguely proggy cut that has an ‘80’s hard rock sound and almost a powered up ballad approach. It’s good, but far from great. That said, the instrumental break is keyboard dominated and more progressive rock like. That section manages to elevate the number quite a bit. The acoustic guitar driven short groove at the end is also a nice touch. 
Crime of the Heart
Starting with a short violin based intro, this is a powered up ballad. It’s pretty, but not all that far removed from something by just about any 1980’s hair metal band. 
A Far Cry
This begins with a classic Asia sound and it powers out into a song that feels like (with a bit less of a metal edge) it could have been from the first couple discs from the band. This is one of the stronger (and proggier) pieces on the set. There’s a tasty drop back to an acoustic guitar based instrumental motif. 
Back in Town
Starting in a bluesy style, this is just a hard rocker that again would not be out of place on an album by a 1980’s metal band. There’s a bit of a proggy jam at the end. 
Don't Call Me
Ambient textures and the sound of a phone call being made serve as the introduction here and feel a bit like something we might get from Pink Floyd. After this, though, it works out to a proggy ballad that’s classic Asia. It turns more animated as it carries on, but more as a powered up form of this ballad concept than a reinvention.
Love Under Fire
There are a few twists on this, but it’s not all that special. It definitely has its moments, though. 
The Voice of Reason
Basically a ballad, this is one of the most progressive rock oriented pieces on show. It doesn’t get infected by the mainstream metal sounds that pervade a lot of the disc until over three minutes in. Until then it remains a complex and intricate progressive rock ballad. This is probably the strongest number on show. Even when it does move into more hard rocking motifs it’s more in keeping with the first couple Asia albums than with any kind of hair metal stylings. 
Aqua II
A book-ending piece, this instrumental is very much a keyboard dominated track.
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