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Asia

XXX

Review by Larry Toering

Asia return with their classic line-up for an out of this world album. Everything about this  group comes completely full circle on XXX, with a grand effort to make a solid comeback product. Not one note is to be missed here, as they show how it's really done. Back are all the things enjoyable about Asia restored with not a thing lost, only more intensity to strengthen their ultimate prog status. This is a review of the standard edition, but it also comes in a CD/DVD package with bonus video material that includes the video for the first single, “Face On The Bridge.” This band is back with a vengeance. Without reinventing themselves, they pick up where they left off with even better songwriting and playing skills to prove that some do improve with age.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tomorrow The World
A nice piano motif begins a great opener, and everything is all of a sudden back where it all belongs for this unit. This is an epic of a sort, really, but then most of the tracks have that appeal to them without going too overboard in the process. The chorus is delivered brilliantly and the keyboards by Geoff Downes add the usual feather light touch. All this and there is still time for a blistering, if brief, showing by Howe on guitar that firmly stays in pocket with the entire arrangement. This is absolutely a fantastic lead in track.
Bury Me In Willow
This is a bit more along the lines of their first couple of albums in the pop sense, but that approach works wonders with the benefit of technology. It convinces one that this band could easily re-record those hits and improve on them while they're at it. Not many bands can come back after so many years with the original line-up intact and pull that off anywhere near as well it seems Asia could. Two for two, so far, this is a killer tune of the mellow variety!
No Religion

The disc seems to do nothing but increase here with this awesome showing of AOR/prog  perfection. I find this to be one of the best tracks on offer and cannot get enough of it. Plain and simple, I love it! The message is clear and present every second of it, “If I had some money / I'd throw it all in a wishing well.” That pretty much sums up the attitude on this slice of beauty. Downes in particular here gets to dominate a bit, as Howe sticks to fills and runs, rather than showcasing with a long solo.

Faithful

This is kind of an ironic answer to the previous track on the surface, just going off the title alone. But it's a spacy little cut with a lot of character as Wetton is well featured on vocals. It shows the softer side of the band on this album, not unlike “Bury Me In Willow” but equally as brilliant and with lots of guitar to contrast the speed of things with more searing licks.

I Know How You Feel

Another great effort is exhibited from all, but Wetton seems to own the entire track. They do have a bouncy and rather playful vibe throughout here, but it's not a particularly outstanding showing compared to most on offer here.

Face on the Bridge
This is a contender for the best to be found on the disc, and it leads the release with a promo video that captures them in an almost surreal light. There is an overall story behind this that can't be dismissed for just another album track. The guitar playing of Howe is second to nobody here, and lights a fire under him that shines through with the greatest of ease.
Al Gatto Nero
Here is another fabulous track with a romantic appeal, and it doesn't stop there, as everyone brings something spectacular to yet another killer song. It  has a lovely chorus and amazing guitar work that has more than a slight Yes influence. That influence can really just be described as Steve Howe himself.
Judas

This song starts off almost as if it's the previous number, as they blend very well together. It seems to be about mistrusting Judas and all that comes from it. This is simply another awesome showing here with more of that AOR perfection. By now it's just obvious this band cannot make one wrong move in putting together a blockbuster worthy album, regardless of how it penetrates the market. This album deserves to be big from its sheer efforts alone.

Ghost of a Chance
One easily thinks of the Rush track of the same title, or at least I did when I heard it, but this is simply just as good in all its difference to that song. With more of a stripped back approach, they still don't forget a thing in delivering the intensity at any rate. Howe is absolutely remarkable here with an effortless semi-acoustic solo at the first break, before topping it all off with a mesmerizing electric solo that is taken out by some symphonic vibes from Downes on keyboards. There is no better way I can think of to top off this release that deserves to be celebrated
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