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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Asia

Live In Moscow

Review by Greg Olma

Asia may not have been the first band to tour Russia but they certainly made their mark during this concert that was captured in 1990.  By this time, the band had lost Steve Howe and replaced him with Mandy Meyer for the Astra album.  By the time of this concert in Moscow (which I guess was still the Astra Tour), Meyer was replaced by Pat Thrall who does a great job with the guitar work giving the material a heavier sound.  The band was also not doing great business, as we started to see the beginnings of grunge hitting the market.  Going to Russia was an easy decision as the crowds there were starving for western music, and seeing a concert by Asia would have been a huge event.  All you have to do is listen to the crowd on this release to realize that they were treated like gods when they performed.  While I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when Asia first came on the scene, as I was expecting some great prog masterpieces, I grew to like their brand of prog pop and appreciate the songs for what they were; well-crafted pop songs with prog elements added to round out their sound.  This concert shows them in great form going through their hits and some surprises, as well.  Quite honestly, I would recommend this disc just for John Wetton’s performance alone.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Time Again

The concert starts with an introduction, and then the band kick into this track that isn’t much of a hit but still makes a great opening song.  It is very orchestral sounding at the beginning and quite heavy with a nice dose of prog.  Wetton’s vocals are as strong as ever, and the band really plays this track with a sense of urgency.

Sole Survivor
I like this cut a lot, and this version of Asia plays this one very close to the original.  It speaks volumes of the musicians when they are able to replicate their studio tracks in a live setting, and this version shows that they do just that with ease.
Don’t Cry
This was the first single from Alpha and was more pop than prog.  The version here is true to the original with Thrall adding some great guitar soloing at the end.
Geoff Downes-Keyboards
No Asia show would be complete without a Geoff Downes keyboard solo.  While I’m not much for solo spots, Downes does manage to keep my attention, especially when he adds in “Video Killed The Radio Star."
Only Time Will Tell
The distinctive keyboard intro is so recognizable that most music fans could name this tune in less than two seconds.  This is one of the songs that I didn’t like at first but grew on me as the years passed.  This version is good, but the vocals during the chorus are lacking.  The studio track has more punch than the version presented here, but the instrumentation is spot on.  They add in a clapping part during the end that gets the crowd going, but from a listening standpoint adds nothing.  It's one of those moments where I guess you just had to be there.
Rock And Roll Dream
I was wondering when they were going to visit the Astra record seeing that it was their latest (albeit five years before this concert).  I never liked the production of the original release, so hearing it live really made me appreciate the tune.  Here it is not as “noisy” but still keeping the full sound of the song.  All the instruments are heard but not drowned out like on the studio version.
Starless
This tune from King Crimson’s Red album sounds more ballad-y here than the original jazzy version.  The KC rendition was heavily sax-dominated, and this version is keyboard- driven.  While I like the track, and Wetton does a great job vocally, I have to wonder why it is included in an Asia show when by this point, they had enough material to fill a set list.
Book of Saturday
We are presented with another King Crimson track and, like the previous one, this is re-worked to fit a bit more into the Asia sound.  The original is mostly guitar with violin added to fill in the sound.  On this new version, keyboards play a big part of the tune taking over the violin parts and really very little guitar is heard.  Again, this is a cool song but not needed when there is so much Asia material that could have been played.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (Parts I & II)
I had no idea that this song had parts but either way, this version is a little heavier than the original on Alpha.  Thrall puts in a nice solo and makes it heavier, leaving the original sounding sappy.
The Heat Goes On
While some songs take on a heavier sound, others stay close to the original, and this track is part of the latter group.  Even though it is stretched out another minute, the sound and performance is really close to the original.
Go
I always felt that this should have been a bigger hit.  The band give this one a vibrant performance and they seem to be really giving it their all.  The only thing missing is the background vocals that give the chorus that booming sound on the studio version.
Heat of the Moment
Here we get another hit that has an unmistakable guitar intro.  Like some of the other tunes here, this rendition is not that different from the original and, while it has a little added to the end for the live setting, it is performed like the song we all know and remember.
Open Your Eyes
This tune was always a favorite of mine from Alpha.  Thrall puts in some nice guitar work and, while he doesn’t follow Howe’s leads exactly, he does a great job.  This is a great spirited version and it is heavier than the original, giving it some heft.
Kari-Anne (Previously Unreleased)
Live in Moscow ends with a previously unreleased song, and quite honestly, it could have stayed unreleased.  It contains a sappy chorus that ruins the rest of the track, which is rather pedestrian considering the talent performing it.  I would have left this one off of the disc.
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