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Asia

Aria

Review by Greg Olma

In 1994, Asia released Aria which was commercially a bit of a failure.  The previous studio record Aqua did much better, but by this time it really was the Geoff Downes/John Payne show.  While much of the music world was engulfed in a love affair with grunge, my friends and I still enjoyed good quality melodic rock with a proggy twist.  John Payne was the voice (and bass) of Asia for 15 years and you would be missing out on some great music if you just stuck to the “classic” line-up.  While Aria didn’t do as well as its predecessors, there is a lot to like about this sister record to Aqua.  There are some great tunes on offer with their catchy choruses and majestic melodies.  I haven’t listened to this disc in a while, and I’m glad I pulled it out for this review.  It’s a great overlooked album with many memorable moments and well worth revisiting.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Anytime

The disc starts off with the single off the record.  It has a big chorus, but I like the verses a bit better.  As with most of the John Payne era Asia, this has a very bright sound and almost a happy vibe to it.

Are you Big Enough?
Things get a little heavier on this track.  The guitar work by Al Pitrelli has a little bit of difficulty getting through as the keyboards are really predominant. But if you listen closely, you can hear him make his mark.  The chorus is very big on this tune and, although it is used often, it is melodic enough to not get boring.
Desire
The title of this song is very accurate to the mood the music puts forth.  It is one of the longer tracks here, and the hook during the chorus is extremely catchy.
Summer
This piece starts off with piano and acoustic guitar but builds rather quickly into a mellow little rocker.  The tune has a relaxed feel and doesn’t have the big chorus that the previous tunes had, but like most of the record, the choruses will stick in your head well after the song is over.
Sad Situation
Although many might say that the album has a sameness about it, each track has something unique that sets it apart.  With this tune, it is the pre-chorus that stands out and, in many ways, makes the song.  It has a very pronounced vocal delivery and, while the lyrics are a bid sad, that pre-chorus gives it a nice upbeat feel.
Don’t Cut The Wire (Brother)
The lyrics hit home with me because I was the black sheep in my family.  While Asia may be known for more lighthearted music, lyrically, they touch on many “heavy” subjects, and this is a good example of that.  The song is a mid-paced melodic rock tune that has a big memorable chorus.
Feels Like Love
Asia is not known for power ballads, but this cut is about as close as they come to one.  The tune takes a while to really get started with only keyboards for the first half, but then it gets a nice guitar solo from Pitrelli.
Remembrance Day
This song starts off heavier and un-Asia-like but quickly evolves into familiar territory.  It’s a good tune but more forgettable than the rest of the record.  Clocking in at 4:20, it is enjoyable enough to listen to and not long enough to skip.
Enough’s Enough
Here is another forgettable song.  Even bad Asia tunes are better than most bands can come up with, but the pacing is a bit ruined by having two tracks that lack something special.
Military Man
Now this is more like it.  We are treated to a military themed chugging rocker that brings back the big chorus and some great guitar soloing.  After the last two cuts, this one stands out even more as a great Asia song.
Aria
The title track is also the shortest at just shy of two-and-a-half minutes.  It's basically a piano ballad that does get orchestral in the middle and seems to revisit some of the earlier sounds of the record.  It plays nicely as a “wrap up” for the disc.
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