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Asia

Archiva 2

Review by Greg Olma

In 1995, Asia had a bit of a studio issue when a water pipe burst and ruined hundreds of thousands of pounds of studio equipment.  Luckily, there was a box of tapes with unreleased material that was not damaged, so I guess the band felt that it would be better to put out these tracks than to lose them altogether.  I’m glad they put this material out as some of it is quite good, and I’m surprised that they felt some of the cuts were not as good as the material that they did release.  Not every song is a winner, but there are so many good songs that they rival their “regular” studio albums.  Even though many Asia fans look at the first couple of records as their best, I find myself liking the John Payne era much more keep listening to those discs more than I listen to the originals.  If you are like me and enjoy the Payne fronted tunes, then get this album and Archiva I,  as they are both well worth purchasing.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Obsession
I don’t understand why this wasn't on the Aqua album.  This has "hit single" written all over it and, while I feel that it would been a huge hit if it was released in the late 80s, it still would have been a hit for them in the early 90s.  The tune is a mid-paced AOR gem that has all the signature Asia sounds along with an extremely catchy chorus.
Moon Under the Water
This keyboard heavy track has a very late 80s sound that fits perfectly with the Asia/Payne catalogue.  It has a moody vibe about it that also sounds like it would have been a good soundtrack tune on one of the movies from that era.
Love Like The Video
While this one is up-tempo and has a really catchy chorus, it has not aged as well as the other material on Archiva 2.  The chorus vocals and the production on this tune make it sound dated.  It’s a good enough song but, compared to the other material, falls a bit flat.
Don't Come To Me
It is weird that the band wanted to do an obscure cover song for inclusion on their Arena album, but here it is.  I like the track and think it would have fit nicely on the record.  It’s kind of a ballad but not a sappy one, and Payne does a great vocal performance on this one.
The Smoke That Thunders
This instrumental was co-written by Carl Palmer and, while he didn’t get a chance to play on it, it is a cool little number.  It has a moody vibe to it and has a soundtrack feel, probably due to it being an instrumental.
Satellite Blues
If a rock/AOR band wrote a “blues” song in the mid to late 80s, this is what it would sound like. It is almost danceable and not really the blues other that having the name in the title.  I think it would have been a perfect song for the movie Road House with Patrick Swayze.
Showdown
The band must have really wanted a cover song on Arena because they recorded this ELO tune for inclusion but decided to opt for other material.  They stick pretty close to the original and give it a slightly updated sound, but again, it’s not that different to the original.  Still, they do a good job on the track, and I like their version.
That Season
This mellow tune is a good track that was written for Arena but didn’t make the cut.  It is a slow song but picks up for the chorus and is quite catchy.  There is an odd sound on the guitar solo, but overall it is good and should have been included on the record (although I don’t know which track I would have omitted from the actual release).
Can't Tell These Walls
The band did get influenced by different styles when Payne joined, and this one has a bit of soul influence.  Payne’s voice works perfectly in that style, and this probably would have been a hit for some R&B artist. This one is worthy of hit single status.
The Higher You Climb
This has the signature Asia Payne era sound but it does miss the mark a little.  It is mid-tempo with heavy keyboards and a catchy chorus, but there is something missing.  If their other material wasn’t so good, then this one would be great, I can see why this one was left on the “cutting room floor."
Right to Cry
Aside from the chorus this is a pretty good tune.  That chorus just doesn’t work for me, but the rest of the track is good. That said, it is similar to the other material they were recording in the mid-90s.
Armenia
The beginning of this has a very spacey intro, but when this instrumental finally gets going, there is some great guitar work that reminds me of Pink Floyd.  I’m glad they released this extra song from the Armenia earthquake relief album.
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