Asia - Aria

geoviangeovian Earth Orbit
edited December 6 in Reviews 1990s

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ARTIST: Asia
ALBUM: Aria
LABEL: Bulletproof
SERIAL: CDVEST 8
YEAR: 1994
CD REISSUE: 2005, InsideOut, IOMCD 218

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Geoff Downes - keyboards * John Payne - vocals, bass * Al Pitrelli - guitars * Mike Sturgis - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Anytime * 02 Are You Big Enough * 03 Desire * 04 Summer * 05 Sad Situation * 06 Don't Cut The Wire * 07 Feels Like Love * 08 Remembrance Day * 09 Enough's Enough * 10 Military Man * 11 Aria

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

1994 saw yet another chapter in the book written by Geoff Downes and Asia. The sole survivor of the original band, Geoff had previously acquired ex C.C.C.P singer and bassist John Payne on Asia's previous album 'Aqua'.

Payne's Greg Lake and Bob Catley styled vocals (and bass playing abilities) became a perfect partnership. Also joining the band were New York guitarist Al Pitrelli (previously with Hot Shot and Alice Cooper) and transplanted Miami native to London - drummer Michael Sturgis (ex A-Ha and 21 Guns).

'Aria' is the result, and it is, next to 1985's 'Astra', their hardest rocking album of all their discography. I love what they achieved on this platter, such a big sounding album, and some of the songs make for essential listening.

The Songs

For me, it doesn't get better than the opening track 'Anytime'. A near-perfect melodic rock track that continues to get regular airplay from this listener at least - to this day. 'Are You Big Enough' is a hangover from those over-produced 80's glory days, the nifty Trevor Rabin like guitar parts from Al Pitrelli giving this one a Yes like feel from their 'Big Generator' era.

Pitrelli also gets to shine on the dark sounding heavy-hitter 'Desire', but conversely is introvert on the light and breezy 'Summer', where acoustic guitars rule the roost. Those ever-present synth layers from Downes sets the scene for 'Sad Situation', the strutting guitars and staggered vocal lines makes this track compulsory listening.

Payne is the 'go-to man' on 'Don't Cut The Wire', his vocals taking on an urgent sounding delivery. However he comes into his own on the staggeringly good 'Feels Like Love', the albums 'piece-de-resistance'. Get lost in the ambience of this track, it really is good.

Cowboys, Indians, and a war theme is the tale told on ' Remembrance Day', a pretty good hard rocker nonetheless with some very cool bass lines from Payne. 'Enough's Enough' is more atmospheric AOR with a rich chorus though the happy-sounding handclaps are.. errm.. interesting.

As you would expect with a song title such as 'Military Man', the tone is all about war and its circumstances, the music powerful and dramatic. The album ends with an orchestral ballad, the title track 'Aria', just for something different.

In Summary

Some very good songs here, the album appealing more to hard rock fans than prog I suspect. Unfortunately this superb line-up did not last the distance. Sturgis moved on to Psycho Motel and Wishbone Ash. Pitrelli hooked up with Savatage.

Meanwhile Downes and Payne changed the sound of the band for the next album 'Arena', and in the process making it less interesting for many, myself included. Not to diss the band, because they left this hard rock-pomp masterpiece behind. One of the better albums from 1994.


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