Date:Friday, June 29, 2012
Review By: Thom Jennings
It was thirty years ago when four of progressive rock's most accomplished musicians came together to form Asia. Even before the band's self-titled debut arrived in record bins, there was a great deal of anticipation, and while some prog rock purists dismissed Asia as overly commercial, fans embraced the band's spectacular debut.
In July the quintessential lineup of Asia; Wetton, Howe, Downes and Palmer, will release XXX. The title acknowledges the bands thirtieth anniversary, and is this lineups third album of original material since they reformed in 2006.
Their last album, "Omega," was tremendous and somehow the band has managed to outdo themselves with "XXX." Fans of Asia have come to expect catchy songs, but this collection really exceeds all expectations.
What is unusual about "XXX," is that the truly great songs are on the second half of the album. If this were a two sided album the second side would be the better of the two. The opening songs, like "Tomorrow the World," and "Faithful," are great songs, but the album's set is constructed in a way that each song keeps getting better until the closing song, "Ghost of a Chance," which is the best song this lineup has ever recorded. I say that as a fan who saw this band on their first US tour and also as the owner of the entire Wetton era catalog.
One other thing that seems different is the tandem of Wetton and Palmer on bass and drums. They just seem to be playing together better than they ever have, this is especially noticeable on "Al Gatto Nero," a song that is incredibly catchy.
What really makes "XXX" work is that Asia does not sound like a supergroup, they sound like a band of friends who enjoy performing together. If you enjoyed the band's debut thirty years ago you will appreciate this collection of songs. I highly recommend "XXX" it exceeds expectations and when you have a lineup of Asia's caliber, that is saying a lot.