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Asia - Alpha CD (album) cover




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2.79 | 296 ratings

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3 stars Released a year on from the self-titled debut, Asia's 1983 album `Alpha' saw the supergroup - comprised of John Wetton (King Crimson), Carl Palmer (E.L.P), Geoff Downes and Steve Howe (both of Yes) delivering another round of streamlined and gutsy arena pop/rock with very slight progressive rock flourishes. The debut offered snappy proggy playing worked into catchy rock/pop arrangements, but much of the light progressive touches have already been removed, meaning that most of the ten tracks here are fairly straight-forward and often AOR styled. But even if the production is a bit stale and clinical, and you avoid reading too much into the clichéd and `woe-is-my-relationship' lyrics, there's still cool playing trying to get through, and at worst it's a reliable collection of solid rock tunes.

Steve Howe seems almost totally absent from the opening two numbers, just providing middling playing that doesn't stand out at all. They're John Wetton driven tracks, the basic but brash rocker `Don't Cry' that improves on repeated listens, and `The Smile Has Left Your Eyes', a slushy power ballad. Thankfully the album starts to pick up a bit more steam from here. `Never In A Million Years' has more powerful chugging guitar driven verses with nice group harmonies in the chorus. The fourth track `My Own Time' is the first time on the disc that band seems to come to life, with rambunctious drumming from Carl Palmer, Howe starting to take flight, and the boisterous chorus is catchy and chest-beating. `The Heat Goes On' is pretty mindless, but there's a foot-tapping up-tempo strut charging it, with an aggressive and tasty Hammond organ run from Geoff Downes in the middle.

`Eye to Eye' opens the second side, racing through in just over three minutes, energized by slightly loopy and manic synths and rippling electric guitar duels, with memorable falsetto vocals from Wetton at the end of each line. `The Last To Know' is a solemn piano ballad with a power chorus. Howe seems to be about to erupt in guitar solo flight after a bit of grunt throughout it, but never really takes off. `True Colours' is heavy with thick synths and bashing ferocious drumming with a bombastic chorus. Despite having verses that are a little dull, `Midnight Sun' more than delivers with it's emotive and dreamy chorus, and finally Howe lets rip with an inspired lengthier guitar solo. At over six minutes, `Open Your Eyes' is the longest piece here, and its definitely the best showcase for the talent of the four players. An upbeat and memorable joyous chorus repeats around colorful synth washes, a driving beat and wailing guitar fills, and this time you can almost hear Wetton's chunky bass trying to break through.

In all honesty, even the best songs on `Alpha' probably aren't half as catchy and strong as anything off the debut album, nor is the same energy and need to impress present from there either. It's kind of `more of the same', just not quite as good, and the fairly cold, flat production certainly doesn't do much to impress. Asia are an easy target of ridicule for many prog fans, but if you don't mind well-played straight-forward rock by a bunch of first- rate musicians and you're forgiving of the style they chose to play in, there's still worthwhile music to enjoy on a surface level throughout `Alpha'.

Two and a half stars, barely rounded up to three.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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