Asia: the lost years

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To celebrate the upcoming release of Asia’s brand new studio album Phoenix (out April 15th), I thought I’d share some Asia-related tracks from the mid-80s. I consider the mid to late eighties as the “lost period” for the original members of Asia after the breakup of the band in 1985. Carl Palmer, John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe (Howe left in 1983 after the Asia in Asia debacle) all went their separate ways trying desperately to somehow find their way back onto the billboard charts.

Generally they were unsuccessful in duplicating the sales number they had for their debut album back in 1982 but Steve Howe got closer than the rest with his 1986 project…

Steve Howe

Howe left Asia after the disastrous Asia in Asia ‘83 concert (with Greg Lake in place of John Wetton) in japan and formed another “supergroup” with Steve Hackett. Geoff Downes came on board as producer which is interesting since the project was guitar-based and Downes is a keyboard player. The group made a dent on the charts with “When the Heart Rules the Mind” and “The Hunter” but soon disbanded due to Howe and Hackett’s inability to work with one another.

John Wetton

Matching the huge success of Asia’s debut album would be a tough feat for just about any band. and when Alpha and Astra didn’t meet the record label’s expectations, the band was dropped. I’m sure it was tough for Wetton during this time. and it showed on his next project. Wetton hooked up with an old friend of his Phil Manzanera. along for the ride was producer Keith Bessey and Yes drummer Alan White. sounding like a lesser-version of Asia, the Wetton/Manzanera album tanked in 1987. It was a good try though. and having a soft spot for all things Asia, I still pull out the CD every once in a while.

Geoff Downes

Downes released an instrumental/new age-type album in 1987 titled The Light Program . the album sounds a bit dated now but I still listen to it every now and then for Downes’ very melodic compositions. interestingly, the original CD indexed the various themes into 2 minute pieces. so I’m not able to share a complete “song” as intended. I suppose it’s a good way to deter file sharing…

Carl Palmer

With management’s love for shuffling members around, Palmer got back together with Keith Emerson but instead of Greg Lake, songwriter/musician Robert Berry was brought in (Berry was involved with GTR’s aborted second album, Nerotrend). The group was named “3″. why they didn’t go with “Emerson, Berry & Palmer” is anybody’s guess. with an ever diminishing market for “pop-prog”, their album To the Power of Three sank like a stone upon release in 1988.

bonus: Greg Lake

Lake came into Asia back in ‘83 as a favor to Carl Palmer when the group decided to give John Wetton the boot. unfortunately, Lake didn’t have the same vocal range as Wetton and it was very apparent to the millions that watched the Asia in Asia telecast on cable. Lake as well as the band knew it wasn’t a good fit and Lake went back to fronting ELP. the problem was that Carl Palmer was still contractually obligated to Asia so Lake and Keith Emerson had to find a replacement drummer to fill the “P” in ELP. Luckily, Cozy Powell was available and they quickly released

Mockingbird by Allison Moorer

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Whenever an established artist releases an album full of covers you’re often left to wonder if it was due to writer’s block or a creative lull. It’s especially true when the song selection and interpretations are dull or cookie-cutter like. But albums like Mockingbird by Allison Moorer show us all that cover albums CAN actually be interesting and creative. As with most great cover albums, Moorer has an overall theme and seems to have a strong connection with all the songs. the songs are all written by female songwriters. she explained in the press release that she wanted to become a better songwriter by exploring other female songwriters.

Moorer is quoted in saying “I have spent years and years in my own head and my own little world, and this was a break to explore how other singer/songwriters experience life.” She goes on to say, “It made me a better singer, too… Both working with Buddy (Miller) and considering how these lyrics, melodies and emotions fell. This got me to stretch vocally more than I have in a long time, so that growth was thrilling.” with the intriguing song selection and Moorer’s wonderful vocal work, the album is a fun ride and enjoyable to listen to. Producer Buddy Miller did a great job in keeping the song arrangements varied and colorful without going overboard. Highlights include: Ring of Fire, Dancing Barefoot, Revelator, Where is My Love and Orphan Train.