Review – ASIA – The Official Live Bootlegs – Volume 1 – by John Wenlock-Smith

Asia are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of their debut album next year, can you believe it has been 40 years since ‘Heat of the Moment’ first graced our airwaves! That album, of course, was a spectacular success and gave a new lease of life to a disgruntled Steve Howe who had been left in the cold by Yes as they had regrouped around Trever Rabin and Chris Squire. Steve was invited to join John Wetton, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes in his then latest venture that brought the worlds of progressive music and AOR together in spectacular musical and financial success.

This set consists of five double CD’s featuring hitherto unreleased recordings of Asia in 1982, 1983, 2007, 2008 and, finally, 2010, recorded in the USA, Brazil, Japan and London. These sets are quite different in that the sound is always good and most noticeable is the bass of John Wetton, being often prominent and the band are playing very tightly and obviously enjoying themselves Naturally, many of the tracks are repeated over the five shows, although Carl Palmer’s drum solo moves from track to track as these albums progress.

The first set was recorded on Asia’s first US tour and, obviously, their debut album is prominently featured, although a new track that would appear on ‘Alpha’ was unveiled, albeit in a quite different version to the one that ended up on the album, as this features all four members playing keyboards to a drum machine backing before morphing into a full band performance where Steve Howe gets to wail and Carl Palmer hits things loudly. A lively rendition of Only Time Will Tell stands out with Geoff’s keyboard being prominent and John in fined voice indeed. In fact, Asia have seldom sounded rawer than this and everyone sounds in good form, this performance is particularly feisty and energetic. The rest of this set is fuelled by the balance of songs from their debut, Carl Palmer’s Drum solo and the double whammy of Sole Survivor and Heat of The Moment.

The second set is from August 1983 in Worcester, Massachusetts and this is a mixture of the debut and ‘Alpha’ albums along with Steve Howe’s solo segment of Beginnings/Valley of Rocks/Clap and Carl Palmer’s drum solo in Here Comes the Feeling, culminating in Sole Survivor and Heat of the Moment again.

The third set  was recorded in Brazil shortly after the band reformed in 2007 and this set features tracks from their recently released album ‘Phoenix’, which stand up well to their earlier classics. Also Roundabout gets a dusting off here with John Wetton taking on the Jon Anderson parts. Well, he even gets a Chris Squire type sound and tone and his bass drives the song along nicely. It is great to hear these musicians really stretching themselves, though the sound is a bit crackly on this number, for some reason, but it doesn’t detract from what is an excellent version of a great song.

There is a version of Fanfare for the Common Man from Carl’s old band, ELP, and, again, we are in for a real treat here with Geoff Downes’ keyboards sounding not unlike a certain Mr. Emerson, and Steve’s guitar interjects and adds little flourishes throughout before he lets fly with a brief solo. It’s all highly effective stuff, as is the short bass solo from John Wetton. This set also includes a King Crimson track, In the Court of the Crimson King, and The Buggles’ song Video Killed the Radio Star.

Set four is from Tokyo in 2008, just before ‘Omega’ was released. The ‘Phoenix’ album is featured with An Extraordinary Life standing out. Again, solo tracks from each member are included and this is also the longest of these sets at nearly 2 hours in length. The sound is uniformly good throughout and it is great to hear .

The last set in this collection comes from London in 2010 and is a great return to form for the band. Featuring, as it does, lesser played tracks like Finger on The Trigger and Through My Veins from the ‘Omega’ album, along with a Steve Howe solo and the usual Carl Palmer drum solo during The Heat Goes On. The set concludes with Sole Survivor, Go (from ‘Astra’) and Heat of The Moment.

The collection features new art from Roger Dean and a brief, but informative, booklet detailing each of the shows, just a shame that John Wetton is no longer with  us to celebrate this significant anniversary. This box set is a wonderful way in which to both remember, and celebrate, a rather rawer and more ferocious Asia than their albums showed. It is a great collection, pricey but worthwhile as Christmas is soon with us!

Released 26th November, 2021.

Order the box set here:

Asia – The Official Live Bootlegs, Volume One – Horizons Music

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.