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

ASIA – The Official Live Bootlegs – Volume 1 – Out 26th November

Multi-platinum selling English supergroup ASIA are to release a 10CD boxset The Official Live Bootlegs Volume 1 through BMG Records on 26th November 2021. There will also be a digital album featuring a selection of 24 tracks taken from the full boxset, out on the same day.

Pre-order it here:-https://asiaband.lnk.to/OLB1PR

ASIA: Geoff Downes (The Buggles, YES, keyboards), Steve Howe (YES, guitars), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, drums) and John Wetton (King Crimson, UK, bass/vocals), took the world by storm with their eponymous debut album, globally the biggest-selling album of 1982, and the single Heat Of The Moment.

The Official Live Bootlegs Volume 1 celebrates the huge appeal of the concert tours that followed ASIA’s first two albums in 1982 and 1983. The success continued following ASIA’s 25th anniversary reunion in 2006 and three more highly acclaimed albums. The slipcase boxset features 5 x 2CD concerts from 1982 (Buffalo, NY, USA), 1983 (Worcester, MA, USA), 2007 (São Paulo, Brazil), 2008 (Tokyo, Japan) and 2010 (London, UK).

“This historical collection represents some of our finest and most defining live moments,” says Geoff Downes, “from the very first ASIA tour in 1982 and the Alpha tour the following year through three of our many ‘Reunion’ shows. It was such a privilege to take ASIA’s music to these different continents and feel the warmth and support from fans all over the world. We hope this brings back great memories and inspires others to appreciate the music of ASIA”. 

The sets for ASIA’s original 1980s tours featured only the band’s new music. For the ‘Reunion’ years tours, ASIA included heritage tracks from each of the band member’s pre-ASIA groups. The 2007 and 2008 concerts also feature the Wetton/Howe composition Ride Easy, a song omitted from the debut album that was issued as the B-side of Heat Of The Moment, and included in their later live repertoire as a thank you to their fans for their support over a quarter of a century.

This the first time these recordings have been made officially available by ASIA and they are presented together in a superb collector’s edition boxset with original artwork by Roger Dean, who created all of ASIA’s album artwork. 

ASIA, The Official Live Bootlegs, Volume 1 is available as a 10CD boxset and a Digital Album on 26th November 2021 through BMG Records.

About ASIA

ASIA was a true ‘supergroup’ pooling the talents of Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and John Wetton, who had already amassed tens of millions of record sales with their collective bands of the 70s.

Leaving behind their progressive roots, ASIA embraced the commercial FM rock sound that dominated US airwaves and took that, and the new MTV video channel, by storm. The single Heat Of The Moment was a world-wide monster smash and their eponymous 1982 debut album spent an incredible 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart as ASIA became the biggest selling album of the year and world tour dates sold out.

A second album, Alpha, was released in 1983. The four original members reconvened in 2006 for a world tour, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that incredible success, and the album Phoenix followed.

While the members were still heavily involved in other projects they came together again to record Omega in 2010 and XXX in 2012, both albums were acclaimed by their faithful fans and supported by more world tours.

Steve Howe stepped back from ASIA to concentrate on his work with YES and was absent for 2014’s Gravitas. Following this tour came the news of John Wetton’s treatment for cancer, a fight he sadly lost in 2017.

ASIA THE OFFICIAL LIVE BOOTLEGS – VOLUME 1 PRE-ORDER HERE: https://asiaband.lnk.to/OLB1PR

Interview With Geoff Downes by John Wenlock-Smith

The release of the first new material from Yes since ‘Heaven and Earth’ has been a long time in coming. During that time there have been many changes to the world of Yes, most notably the sad death of Chris Squire in 2016. There has also been the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc with most people’s plans, a situation that Yes have also been affected by. Here’s what Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes had to say about this period.

John Wenlock-Smith (JWS): Good day Geoff, thanks fore making time to talk with me, how have you been keeping during this time?

Geoff Downes (GD): I’ve not been too bad, I’ve managed to keep myself active. We recorded this new album remotely with Alan (White) and Billy (Sherwood) in the US, Jon (Davidson) in the Caribbean and Steve (Howe) and myself here in the UK, it’s a nice way of working I find.

JWS: Results Seem to be positive, you seem to bring out the best in each other somehow?

GD: Yes, I think it does, it also gives you the chance to sit back and look at it all. We’ve had to do that with this Yes album and I think that we’ve learnt quite a lot by doing it that way. It’s a different approach but, at the same time, it can be creative as well.

JWS: It getting interesting reviews (the album), isn’t it?

GD: Yes, obviously the days of the band being in the studio for months locked away doesn’t really exist these days, as they did in the ’70’s. It’s been difficult with having the rhythm section in California, they were sending us files to review on a regular basis. But, of course, we’re not alone in that we were all locked down for months on end and we’ve had to adapt and respond to that as best as we could. Without the benefit of being able to play any live shows it has put people on a different route forward. It meant taking a more flexible approach to things really.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett recently and he was saying a similar thing, he has had to adjust to a new approach to his music, but at least he is able to go out on tour again now.

GD: Yes, I had an email from Steve asking if I wanted to see him in Cardiff tThe nearest place to where I am in Chepstow) but he was saying I can’t see you though, we do the show and move the whole bubble onwards. So I didn’t get to see him this time, but I’ve seen his show many times at various stages. He always puts on a great show. He really puts a lot into his shows, not just him and his band but in the staging and the lighting and the whole experience and performance really. I’m looking forward to catching up with him again when he comes back round.

JWS: Touring will be happening for Yes again soon though?

GD: Well, yes, we’ve got a tour booked for next May and June in the UK and Europe.

JWS: This is the ‘Relayer’ Tour?

GD: Yes, it’s been postponed twice so we’re hoping it’s third time lucky for it to go ahead.

JWS: Well, the album is very interesting, I’ve heard it all, and the bonus tracks, one of which is obviously a tribute to the Beatles. But the whole album is interesting lyrically, you’re not afraid to tackle some important and controversial issues like ecology and conservation?

GD: I’m not involved with the lyrics per se, Jon was stuck in Barbados for 5 months and I think that’s reflected in his lyrics, global warming, obviously, and I think The Ice Bridge reflects those concerns. There’s nothing worse than musicians standing on a soapbox telling people what they should be doing but, by the same token, it’s true that the band are all getting older which brings its own challenges.

JWS: So what’s happening with the Downes Braides Association? I loved the ‘Halcyon Hymns’ album and wrote a glowing review of it, I thought it was excellent!

GD: Well, Chris has moved back here now from LA and I’m hopeful that we can get together and work on the next one more directly, as opposed to being two oceans apart. So we will have to see how that comes about in due course.

JWS: You also had the Asia albums re-released recently (‘The Reunion Albums 2007 to 2012’) on BMG.

GD: The 40th anniversary of the ‘Asia’ album is in 2022, so those albums are being re-promoted again to mark that event. Those first three albums were very significant and its important to mark those events again fully.

I’ve still got unworked material from a session I had with John (Wetton) before he sadly died so there is potential there to craft something new. I feel that Asia has not run its course and that there is still some life left in the band. Again, we’ll have to see what emerges from those sessions.

JWS: What about a new solo album for you? Surely you must be due for another one soon?

GD: Yes, I have been thinking about doing something, although quite what that will be is very open. I think I’d like to do something in a similar vein to ‘The Light Program’ from 1987, a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ album of its time but worth revisiting again I think.

JWS: I also read recently that you wanted the keyboards on this new album, ‘The Quest’ to be more analogue than digital, more like earlier Yes albums?

GD: When I was growing up, I was hugely influenced by the keyboard sounds that Tony Kaye used on those early Yes albums. He was a monster on the growling Hammond and when we did the ‘Yes 50’ tour, Tony was a guest on some dates. He still commands the Hammond organ and we became good friends, so that was a big factor for me. Plus, I think the music Steve was making on the guitar leant itself to that classic type of sound, so that’s what I did, and I think it worked okay.

JWS: Tony Has a new solo album out, ‘End of Innocence’, have you heard it yet?

GD: No, but I want to hear it, it’s all about the World Trade Centre and 9/11 isn’t it?

JWS: Yes, it’s a good album.

GD: Does he play lots of Hammond on it?

JWS: Yes, throughout.

GD: I’ll have to ask management to get me a copy then.

JWS: You won’t regret it Geoff, it’s a fine piece of work, very worthwhile. Anyway, my time has gone, I’m afraid, thanks for talking to me.

GD: No problem John, thanks for interesting questions and for knowing your stuff, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, thank you!

‘The Quest’ by Yes is released on 1st October, 2021 and you can order a copy here:

The Quest (lnk.to)

Asia: The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 – Box Set Out Now!

ASIA, the multi-platinum selling English supergroup, formed in London in 1981, celebrate their 40th anniversary with a 5CD boxset The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 through BMG.

Watch the unboxing here:

Buy it here: https://asiaband.lnk.to/reunionalbumsPR

This 5CD deluxe clamshell box set features the 2CD live recording Fantasia, Live In Tokyo together with the three reunion studio albums Phoenix, Omegaand XXX.

ASIA took the world by a storm with their eponymous debut album, globally the biggest-selling album of 1982. The single Heat Of The Moment, a huge soft-rock anthem, reached the top 40 in over a dozen markets, peaking in the U.S. at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

The four original members of ASIA – John Wetton (King Crimson, lead vocal/bass), Steve Howe (YES, guitars), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, drums) and Geoff Downes (The Buggles, YES, keyboards), reunited to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2006 and 2007 with a world tour.

A live album from the tour Fantasia, Live In Tokyo was released in 2007 as they returned to the studio together for the first time in a quarter of a century. The reunion would yield three stunning albums Phoenix (2008), Omega (2010) together with XXX (2012) as they celebrated their 30th anniversary.

Of these later albums Carl Palmer said, “The chemistry and energy that comes out when the four of us are working together, is reflected in the new material.” For his part, John Wetton marvelled at how far the band had come. “Each one of us is comfortable as a human being, and the sound reflects the collective maturity of these four people who are not only eager to explore but also relaxed enough to luxuriate in the strength of the material.”

This boxset features the original ASIA line-up, reformed in 2006, and brings together, for the first time, all of ASIA’s essential music into one concise collection.

Fantasia, Live In Tokyo, the 2CD live show from their 2007 World Tour, features many of the tracks from their first two albums Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983) and includes Heat Of The Moment and Don’t Cry together with heritage tracks from each of the band member’s musical history. The band also performed live, for the first time, an acoustic version of Ride Easy, a B-side from the debut single Heat Of The Moment.

The boxset collection is completed by the three reunion studio albums Phoenix, Omega and XXX. These represent some of ASIA’s finest moments and allowed the band to explore fully their rock and progressive roots.
These albums are presented together in a superb collector’s edition boxset designed by Roger Dean, who produced all of the original albums’ artwork. The boxset cover image was previously unused and the Fantasia sleeve design has been updated by Roger. 

ASIA, The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 5CD boxset is out now through BMG Records.

About ASIA
ASIA was a true ‘supergroup’ pooling the talents of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe and was the logical successor to their collective bands of the 70s.

Moving beyond their progressive roots, ASIA embraced the commercial FM rock sound that dominated US airwaves and took that, and the new MTV video channel, by storm. The single Heat Of The Moment was a world-wide monster smash and their eponymous 1982 debut album spent an incredible 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart as ASIA became the biggest selling album of the year and world tour dates sold out.

A second platinum selling album, Alpha, was released in 1983. The four original members reconvened in 2006 for a world tour, to celebrate the 25thanniversary of that incredible success, and the album Phoenix followed.

While the members were still heavily involved in other projects, they came together again to record Omega in 2010 and XXX in 2012. Both albums were acclaimed by their faithful fans and supported by more world tours.

Steve Howe stepped back from ASIA to concentrate on his work with YES and he was replaced by Sam Coulson for 2014’s Gravitas. Following this tour came the news of John Wetton’s treatment for cancer, a fight he sadly lost in 2017, just before Asia started an arena tour with JOURNEY, a tour which became a tribute to John’s life and legacy. John had requested that Billy Sherwood YES replace him on bass and vocals.

ASIA supported YES’s 2019 US Royal Affair Tour with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns N’ Roses) on guitar and vocal duties. Steve Howe also returned as special guest.
In 2021 ASIA signed a deal with BMG to re-release their reunion albums Phoenix, Omega, Fantasia: Live In Tokyo and XXX, along with Gravitas (with Sam Coulson), to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary in 2022. They also plan to release a box-set ASIA In Asia, of the first simulcast from 1983, with Greg Lake temporarily replacing John Wetton.

Review – Steve Howe – Love Is – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Love Is’, is the latest solo album from Yes guitarist Steve Howe. Steve has been the guitarist in Yes since the ‘Close To The Edge’ album in 1972 and in that time his guitar mastery has entranced millions of fans with his unique style and skill on both electric and acoustic guitars, his harmony vocals also playing a supporting role to the vocals that made Yes so famous. His incisive guitar work was also heard on the original brace of albums by Asia, especially on the huge radio hit Heat of The Moment, among many others

Asia were the group he revisited on several occasions over the years but this new solo album is a little different in that it features current Yes vocalist Jon Davison on the vocal tracks which comprise five of the albums ten tracks. Jon also provides bass guitar on these same five tracks. In reality  the album is all fairly laid back with only a few songs raising the pace but, somehow, this doesn’t really matter for what we have here is a master craftsman at work, still striving to push himself forward and make new music that is worthy and has merit.

This is certainly the case here, especially on the vocal tracks as these have a real edge to them delivered by Jon Davison. These songs also have a feel of Yes to them, even without the rest of the band onboard. Certainly one can see It Ain’t Easy finding a place on a Yes album and it being a highpoint of that, just as it is here. Also worth a mention is the delicate steel guitar on the instrumental Pause For Thought, which shows Steve’s nimble finger work off to great effect, its complex playing proving quite strident, making it one of the better tracks. This playing is quite lyrical really making this a song without words and sounding very good too!

Imagination also has that same strident feel to it, being the better for it too. The song has some fine playing from Steve. While his playing here is song cantered and is not focused on showing off on fiery solo’s, the solo’s that he does deliver are brief and fleeting, aimed to fit in with the tone of the songs or the moods of the pieces. In all honesty, this plays to the strength of the songs as an overall album and it is probably best appreciated as such.

This is a good album by a great musician and, while there is nothing here that makes you go wow!, if you let the music do the talking and you are prepared to listen to it, you will find snatches of real skill and moments of beauty. Like those found in The Headlands where Steve finally lets rip  with some sublime guitar lines backed by some fine acoustic guitar. This song is possibly my favourite on the album, although I also like See Me Through and Fulcrum, both of which are really satisfying to hear. The title track Love Is A River is also a stand out moment that shouldn’t be missed.

I do feel that it would have been good to hear more of Steve really cutting loose and tearing up his fretboard but, hey, at seventy odd he probably isn’t interested in doing that any more. Instead we’ll just have to be happy to settle for the amazing craft he brings to these pieces.   

The final track, On The Balcony, has the most rock orientated feel to it, with its chugging riff and rhythm moving it along nicely. This has a good use of dynamics to it really but, overall, I feel that many fans will simply not bother to listen to this album wanting the next Yes album instead, and that is very is sad as this disc has many moods to it and a hell of a lot to commend it.

Personally, I am very glad to have heard this and wish Steve all the best for this album’s success. He has created an album that rewards the diligent listener and, on that basis, I can highly recommend it to you. If your knowledge of Steve Howe is limited to key Yes albums and the Asia material then you really should give this album a try. Steve has released a lot of albums over the years, from his first ‘Beginnings’ and ‘The Steve Howe Album’, both in the mid 1970’s, to the more recent ‘Nexus’ (with son Virgil) and the Steve Howe Trio albums and, in my honest opinion, ‘Love Is’ stands comparison with the best of those.     

Released 31st July, 2020

Pre-order the album from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/store/stevehowe