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Phoenix is a return to the original 1982 line up with John Wetton back on lead vocals.Geoff Downes on keyboards,Carl Palmer on drums,and Steve Howe on Guitars.
The album sleeve is a welcome return to Roger Deans distinctive artwork,although,i think the inner sleeve is a better picture to the Outer cover.
Whatever the differences that ousted John Payne from the last incarnation,i must admit,i would prefer to see him back.
On first hearing,the album could almost be the next Wetton Downes Icon project.Wetton Downes co writing all tracks here.
Not as rocky as the John payne Asia,this is a far more melodic outing.The first 1982 Asia album stands out as a classic,this ,i'm afraid does not.
The opener,Never Again,is typical Asia,with trademark harmonies and layered keyboards.tHe majority of this album seems to be John Wetton reflecting on his life,especially his recent Heart surgery.This is particularily in evidence on the standout track here,"an Extraordinary Life."There is also an acoustic version of the track on the european version.
* Introduction to the band * What do you get if you combine Uria Heap,Roxy music,The Bugles,Emerson Lake and Palmer,Yes and King Crimson? You get a fantastic line-up and music of the quality you would expect from such an auspicious collection. Their various talents were combines to create the group Asia,who utilized their capabilities in producing two amazing albums.The first,Asia - Asia in 1992 and the second, Asia - Alpha in 1993. Although Asia went on to produce many more albums,the line up would change starting with Steve Howe quitting the band in 1985, to be replaced by Swiss guitarist Mandy Meyer. Despite still being great albums, they never recaptured the magical touch they had created in their first bi-releases. * Form the band to the album * Amongst much debate, the general consensus was that poor record sales of Alpha attributed to the reorganization of Asia talent. Amazing considering it still sold over 2 million albums and the track "Don't Cry" was a top 10 hit, yet this was pitiful acclaim compared to their debut album's success. The album itself still held distinctive tracks that were unmistakably created by Asia. Their sound and nature, whilst not repetitive can be mistaken for nothing else. Falling into the progressive rock genra, the sound hints on edges of rock ballads through to pop. Many of the tracks incorporate several strains of genre and bind them with a changeable tempo. Dissecting the album track by track highlights both the common factors and the differences **Don't cry 3:41 (Wetton/Downes)** A lightened instrumental is joined by heavier drumming that feeds into the vocals,these go on to work together for several verses with only the smallest variation in tempo right to the end of the track where it fades out.The whole track is generally upbeat and lively. **The smile has left your eyes 3:13 (Wetto
n)** Starting almost immediately with vocals and a piano/string accompaniment they take a slow melody that is intermittently joined by a mild drum roll.Towrds the latter half of the track the vocals become more p0owerful and the sound escalates to a soaring version of the fist half, ending with a very soft vocal lead-out. **Never in a million years 3:46 (Wetton/Downes)** Fully instrumentalized this track blends a firmer vocal range with a chorus that has a deeper almost multi-layered sound that is notably more harmonious.The ending is again the familiar faded-out voals. **My own time (I'll do what I want)4:49 (Wetton/Downes)** The more traditional,but still light rock entrance biuilds a hard entrance to a suddenly quieter and isolated vocal accompanied by little else than some pretty strings,with both strings and vocals playing up and down scales at a notable rate,but in a gentle manner.A third of the way in and a heavier accompaniment raises the level of the vocals and tempo of the track to a far heavier feel. The chorals is cleverly used to combine and link these variations.The sound continues to escalate very slightly through to the..(yes you've guessed it) vocal fade-out finale. **The heat goes on 5:00 (Wetton/Downes)** A very faint string/piano intro is almost immediately vamped up with a drum, making an exceptional but small instrumental that introduces the vocals. The vocals join in a hard and heavy manner with a fast tempo. Each small verse leads swiftly into an ever familiar chorus arrangement. Suddenly a swift change in tempo gives way to a more subdued section of verse and an even more lively mini- instrumental governed by the lead guitarist, just as swiftly changing back to the original tempo. Finally a last minute rendition of the chorus dropping to the quiet sound of the initial intro ends abruptly with a cymbal/drum flash. **Eye to eye 3:11 (W
etton /Down es)** A powerful combined musical intro quickly incorporates vocal power at a racy level that snaps in and out until the chorus adds layered depth for a short spell.The track then reverts back to it's nippy pace.This combination is repeated several times for a short but strong track, fading out at the last. **The last to know 4:40 (Wetton/Downes)** Keyboard gently gives way to a more haunting vocal sound. The gentleness of this track is evident even as the drums and guitar joins it and strengthens the volume and depth of the track. Sliding between the almost solo voice to the stronger accompaniment, the feel does not change. Ending with the solo voice this track doesn't follow the more usual fade-out. **True colors 3:53 (Wetton/Downes)** String accompanied vocals wind up to a harder sound that carries a fast pace and less melodic sound. Changing between chorus and verse the track holds a steady combination right until the end of the track where the vocals lift into a higher, stringer aura breifly before resuming the finishing chorus which winds the track up nicely. **Midnight sun 3:48 (Wetton/Downes)** A softer track altogether immediately combines music and voice to a flowing and melodic track that rolls chorus to verse almost indistinguishably. This track could almost be considered rambling in construction and possibly un notable, yet it is a good addition to the album that blends itself well. **Open your eyes 6:26 (Wetton/Downes)** The final track of the album and one of my personal favorites, it's distant and enchanting start with background vocals soon opens to a whistful vocal that builds into a stronger sound. Fluctuating between sregnth and enchanting backing instrumentals and vocals this song is iconic of the group.Towards the end the enchantment is highlighted and a whirlpool of vocals drag you into a wayward rift that i
s tied up well by en ding the track in a mirriad of harmony. * Overall * The general option to vary the pace during many tracks combined with the various blends of genera make the album and even the group both distinctive to comparative sounds and groups, but it also affords them an instant recognisation within the music world. Almost all of the lyrics center around relationships and love,a common choice. They found a common combination of verses and choruses that worked and stuck with that formula for almost all their tracks and is one of their identifying traits. At no point can you pin point the rock ballad sound, yet you know it is present in most tracks, and upon listening to the album you know you have heard hints of it but you are unaware of it's presence in a defined form during the experience. The capability of combining such sounds as this and pop/rock without defining any single one is an accomplishment in itself. The accumulation of the experience, genius and talent of the band members is flooded into this album and it's only downfall in my eyes is that heafty shadow it had to follow with the success of the premier album release. The general success of the group and the achievement of this album can be attributed to the fact that it was not a small seed grown and nutured but the culmination of thoroughbred songwriters and musicians that pooled their knowledge and instantly created a fantastic phenomenon. Released as all of the Asia albums, on Geffen Records, the album was produced by Mike Stone and engineered by both Mike Stone and Paul Northfield. Another proud addition to the album is its cover.Made for the album in 1993 by the famed fantasy artist- Roger Dean, it utilizes his talents and combines fact and fiction to make a fantastic picture of tropical plants, pyramid,water and off-world structures and trees. Quite apart from being worthy of hanging on an
y wall, it seem s to incorporat e the qual ities of both band and album and reflect them in it's image. * Price * Prices for this album range from £4.99 to £12.99 for the CD and upwards of £3.oo for the vinyl (obviously second hand). I found it freely available from places such as www.101cd.com, ebay, virgin mega stores and HMV. * Summary * To summarize I have to say that this is one of my all time favorite albums. One I have owned in many forms since the first days of my buying vinyl . As a rock,pop or simply broad minded music appreciator you should take time to listen to this album, it is not only great music, but also a collection of inspired talents and work. My only criticism of the album is that despite being released on cd, it was only digitized and not re mastered and with it's origins being over 20 years old it is crying out to be re mastered, but that forgiven this is a worthy addition to any music collection. ~ ~ ~ Thank you for reading ~ ~ ~
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Don't Cry
2 The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
3 Never In A Million Years
4 My Own Time (I'll Do What I Want)
5 The Heat Goes On
6 Eye To Eye
7 The Last To Know
8 True Colors
9 Midnight Sun
10 Open Your Eyes