|Asia – ‘Omega’ (Frontiers Records)|
|Written by Rob Watkins|
|Wednesday, 21 April 2010 05:00|
These days the term 'Supergroup' is banded about with, it seems, all too much über-ease (I mean 'The Dammed Things'...c'mon). Back in the 1970's prog rock had its sprinklings of these so-called beasts, but by the late 70's into the early 80's, times they were a-changing. With firstly punk, then new wave, and finally the much loved New Wave Of British Heavy Metal ruling the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic, there was no space for capes and concept albums with this new order.
That was until 1982, when surely the ultimate 'Supergroup' was born, and ex Yes guitarist Steve Howe, ex Emerson, Lake and Palmer drummer Carl Palmer, former bassist with King Crimson John Wetton and the keyboard wizard Geoff Downes from The Buggles joined forces to form Asia. It was like punk rock had never happened.
Their self titled debut album went multi platinum all over the world and, of course, gave us the athletic anthem that is 'Heat Of The Moment'. The follow-up opus 'Alpha' continued their global success, and fans of real album sleeve art were just as keen to check out the band's wonderful album artwork, courtesy of Roger Dean, as they were the music (Roger returns to design the 'Omega' sleeve).
After line-up changes and various album releases with Geoff Downes the only mainstay, the original line-up regrouped in 2006 for a successful tour which subsequently led to the release of 2008's 'Phoenix'. Which conveniently brings us to 'Omega', which is released by Frontiers Records on 23rd April 2010.
Working with an outside producer for the first time since their eponymous debut in the shape of Mike Paxman (Uriah Heep, Status Quo) 'Finger On The Trigger' opens the album in style and is an absolute classic. For trivia fans out there, a previous version of this track can be found on the 'Rubicon' album by the Wetton and Downes side project Icon. 'Omega' continues with 'Through My Veins' and 'Holy War' and the musicianship is really second to none, with both tracks running at over 5 minutes this is 'Epic Music'.
'Ever Yours' meanwhile is a beautifully created ballad that truly displays the vocals of John Wetton at their purest and most emotive. 'Listen Children', 'End Of The World', and 'Light The Way' echo an era of rolled up suit jacket sleeves and are a joy to the ears of any AOR disciple.
This is continued into 'There Was A Time' where the similarities with the band's first two albums are 'full on' and as strong and original today as they always have been. 'I Believe' has hit single potential written all over it with its wondrous harmony vocals, whilst 'Don't Wanna Lose You Now' brings 'Omega' to a close in perfect fashion.
Having seen the guys live two years ago, I can confirm that they are certainly well worth checking out so make sure you get some tickets when they tour 'Omega' in the US in late summer of this year (you can catch them at the High Voltage Festival here in the UK). So if you love your song writing sumptuous and melodic on a grand scale, you can't go far wrong with 'Omega'. It's actually quite refreshing to hear music like this being made in 2010.