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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Asia

Rare

Review by G. W. Hill

This disc is a bit of a paradox. Although it was released under the moniker of Asia, the material here was actually recorded by just Geoff Downes and David Payne. The material was recorded as a soundtrack - part to a documentary film and part to a video game. The disc is strictly instrumental. The music, although a bit repetitive and tedious at times, is actually quite intriguing. It is much more classically oriented, and, due to that, more prog, than that which the band normally performs. All of the cuts are quite brief, but they work together well, with themes recurring throughout. This disc might not be one that you would sit down and listen to, but it would make great background music, and really shows that these two musicians are quite talented.

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Track by Track Review
The Waterfall
Almost symphonically textured keys begin this one, and then piano takes the mix for a brief time. Then another neo-classically oriented mode begins to dominate. This is a very brief keyboard oriented cut.
The Journey Begins
A keyboard intro starts this one. As it continues, a beautiful piano melody begins building. The cut gets a bit symphonic from there and ends with a brief non-lyrical vocal segment. This one is also exceptionally short.
The Seasons
The intro to this composition feels a lot like ELP’s more symphonic modes. As it moves on, more mysterious keyboard textures take the track.
The Gods
This seems to take over from themes begun at the end of the “The Journey Begins”. Building slowly on the vocal segment, it uses dramatic piano to add to the mix.
The Whaler
Dramatic, neo-classically oriented percussion starts this composition, which again feels quite a bit like ELP’s classical adaptations.. Keyboard textures take over to end the piece.
The Journey Continues
Themes from “The Journey Begins” are appropriately continued in this brief cut. It changes gear for a time, the dramatic percussion tones of the previous track taking the piece. Then other earlier themes return and the number grows by buildling on those.
The Reservation
Dramatic keyboard dominated prog, this one features a nicely quirky style and some great piano work. It drops to a piano solo, then jumps for a short time to a rather Pat Methenyish mode overlaid with a continuation of the piano solo. A gong ends the track.
The Bears
A dark and mighty sounding neo-classical mode makes up this cut. It really does call to mind lumbering, powerful, yet rather playful bears. It drops to a more sedate take on the central theme for a brief respite, then back up in power to end.
Under The Seas
Beautiful and melancholical in tone is a good way to describe the style of the intro to this cut. Pretty piano takes command for a time. Then after it ends, a heavy crescendo begins the next mode. It is in the manner of dramatic and theatrical neo-classically oriented prog. That style ends the piece.
At The Graveyard
A brief, pretty and somewhat light hearted keyboard mode begins this tune. As the track continues, the style gets very dark, mysterious and powerful.
Downstream
A more light hearted sort of keyboard takes this cut, which jumps straight out of the previous piece. After a dramatic build, a crescendo leads to a false ending. Flute like keys take the composition for a time, then a more complete arrangement returns, building on earlier themes.
The Ghosts
The beginnings of this one are in a weird percussion oriented style. It goes into a brief staggered segment before dropping to a pretty, yet quite dramatic, jam with fusionish guitar work. This piece is quite strong, but ends too abruptly.
The Sun
Textural keys make up this brief number.
The Moon
More dramatic neo-classical textures start this one, and it becomes quite textural to end.
The Sharks
The early segments of this cut are made up of an earlier dramatic theme. As it continues, a tense sort of rhythmic mode with weird keys takes over. This gets quite dramatic.
The Journey Ends
This one continues the earlier “Journey...” themes.
The Indians
Almost an electronic sort of texture on Native American chanting starts this one. After this intro, dramatic progish building takes the piece, with the chanting still there, but further back in the mix. This number becomes a great prog jam, and another of the stronger compostions on the disc.
The Angels
A pretty and sedate mode makes up this keyboard dominated slowly building tune. It feels a bit like Hawkwind at times. It gets a lot harder rocking as it carries on, and is one of the longer tracks on the CD.
The Horizons
Mysterious sounding keyboard tones start this one. It gets quite pretty and elegant as it continues. This is a great piece and features a beautiful acoustic guitar performance.
To The Deep
This is a textural yet dramatic sort of building piece, and another of the longer cuts on the album.
The Game
Ambient textural elements make up the intro here. As the composition continues, it is in a great hard rocking fast paced prog jam style. This is definitely the strongest cut on the CD. It ends with an abrupt drop to keyboard textures. At nearly 4 minutes, this is the second longest track on the disc.
The Exodus
An electrono keyboard jam, this one has a great triumphant sounding melody line. A bit Kraftwerkish, this is the only piece on the album that is over 4 minutes in length.
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