“Fantasia – Live In Tokyo” by Asia

Artist: Asia
Title: “Fantasia – Live In Tokyo”
Label: Eagle Records
Release Date: 6/26/2007
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 3.5/5

Twenty five years ago four Progressive Rock luminaries released an album that was nothing less than incredible. The bands name was Asia and their debut recording would use the same name and as soon as you heard it you realized that it didn’t need any sort of fancy title whatsoever based on what was in its grooves. “Heat Of The Moment” was the recordings signature track and it would find more airplay than any of the other songs these musicians had ever recorded before and the album as a whole was loaded with Arena Rock classics that all still stand strong in today’s music environment. Classy in it’s day, and classic now without a doubt. The core personnel of John Wetton, Geoffrey Downes, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer proved that the musicianship involved was nothing short of exemplary and what would you expect from former members of Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and The Buggles. The bands original lineup would not pass their second recording “Alpha” but the name would still continue on with a rotating cast of musicians for decades. Fast forward to 2006 where the original lineup decided to once again perform together and celebrate the amazing music that they created while members of Asia. This CD brings the listener to one of the reunion shows that were held in Japan and as far as concert recordings go you will find that this is a very good one. It’s clean in sound and has a pretty tight production and as far as the band interaction during the show it seems as though no real time has passed when in fact it has been some twenty years if not more.

The enjoyable listen covers the entire “Asia” debut album but the band wisely mixes the songs up as opposed to playing them all in sequential order. They also do a few numbers from the tasty but oft lambasted second album “Alpha”. To further make this something to keep you amused they even add in some of the songs from their previous bands and while it’s a nice touch I feel that had the original members kept with this past a third or fourth album and worked within the context of what made their debut a blockbuster that there would have been no need to add songs of this kind. It’s really different to hear the Yes classic sung by Wetton because he is of an entirely different vocal register and while I always loved the Buggles signature tune – I felt that the Asia rendition just plodded along and did not possess the quirkiness that made the original so appealing in the first place. The solos that they performed at the shows are not presented on the audio release outside of drummer Carl Palmer’s and that’s unfortunate since the players are still on the money based on all their years of musical expertise. Asia might not have existed in this incarnation for a couple of decades but the members themselves have long been active in numerous projects and revivals. I found the acoustic version of “Don’t Cry” to be another one of the albums lowlights but I soon forgot about it once “Sole Survivor” and blockbuster closer “Heat Of The Moment” came on. A companion DVD has also been released and outside of the hard core Progressive Rock fan who has longed for the bands original members to do this I don’t really see much reason to pick up both items. To me this piece should have included the full concert audio and video in the same package because it would target both sides of their listener base and perhaps even lure in the curious. A foldout booklet is enclosed and it has comments by David Gallant who wrote a book about the band and also features some photos from the show. The audio only version of the show is more for the core fans or just those who love good Arena Rock concert albums. It was nice to see that the heat goes on and that it is still sounding great after so long a time has passed.

Track Listing:
1. Time Again
2. Wildest Dreams
3. One Step Closer
4. Roundabout
5. Without You
6. Cutting It Fine
7. Intersection Blues
8. Fanfare For The Common Man
9. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
10. Don’t Cry
11. In The Court Of The Crimson King
12. Here Comes The Feeling
13. Video Killed The Radio Star
14. The Heat Goes On
15. Only Time Will Tell
16. Sole Survivor
17. Ride Easy
18. Heat Of The Moment

Official Website: www.officialasia.com

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