Asia - Fantasia - Live In Tokyo
Eagle Records
Melodic Progressive Rock
Disc 1: 9 songs (50'51) Disc 2: 9 songs (54'46)
Release year: 2007
Asia, Eagle Records
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
Asia's self-titled debut album literally took the world by storm upon it's release in October of 1982. Yes had disintegrated after an ill-fated attempt at replacing Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of the British techno-pop group The Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star). John Wetton had parted ways with U.K. and ELP was dormant; leaving Carl Palmer anxious to pound the skins once more. When this supergroup featuring Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), John Wetton (vocals, bass) and Carl Palmer (drums) released it's debut album, it stayed atop the Billboard charts for many weeks and spawned an amazing 6 hit singles out of the 9 tracks on the album. The timing was perfect for these veterans to bring all the years of their collective experiences to the table, only to put most of it aside and opt for a more mainstream, commercial and "pop" oriented sound. Progressive rock purists cringed at the sugary melodies and simplistic lyrics to songs like Heat Of The Moment and Only Time Will Tell as well as the and the blatant commercialism of their sound but like it or not, however these four veterans came up with the formula for the huge Asia worked. Selling well over 7 million copies to date, their debut album still remains one of the highest selling debut albums of all time.

Asia followed up their debut with albums like Alpha and Astra, with guitarist Randy Meyer replacing Steve Howe but things fizzled out in the mid 80's with Geoff Downes being the only remaining member. Many years later, he regrouped with vocalist John Payne and a veritable revolving door of musicians with some critically acclaimed albums and a whole new generation of fans. Steve Howe made a few guest appearances, more notably with the Aura album released in 2001 that also featured guitarists Ian Crichton (Saga) and Pat Thrall (Hughes-Thrall, Pat Travers Band, Meatloaf) as well as bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel). John Wetton went on to enjoy a very successful solo career; playing some solo acoustic shows as well. Last year, he collaborated with Geoff Downes on an album and with the 25th anniversary of the debut Asia album approaching in 2007, rumours were flying that the four original members would re-unite and tour in honour of the event. With Yes on temporary hiatus, Steve Howe was finally available and after a secret meeting at a London Hotel in January of 2006 with all four original Asia members, John Wetton, Geoff Downes, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe, it was decided that a tour was on. The tour began in the fall of 2006 in the U.S. with dates in South America, Great Britain and Japan and was a massive success. For the final few shows of the tour in Japan, it was decided to record their performances for a future live album and DVD release.

This Asia live set includes their entire first album as well as tracks from their second album Alpha including acoustic versions of Don't Cry and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, a version that is even better than the original, as well as The Heat Goes On. Also included is a performance of a rare track Ride Easy, a song that was only released as a B-side to the Heat Of The Moment single. Back in the early 80's, it would've been sacrilege for the band to include material from their previous bands but this time they throw caution to the wind and we get fairly decent versions of Yes' Roundabout (the complete version) with John Wetton getting many kudos for attempting Jon Anderson's vocal lines as well as a "jamming" version Of ELP's Fanfare For The Common Man from the Works Vol. 1 album complete with some nice guitar contributions from Steve Howe. An abbreviated In The Court Of The Crimson King gets a fine workout and represents John Wetton's time in King Crimson and believe it or not, a "fun" version of The Buggles massive hit Video Killed The Radio Star complete with sampled vocal tracks is performed, representing Geoff Downes' time in the band during the early 80's. Carl Plamer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe all get their solo pieces and it's obvious that the passage of time has not affected their stamina or playing ability at all. The band sounds solid and definitely firing on all cylinders. This release is also available in DVD format and would be a great visual experience to go along with this absolutely stunning live set.

It's really enlightening to hear and see these musicians performing their classic material from their first two albums minus the massive studio polish that made John Wetton sound like an army of vocalists and Steve Howe's guitar more meaty and distorted than usual for him. Steve's sound is a bit subdued especially for the big power chord intro to Heat Of The Moment but the same could be said for the overall sound of the band. It's obvious that studio trickery was responsible for the massive sound that Asia had but when you strip it all down in a live situation minus all the studio gimmicks and it still sounds good, it's testament to the quality of the songs that these four prog rock giants came out with during their brief time together. It all started 25 years ago and now has come full circle. This one's strictly for the fans and a must if you're one of them.

Killing Songs :
Wildest Dreams, Fanfare For The Common Man, In The Court Of The Crimson King, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, Here Comes The Feeling, Only Time Will Tell and Heat Of The Moment
Marty quoted no quote
Other albums by Asia that we have reviewed:
Asia - XXX reviewed by Chris and quoted 94 / 100
Asia - Silent Nation reviewed by Mike and quoted 82 / 100
Asia - Aura reviewed by Chris and quoted 70 / 100
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