Asia - XXX

Asia XXX cover
XXX (Limited Edition)
Frontiers Records
Dear reader, don’t be alert! Asia haven’t gone porno, in their twilight years. The triple, X, in Roman numerals rather serves, to remind us all, that 2012, marks the 30th anniversary, since their eponymous debut album, came out, some 3 decades ago. Releasing their 3rd album since, the “authentic” lineup reunion, XXX, marks also the anniversary, but also serves as a reminder of how great this band, of fine musicians can be.
Even, if John Wetton’s voice sounds a little, rougher than it used, all these year ago, these days, it’s color and hue, it’s unique tone is still there, serving as a timeless reminder of what a great vocalist, he is, not to mention a great bassist too, who’s deadlocked in a rhythmical monolithical union with the amazing Carl Palmer. Geoff Downes, amazing keys, are all over the place, providing amazing flourishes of key-wizardry, where needed without overshadowing, Steve Howe’s awesome guitar that provides the driving riffs that rock the whole effort, that is surprisingly – geared between mid & up-tempo, actually gravitating towards the latter, most of the time, with great finesse, however.
Actually, not, trying to prove anything, as they don’t really have to, has done these guys, the world of good! “XXX” flows effortlessly and is a very pleasurable affair to listen to. While it’s not as pompous as the bands early stuff, for the most part it’s very uplifting, without neglecting to give a nod, to the bands roots.
“Tomorrow the World” that opens the album, is a little quirky, but it’s lyrical content, is simply brilliant. It’s a bittersweet self-contained “symphony”, to the world, being as it is and a hymn to the human ability or foolhardiness, to try and attempt to change it. A really poignant, awesome song, with a really driving rhythm and a very trademark, keyboards motif, right there in the chorus, oh and an amazing closing guitar sweep by SH. Brilliant really!
“Bury Me in Willow” is actually, a very symbolic and beautiful song. It’s very sad lyrically, as it’s about dying, really, but it’s also very triumphant, as it’s defiant, of that very fate, deciding that it doesn’t quite matter, anyway. Hence the plea, to use, willow and not oak, to bury the departing one. Again very, very poignant and really, quite up-tempo, given the subject/theme! Given Wetton’s health scares and the fact that none of the band members are in their teen’s… it’s a very stoic and philosophical piece, really!
“No Religion” is not, really, a shot at religion, it’s more of a critical look, on modern life, on being a little lost, out of focus, changing, but still staying the same, taking things a day at a time, trying to find out, what it’s all about, but really not getting quite there... but doing it still. It’s quite nice, really and it’s psychedelic keys, towards the end, are a really nice touch.
“Faithful” is a ballad and a beautiful one at that, driven by a simple but very effective bass/key combo, that simply, is a dedication to one, woman, THE ONE, that really, captures our senses, ravages our perception, making us lift the white flag of surrender, dropping all defenses and falling in love unconditionally... (yeah BOC, should sue me, now, lol)
“I Know How You Feel” is another beautiful tune, a piece of not exactly balladry, something, between a ballad and a well-crafted 80s pomp-AOR number. It appears to talk about, the protagonist, solacing the other person that just has gone out of a hurtful relationship – for whom the protagonist has feelings, but that extend to more, than just desire and seem to be those of true love and affection. Very touching and delicate, as I guess a lot of us may have been there (usually, giving a crying shoulder, only to be shafted really :) most of the times – but what the hell, love is a dangerous game (now Atlantic may sue!)
“Face on the Bridge” is an odd, tune, very progressive in its approach – with a very pop-taste chorus and a rather weird subject, apparently, someone trying to “jump” off a bridge – now literally or metaphorically – is beside the point and having a certain person “the face on the bridge” - “the only one I can see”, pulling them back from the “edge”! I said it was a little odd, but if such oddities, have such nice “music” supporting them, I’m all for them. Hey kids – don’t jump from bridges, unless it’s bungee jumping eh?!
“Al Gatto Nero” is an interesting little number. It’s actually, about, a dude, getting shit from his lady and getting out to go to an “imaginary” (?) place – called “Al Gatto Nero”/The Black Cat, apparently to have a good time. Now unless, one of Mr’s Wetton or Downes have a favorite Italian place, that they’d like to endorse, it’s just another, “oddity”, but a beautiful one.
“Judas” is another rockin’ tune, quite plain and straight forward, with nice keys, running through it, about friends, turning enemies of the worst kind. Double standards... oh, the story of my life! Thankfully – it ain’t a Lady GAGA cover, hahaha! C’mon, you gotta admit that we’ve seen weirder things!
“Reno” is a tribute to the “The Biggest Little City in the World” and if I were the city’s Mayor, I’d rush to give Asia the keys! It’s an AWESOME piece. Makes you wanna visit the place! (This is a bonus track only found on the limited edition)
“Ghost of a Chance” is a timid, and slow song that, brings the album to a close. It’s all about standing up to all adversities – not giving up on romance, until it’s dead and buried, in a nutshell, its message also bodes well with moi. I’ve always subscribed, to the notion that once, you fall for someone, you cannot un-love them, they might hurt you, they might be the death of you, but so long as they’d give you a glance, you’d be there… in the immortal words, of one David Coverdale (please don’t sue) “I wanna be your slave”… while there’s a ghost of a chance!!! hehe!
“I Know How You Feel” (Midnight Mix) is an alternative take, of the song, with only keys and acoustic guitar, which is equally as beautiful, if not more so than the album version, as it’s slight differences, underline, different aspects of the song and John’s vocals, are allowed more space, to unfurl their splendor. (This is also a bonus track only found on the limited edition)
The DVD, that comes as part of the limited edition double digipack, features a making of, feature, that is a little more “interesting” than these usually mundane making of’s that tend to monopolize, the limited editions these days instead of more musical content and that’s probably because of the politeness of the members of Asia, and their reservedness to gloat, about what they’ve achieved, that makes them all the more likable. There are also 2 videos of “Face on the Bridge” and “Faithful” that are unfortunately average as they’re a mix of concept/performance and performance alone, respectively. Both videos, would have been better if they were concepts and if the photography was better and more “film” like. But that’s just a minor quibble.
Roger Dean provides an alternative view of the “original” Asia cover, complete with the flying dragon-fish, the eyes, the pyramid... in his own inimitable style! (I’d just love an allover tee of this artwork! Or of the original, that is...)
All in all, this is a fantastic, flawlessly, executed piece of work. Progressive, artful, rock, rich in sentiment is what Asia, have been known about and “XXX”, reaffirms their place at the top of the genre they helped shape.