CD Reviews

Asia - 'Gravitas' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 19, 2014    
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Grown up music for seasoned people.

Carl Palmer said it was "Rockier" with their new young guitarist. He said it was more like Van Halen. Well, this could certainly be Eddie... Eddie Stobart. That's cruel, of course; this has genuine real quality, just not the visceral thrills that the early stuff did.

Asia is a real super-group; John Wetton, Geoff Downes, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe produced a classic self titled debut, a musical showcase, at once hard but also beautifully catchy. Howe was gone after the softer follow up 'Alpha' being replaced by Mandy Meyer for the patchy but harder 'Astra'. Asia then went through the Jon Payne years with Downes, producing stuff with variable appeal and ironically producing their best album of that period, 'Silent Nation', just as the original band got back together.

It's to their credit that they have continued to produced new music; this is the fourth album of the original's second coming. The others have been hardening up from the thick sheen which Wetton and Downes' iCon project prefers; the last album 'XXX' sometimes rocked. As whippersnapper Sam Coulson had joined for the departing Howe, hopes were high that he would infect them all with a feckless energy.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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But 'Gravitas' is well named. It has real quality, but it is certainly grown up. The title track has a touch of 'Alpha', big but in no rush, with sumptuous harmonies, an organ simmering nicely and unfolding in a stately manner. 'The Closer I Get' does the same really, very considered but with a disarming simplicity.

Actually Sumptuous is a word that crops up a lot. Some may wallow in that fine musicianship. Some may ask where the fire went, without understanding that these are different, not to say more seasoned, men. But that new blood, Coulson, shows some fine licks here and does follow what Howe did so beautifully; play gentle and well placed notes. 'Nyctophobia' features some enjoyable, bouncy Supertramp synth and even echoes of Parsons with those beautiful syrupy harmonies, while 'Heaven Help Me' shakes at least one leg when Coulson goes for a full solo. His Queeny effort on 'Joe DiMaggio's Glove' (really...) is stupendous.

Three great rockers, one new fella and lots of experience, you can hear it on the album; grown up music for seasoned people. Cruel, maybe, but this has and occasional softness of Smooth radio and a thick, molasses on the microphone feel. Sometimes they jump about a bit, but mainly they stay in the middle lane, enjoying the view. It's an imposing procession, but the view is often excellent.

Steve Swift

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