ASIA – Aqua [Japan remaster mini LP Blu-Spec CD] Out Of Print
This one was requested several times here: the out of print, hard to find Japan release on mini LP Blu-SpecCD of ASIA‘s album “Aqua” remastered. The sound quality is amazing, with clearer vocals and bass, especially the wonderful harmonics.
By 1991, John Wetton left Asia and it was pretty much clear that the band called its quits. Or, needed a re-foundation. Keyboadist Geoff Downes opted for the second and brought into the fold another superb singer / bassist; John Payne.
Additionally, original guitarist Steve Howe’s returned to provide Asia’s characteristic sound on some tracks.
However, the melodic rock style & sound changed in the early Nineties, and Asia needed an update to avoid the ‘dinosaur characterization’. This was solved by the enlisting of excellent guitarist Al Pitrelli (Danger Danger, Alice Cooper), who’s definitely much heavier / rocking oriented than all his predecessors.
Heck, even in the photo-shoot (check the booklet) the band looks like a melodic hard rock band circa 1991 with big hair and fancy costumes.
The result was “Aqua”, released in 1992, and while some early fans of the band didn’t liked at first listen, this is classic Asia for the most part, wrapped by that polished and lush production sound from the early ’90s.
‘Who Will Stop the Rain’ is one of my favorite Asia tunes of all time. This is the first time we hear the new singer and wow… what a difference! And how good it is. This song is in the typical Asia melodious progressive melodic rock style, but with the stronger vocals, and there is a much bigger emphasis on the ‘rock factor’.
‘Back in Town’ opens with a bluesy guitar part, but it turns into a galloping hard rock song. This one definitely gets the listener moving along and jamming.
‘Love Under Fire’ is beautiful, made up of mostly keys, pianos, and acoustic guitars. Payne’s vocals contain a passion and soul to it, and musically the song really impacts the listener. If had been released in the ’80s, could’ve been a huge hit.
On ‘Someday’ we hear the ’90s updates, with a guitar sound according to the era and elegant synth arrangements, a big chorus and a great guitar solo. The start of ‘The Voice of Reason’ indeed has an ‘aquatic atmosphere’ until the vocals come in and it’s very soulful where Payne’s voice is smooth and clear.
‘Lay Down Your Arms’ is another winner, produced in that huge 1990-92 sound-style with its great beat and rather big chorus. Same with ‘Crime of the Heart’. It brings to my mind Journey around the same era: AOR midtempo with a slightly power ballad feel, still with an Asia imprint all over.
‘Heaven on Earth’ starts off with synths and John’s voice softly comes in over. After a while, the full band turns the track into a really heavy-heart-felt rocker. My head nods along to this song and John’s vocals soar here. Also remarkable is Pitrelli’s stellar solo.
The Bonus Tracks include live versions of ‘Little Rich Boy (Live)’ and ‘Love Under Fire (Live)’, both very well recorded and performed.
But the real gem is studio track ‘Obsession’. This song is easily among the best from the bunch, a melodic upbeat rocker with some AOR feel. Payne’s vocals really shine on this song and the overall instrumention is excellent.
Asia’s “Aqua” started a new era for this incredible band, in fact later baptized Asia featuring John Payne.
If you loved ’80s Asia (who doesn’t!) you should definitely pick up this album. If not, but the polished, hugely produced early Nineties melodic rock is your thing, you should definitely pick up this album.
There’s a mix between the ’80s and some of what would come on the next Asia album, a blend of melodic rock with Asia’s typical sound.
As said, the sound quality from this Japanese Blu-SpecCD is top notch.
You’ve seen it first here, at 0dayrox
Sony Music Japan ～ 【SICP-20417】
「 ＢＳＣＤ ＲＥＩＳＳＵＥ ＳＥＲＩＥＳ 」
01 – Aqua Part 1
02 – Who Will Stop The Rain?
03 – Back In Town
04 – Love Under Fire
05 – Someday
06 – Little Rich Boy
07 – The Voice Of Reason
08 – Lay Down Your Arms
09 – Crime Of The Heart
10 – A Far Cry
11 – Don’t Call Me
12 – Heaven On Earth
13 – Aqua Part 2
14 – Obsession
15 – Little Rich Boy (Live)
16 – Love Under Fire (Live)
John Payne – bass, lead and backing vocals, guitar
Geoff Downes – keyboards, backing vocals
Steve Howe – guitars, pedal steel guitar, dobro, mandolin
Al Pitrelli – lead and rhythm guitars
Carl Palmer – drums, percussion
Anthony Glynne – guitar
Simon Phillips – drums
Nigel Glockler – drums
Out Of Print