The opening line of this two-disc set’s liner notes sums up the band’s origins in simple recipe form: “Take one part Yes, one part Emerson, Lake & Palmer, add in sprinkles of King Crimson/U.K., and a dash of Buggles, and you have Asia.”
Ah, good old Asia. They’re always such fun to review.
Despite the fact that they’ve never been the trendiest of bands, not even when they were at the height of their popularity, they’re nonetheless among the best of the album rock artists of the ’80s. Their songs were catchy and just pompous enough to catch the ear of the prog-rock fans without being as pretentious as, say, pretty much every band that the members of Asia came from originally.
When I reminisce about Asia and the part they’ve played in my journalistic past (and they have, indeed, played a part, albeit a small one), two memories consistently leap to the forefront.
The first revolves around their 1982 hit, “Heat of the Moment”. When I first started at Averett College, in Danville, Virginia, I was flipping through back issues of the school newspaper, The Chanticleer, trying to get a feel for the publication, and I happened upon an article on teen pregnancy. What particularly caught my eye was the fact that, in bold type, a song lyric was quoted, and it was attributed to . . . Asia.
“Huh?” I thought. “Exactly when did Asia tackle teen pregnancy?” The article solemnly quoted the following lyric: “So now you find yourself eating for two.”
Wow. Heavy, man. And just so darned appropriate, don’t you think? What an exemplary choice of lyric for the writer to spotlight.
Only one problem.
The lyric in question is actually, “So now you find yourself in ’82.” Still makes me laugh to this day.
My other journalistic memory of Asia was of my own making . . . and, as such, it’s possible that I’m the only one who thought it was funny. But you can be the judge.
I reviewed Aqua, Asia’s 1992 “comeback” album and their first without John Wetton as lead singer. These were the opening lines: “Bad Pick-Up Line #145398: ‘Hey, baby, how’s about you come back to my place and we listen to a little Asia?’ ” Hmmm. This could very well explain my lack of success on the dating scene.”
Oh, well. I thought it was funny.
Maybe it’s just gotten a little stale. After all, the review is 10 years old. Which, frighteningly, means that Asia themselves are 20 years old . . . and that apparently also means that it’s time for Geffen to release yet another collection of the band’s best work . . . the third such collection, if you’re keeping count.
Anthologia, however, is decidedly different from its predecessors. First, there was 1990’s Then & Now. The “Then” was “Only Time Will Tell”, “Heat of the Moment”, and “Wildest Dreams” from the band’s self-titled debut album, and “Don’t Cry” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” from their sophomore effort, Alpha. The “Now” was four new tracks, as well as one track from the band’s 1985 album, Astra. (Apparently, “Now” in Asia-Speak means “anytime in the last five years.”)
Then, there was The Very Best of Asia: Heat of the Moment (1982-1990), released in 2000. Decidedly more comprehensive than its predecessor, this provided a nice summary of the band’s three studio albums, including three B-sides that hadn’t previously been available on CD, and even threw on “Days Like These” the most popular of the new tracks from Then & Now.
But, now, to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary, Geffen has decided to put all its cards on the table and release Anthologia. It’s a 2-disc set that includes everything the band has ever recorded for the label.
All three studio albums. All four of the “new” tracks from Then & Now. Even the B-sides that had been one of the selling points of The Very Best of Asia.
So, basically, if you don’t have anything by Asia from the Geffen years, then you can just pick up Anthologia, and, bam, you’ve got everything from the Geffen years.
Pretty handy, huh?
Well, yes . . . but only if you actually want everything Asia released during their time on Geffen Records. And, even as a longtime Asia fan, one has to wonder exactly how substantial their sales figures really are, and if they really warrant so much reissuing and repackaging of their material. Sure, they certainly had their moments on the singles chart . . . but, for the casual fan, most of those moments were on Then & Now. If you wanted to argue that a few of the band’s radio hits were omitted from that collection, then, okay, maybe The Very Best of Asia is a better bet.
But with Anthologia, what kind of marketing campaign is Geffen planning?
“Hey, we know that, if you’re a fan, you already have every single thing on this collection . . . but, now, instead of five discs, it’s been condensed so that it now only spans two discs. And, on top of that, due to advances in CD case technology, it now only takes up the space of a single disc . . . and we’re bringing the space savings to you, the Geffen consumer.”
Has the band’s catalog really been reissued so many times that, now, the only real reason for fans to buy Anthologia is spacial concerns?
Uh, possibly, yes.