When Asia formed in 1981, the odds were certainly against them in their quest for commercial success. With the music industry in a transitory period, rock radio formats were dropping like flies in favor of the new wave of British acts like Culture Club, Madness, Duran Duran, Adam Ant and Dexy’s Midnight Runners that seemed to captivate mainstream audiences. Just getting a rock record played on FM radio or MTV in the early ’80s was like cutting teeth. But when Asia finally released their self-titled debut in 1982, it was a message that was heard loud and clear by rock audiences who were starving for more substantive music than the new wave castor oil they were being force-fed.
Asia was the first supergroup of the ’80s and arguably one of the finest in rock history. With a lineup that boasted progressive rock icons Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Geoff Downes (Buggles), John Wetton (King Crimson, U.K. Uriah Heep) and guitarist extraordinaire Steve Howe (Yes), Asia molded a sound that featured prog-rock flourishes with carefully seasoned pop melodies, fluid harmonies and easily palatable song structures.
The Very Best of Asia: Heat of the Moment (1982-90) features 18 of the band’s biggest hits and deepest cuts that span four studio releases Asia (1982), Alpha (1983), Astra (1985) and the greatest hits-plus album, Then & Now (1990). The disc also contains three rare B-sides “Ride Easy,” “Daylight” and “Lying To Yourself.”
It’s not surprising that 11 of the 18 tracks come from the band’s first two releases, Asia and Alpha. The multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated Asia stormed up the charts quickly eventually going to #1 where it stayed for nine weeks. The record’s first single “Heat of the Moment” encapsulated the band’s signature sound with Howe’s crunchy guitar riffs, Palmer’s technical skinmanship, Wetton’s warm vocals and solid bass work as well as Downes’ wonderful synth-orchestration. This disc also features Asia classics like the Top 20 single “Only Time Will Tell,” “Time Again,” “Wildest Dreams” and edited versions of “Sole Survivor” and “Here Comes the Feeling.”
Alpha is also well represented with tracks like the Top 10 “Don’t Cry,” “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” “The Heat Goes On,” “Never in a Million Years” and “Open Your Eyes.” As the band began to tear apart, Asia recorded their third album Astra with guitarist Mandy Meyers after Steve Howe’s departure. Their fourth and final record Then & Now featured five of the band’s early hits, while the second five featured new songs by Wetton/Downes and was complimented by a number of musicians filling in on drums and guitar, most notably Toto guitarist Steve Lukather on “Days Like These.”
The Very Best of Asia: Heat of the Moment (1982-90) is an extraordinary set of quintessential music that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Even though Asia’s original lineup have gone their separate ways, their music will continue to be endearing to fans for years to come. But what about the legacy of the dominant new wave acts of the early ’80s? Where can we find them? Behind the Music is probably a good place to start.