Turn That Noise Down - Asia

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan looks back at Aqua [and it's nothing to do with Barbie - Ed] ...

Asia is one of those bands that I bought into because of the gorgeous album artwork (mostly by incredible fantasy artists like Roger Dean or, as here, Rodney Matthews) and never really listened to their music seriously back in the day. They were a “stick on in the background late at night when blues wasn’t the answer” type band and I didn’t really pay them much attention. So, when Aqua appeared on our retrospective list for 1992 I reckoned it would be a chance to, well, give it a chance.

Before we get into the album, though, I must mention that I didn’t realise at the time who was involved in the band itself; their drummer is ELP’s Carl Palmer for god’s sake! Add in Steve Howe and Geoff Downes from Yes, Alice Cooper’s guitarist Al Pitrelli and the instantly recognisable vocal of John Payne and it is a supergroup indeed.

What of the music though? Well, I must be honest, listening to it again now, I can kind of see why it was background music for me back in the day. It’s fine, don’t get me wrong, but it really doesn’t hook me in to sitting in front of the speakers like I thought it should. The waves at the start of Aqua Part 1 are very relaxing and the Spanishy guitar over the woozy synth is cool and laid back, but it doesn’t actually do anything. From waves to rain in the aptly named Who Will Stop the Rain and we head into the realms of 90’s soft/prog rock for the only single off the album. It’s ok. The synth is nice and the guitar solo is good. Back In Town is a lot rockier and reminds me of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet in a weird way. Love Under Fire, bizarrely for not being a single, is a song I actually remember but I can’t think why – maybe it was used in a film or something. Someday is another 90s anthemic thing, to be honest, by now I’m only listening to the first half of each song and skipping the rest…

After a break for a coffee and me giving me a strict talking to about commitment to the task etc I come back for the second half of the album. Little Rich Boy is Bon Jovi-esque hair metal with added proggy keys (yes, I did actually listen to all of it). The Voice of Reason has a pretty acoustic first half, reminds me of Rush or Led Zep’s Stairway, but then it goes all Michael Bolton. Lay Down Your Arms is a heavier version of Chesney Hawkes’ The One and Only… ok it’s not but it sounds very like it. Crime of the Heart starts well with interesting strings and piano and settles into being the stadium ballad, complete with stool standing key-change. A Far Cry is very Final Countdown, Don’t Call Me is more faux-epic than it needs to be and Heaven on Earth isn’t. Aqua Part 2 is probably, for me, the best track on the album, though, and not just because it’s the last one.

So, yeah, this is one of those albums that I’ll keep for the sleeve art but I don’t see me listening to it all that much. I’ll leave you with Love Under Fire and maybe you can tell me where I remember it from.

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