Asia began with the apparent demise of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, two of the flagship bands of British progressive rock. After the break-up of King Crimson in 1974, various plans for a supergroup involving bassist John Wetton had been mooted, including the abortive British Bulldog project with Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman in 1976. In 1977, Bruford and Wetton were reunited in UK, along with guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. Their eponymous debut was released in 1978. By 1980, after UK's demise and Wetton's departure from UK, a new supergroup project was suggested involving Wetton, Wakeman, drummer Carl Palmer and (then little known) guitarist Trevor Rabin, but Wakeman walked out of the project shortly before they were due to sign to Geffen and before they had ever played together. In 1981, Wetton and Yes guitarist Steve Howe were brought together by A&R man John Kalodner and Geffen Records to start working and writing, Howe having come out of the break-up of Yes in early 1981.
Howe and Wetton were soon joined by Buggles/Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes. Carl Palmer joined the band later in the process. Trevor Rabin was considered for the group and some demos were recorded with him, but he dropped out to accept an offer to join Yes bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White in what became a new Yes and the other Asia members decided to stay as a quartet. Trevor Rabin, in a filmed interview from 1984 and included in the recently released and updated DVD 9012Live, said that his involvement with Asia never went anywhere because "there was no chemistry" among the participants.
The band's early offerings, under the auspices of Geffen record label head David Geffen and Kalodner, were considered disappointing by music critics and fans of traditional progressive rock, who found the music closer to radio-friendly AOR pop-rock. However, Asia clicked with fans of arena acts such as Journey, Boston, and Electric Light Orchestra. Rolling Stone gave Asia an indifferent review, while still acknowledging the band's musicianship was a cut above the usual AOR expectations.
Asia's eponymous debut album enjoyed considerable commercial success, spending nine weeks at number one in the U.S. album chart. The singles "Only Time Will Tell" and "Heat Of The Moment" became huge Top 40 hits, with the latter cracking the Top Five, and remaining a stadium favourite at U.S. sporting events.
"Sole Survivor" also received heavy air play on rock stations across the US.
The US tour also did extremely well, selling out every date on the '82 and '83 tours, while the MTV channel played their videos on heavy rotation. Billboard named the Asia debut as album of the year.
Asia became known as pioneers of phase two of the progressive rock era by avoiding long-winded forays, and by including (to at least a greater extent than phase one) enough commercial polish to attract radio airplay outside of album-rock circles. Yes' 90125 and Big Generator, ELPowell's Emerson, Lake & Powell in 1986, and the GTR album would all follow in the Asia debut album's footsteps.
However, neither the second nor any following Asia album repeated the chart success of the first. The power ballad "Don't Cry" entered the Top Ten in 1983, while "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," a fan favourite for John Wetton vocal performance, charted inside of Billboard's top 40. But Rolling Stone panned Alpha as an over-produced commercial album, while others lamented that Howe and Palmer were effectively reduced to session musicians. However, many Asia fans favour Alpha over the debut. The tracks "Eye To Eye" and "My Own Time" became huge fan favourites. "Open Your Eyes" and "The Heat Goes On" became concert staples. Alpha received indifferent reviews from various critics, while still attaining platinum status. Alpha reached #6 on the USA Billboard album chart.
In 1983, Wetton was forced out of the group on the heels of the comparatively disappointing sales of Alpha, while ELP frontman Greg Lake replaced him for the highly publicised "Asia in Asia" concert in Japan, which was the first concert broadcast over satellite to MTV in the US, and later made into a home video. Asia reformed with Wetton in 1985 to start work on their next album, but Steve Howe soon left to be replaced by Krokus guitarist Mandy Meyer. Howe then enjoyed brief and very minor success with GTR, another supergroup, formed with Steve Hackett of Genesis and produced by Downes.
Asia is a band consisting of different musicians from many different bands, including Yes. Many musicians participated through the years, especially during the 1990s, when the band consisted essentially of Geoff Downes and John Payne plus an ever-changing set of guests. The current reunited original lineup is highlighted in bold.
- Geoff Downes - keyboards and background vocals (former member of Yes and The Buggles) - founding member
- John Wetton - bass and lead vocals (former member of King Crimson, UK and Uriah Heep) - founding member
- Steve Howe - guitar and background vocals (also a member of Yes) - founding member
- Carl Palmer - drums (former member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) - founding member
- Greg Lake - bass and lead vocals (former member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer). Although Lake's work with Asia has never been released in album form, one live track "Heat of the Moment", was released on Lake's From the Underground... the Official Bootleg album (1998).
- Mandy Meyer - guitar and background vocals
- Pat Thrall - guitar and background vocals
- Al Pitrelli - guitar (former member of Savatage and Megadeth and current member of Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
- Michael Sturgis - drums
- John Payne - bass and lead Vocals
- Aziz Ibrahim - guitar
- Tomoyasu Hotei - guitar
- Elliot Randall - guitar
- Luis Jardim - percussion
- Guthrie Govan - guitar
- Chris Slade - drums (former member of AC/DC, Uriah Heep, and The Firm)
- Jay Schellen - drums (former member of Hurricane and World Trade, current member of Conspiracy)
- Erik Norlander - keyboards (Asia Featuring John Payne lineup only)
- Mitch Perry - guitar (Asia Featuring John Payne lineup only)
On January 5, 2006, the original foursome convened a group meeting in England in anticipation of formally reforming for work in 2006. On 1 February 2006, after the news had been trailed on John Wetton's website, Steve Howe's website announced that the original line-up were planning a CD, DVD and world tour to celebrate the band's twenty-fifth anniversary. While Downes' website confirmed this, Carl Palmer was initially more cautious. In a number of announcements in January and February, he denied any specific plans for touring or recording, while conceding that the four men have been discussing the possibility.
In May 2006, Carl Palmer announced in an in-studio appearance on U.S. cable channel VH-1 Classic that the original lineup of Asia would tour the United States - the territory in which the group enjoyed its greatest success - in late summer of that year. Palmer stated the set list would include the entire Asia album, and that band members would likely "throw in" selections from their respective earlier projects (specifically giving "Roundabout" as an example), to give younger fans a sense of where they had come from prior to forming the supergroup. The drummer said that once the agreement had been reached, everyone was eager to move forward on the project in advance of the anniversary. Palmer added that, should the tour be a success, a live DVD release could mark that anniversary in 2007.
In July 2006, tour dates were announced with the 1st leg of the tour beginning on August 29 in Rochester, NY and ending in London on December 3, 2006. The setlist will feature most or all of the first album as well as a couple of songs from the second. In addition, as mentioned previously, one selection each will be played from Yes, ELP, King Crimson, and the Buggles to acknowledge the history of each member of the band. There will be dates in 2007, as well, with venue size based on the success of the 2006 shows where the band is mainly playing in clubs and theaters. According the the Asia website, they have sold out various venues. although no documentation exists to support this claim.
In an article on mcall.com, dated Aug 26, 2006, John Wetton discusses the possibility of a new album with the original lineup in 2007. He also mentions a tour to Japan in March 2007 and talks about how they have managed to put their past difficulties and personality conflicts behind them. The band announced that after the Asiatic leg the reunion will keep on rolling on tour to South America.
Work by the ongoing band with Payne, Govan and Schellen was shelved. The partnership between Downes and Payne was announced to have been dissolved on 24 February. Payne, Govan and Schellen have formed a new band, initially to be called "One", now called GPS. At present, though, Payne is touring as "Asia Featuring John Payne" with Erik Norlander as keyboardist in place of Downes.
Studio Albums Edit
- Alpha - 1983
- Astra - 1985
- Aqua - 1992
- Aria - 1994
- Arena - 1996
- Rare - 1999
- Aura - 2001
- Silent Nation - 2004
- Phoenix - 2008
- Omega - 2010
- XXX - 2012
- Gravitas - 2014
Live Albums Edit
- Live: 09-XI-90 Mockba - 1991
- Now: Live In Nottingham - 1997
- Live In Osaka - 1997
- Live In Köln - 1997
- Live In Philadelphia - 1997
- Live At The Town & Country Club - 1999
- Live Acoustic - 1999
- Live In Russia - 2000
- Ensŏ' Kai - 2001
- Alive In Hallowed Halls - 2001
- America: Live In The USA - 2002
- Live At Budokan - 2002
- Quadra - 2002
- Bedrock In Concert - 2002
- Dragon Attack - 2003
- Live In Hyogo - 2003
- Live In Buffalo - 2003
- Live In Massachusetts '83 - 2004
- Live In Nottingham - 2007
- Fantasia - Live In Tokyo - 2007
- Then & Now - 1990
- Archiva Vol. 1 - 1996
- Archiva Vol. 2 - 1996
- Archives (Best Of) - 1997
- Anthology - 1997
- Axioms - 1999
- The Best Of Asia 1988-1997 Archives - 2000
- The Very Best Of Asia: Heat Of The Moment (1982-1990) - 2000
- Anthologia - 2002
- 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Asia - 2003
- Chronicles: Asia/Alpha/Astra - 2005
- Gold - 2005
Singles & EPs Edit
- Heat Of The Moment - 1982
- Only Time Will Tell - 1982
- Sole Survivor - 1982
- The Smile Has Left Your Eyes - 1983
- Don't Cry - 1983
- Go - 1985
- Wishing - 1986
- Aurora - 1986
- Days Like These - 1990
- Who Will Stop The Rain? - 1992
- Anytime - 1994
- Long Way From Home - 2005
Videos & DVDs Edit
- America: Live In The USA (Video) - 2002
- Classic Rock Legends - 2003
- Live In Moscow - 2003
- Live Legends - 2004
- 20th Century Masters - The DVD Collection: The Best Of Asia - 2004
- The Ultimate Collection - 2005
- Rock Milestones - Asia (The Essential Albums Of All Time) - 2006
- Fantasia - Live In Tokyo (DVD) - 2007