Asia - Aura

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Recognition Records
Catalog Number: CDRECX501
Format: CD
Total Time: 79:58:00

Let's get one thing straight right now: I loved the original Asia. Well, actually just the first four tracks from Asia. After that, my opinion of the group's music was "eh?" And that was only because I just knew that a supergroup (Do I really need to do the roll call?) of Asia's caliber could do better. Sadly, I continued to be disappointed by Asia's output. But, happily, Aura may just change that.

The music is an eclectic mix of modern rock and pop (No, this is NOT prog.) that recalls such diverse units as Go West, Glass Tiger, Journey, Rush, Saga, Santana and - gasp! - even Asia. The performances are top notch and blessed with a marvelous production. The lyrics tend to be topical and occasionally disconcerting when considered in context; witness "Forgive Me", in which a televangelist confesses his sins to an audience over a danceable, reggae-style jaunt.

The version of Aura that I have is a re-release; however, the only outward indication of this are the three extra tracks listed on the back of the cover. Of the eleven original songs, my favorites are "The Last Time" and "You're The Stranger." Geoff Downes' Saga-esque keyboards and Luis Jardim's percussion provide urgent frameworks for some fine guitar duets. Steve Howe and Ian Crichton face off on "The Last Time," while Elliott Randall's solo roars elegantly over Guthrie Govan's driving rhythm work on the Latin-sounding "You're The Stranger."

"Wherever You Are" is a great piece of power pop, featuring John Payne's best vocals on Aura and a fine guitar break from Guthrie Govan. "On The Coldest Day In Hell" is somehow reminiscent of Journey and, while Payne does a good job here, I can't help thinking that it's perfect for the muscular singing of Steve Perry. "Kings Of The Day" brings back the danceable Latin feel, driven along by Simon Phillip's drums, Luis Jardim's percussion, and a chunky clavinet riff from Geoff Downes. "Aura", the original set closer, keeps the Latin flame burning, sounding very much like something that Carlos Santana would be proud to call his own.

The three "extra tracks" sound like outtakes from the Aura sessions. "Under The Gun" calls to mind Nicolette Larsen's "Lotta Love," but rocks in true Asian style during the choruses. "Come Make My Day" is amazingly reminiscent of Avalon-era Roxy Music; I would love to hear Bryan Ferry wrap his unique vocal style around this one. "Hands Of Time" sounds like a rocking re-write of Yes' "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" that includes some fine heavy organ in between verses.

Unfortunately, there are flaws with Aura that could have been easily avoided had someone been paying proper attention. "Free", the album's epic, is listed at 8:51 but actually ends about thirty-five seconds sooner. Also, although the new songs are listed on the back cover, the liner notes have not been updated; there are no songwriting credits, no list of musicians, or lyrics provided. [The UK Digipack version, which includes the bonus tracks, does include most of this data, but also no lyrics -ed]

All things considered, though, Aura may just be the best AOR album never released in the 80's or 90's. As much pop as rock and - believe it or not - quite danceable in spots, Aura shows that Asia has plenty of inspiration left and I look forward to hearing what they'll do with it. Footnote for progressive purists: File under "Guilty Pleasure".

Released in the US by Windstorm Records

Awake (6:08) / Wherever You Are (5:14) / Ready To Go Home (4:50) / The Last Time (4:56) / Forgive Me (5:26) / Kings Of The Day (6:51) / On The Coldest Day In Hell (6:25) / Free (8:51) / You're The Stranger (6:05) / The Longest Night (5:28) / Aura (4:14) / Under The Gun (4:48) / Come Make My Day (5:01) / Hands Of Time (5:23)

Geoff Downes - keyboards
John Payne - lead vocals, bass, guitar
Steve Howe - guitar
Elliott Randall - guitar
Pat Thrall - guitar
Ian Crichton - guitar
Guthrie Govan - guitar
Tony Levin - bass
Vinnie Colaiuta - drums
Simon Phillips - drums
Chris Slade - drums
Michael Sturgis - drums
Luis Jardim - percussion
Neil Lockwood - additional backing vocals
Gary Liederman - bass
David Grant's Gospel Choir

Alpha (1983)
Astra (1985)
Then & Now (1990)
Live in Moscow (1991)
Aqua (1992)
Aria (1994)
Arena (1996)
Archiva I (1996)
Archiva II (1996)
Live In Nottingham (1997)
Live In Osaka (1997)
Live in Köln (1997)
Asia Live In Philadelphia (1997)
Live At The Town & Country Club (1999)
Live Acoustic (1999)
Rare (1999)
Anthology (1999)
Axioms (1999)
Archives - The Best Of Asia 1988-1997 (2000)
Heat Of The Moment: The Very Best Of Asia 1982-1990 (2000)
The Collection (2000)
Aura (2000/2001)
Enso Kai (Live In Tokyo 1983) (2001)
Alive In Hallowed Halls (2001)
America - Live In The USA (2002)
Anthologia: 20th Anniversary Geffen Years Collection 1982-1990 (2002)
Dragon Attack (2003)
Live In Buffalo (2003)
Live In Hyogo (2003)
Live In Massachusetts '83 (2004)
Silent Nation (2004)
Gold (2005)
Definitive Collection (2006)
Live In Nottingham (2007)
Fantasia - Live In Tokyo (2007)
Extended Versions (2007)
Phoenix (2008)
Omega (2010)
Live Around The World (2010)
Resonance (The Omega Tour 2010) (2012)
XXX (2012)

Asia In Asia (VHS) (1984)
Classic Rock Legends (DVD) (2001)
Live In Moscow 1990 (DVD) (2003)
America: Live In The USA (DVD) (2003)
Fantasia - Live In Tokyo (2007)
Spirit Of The Night - The Phoenix Tour - Live In Cambridge 2009 (DVD) (2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: David Cisco

Artist website:
Hits: 2067
Language: english


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