Omega

Asia

John Wetton, lead vocalist and bassist of Asia, claims "Asia is an English prog rock band with a pop edge (with) accessible, melodic, anthemic songs." Listening to the band's 2010 release Omega, you have to agree with the “melodic,” “pop edge” description. But “prog rock”? I'm not all that sure. It's great having the original Asia back, touring and releasing CDs. A double live LP and DVD entitled Fantasia: Live In Tokyo led the charge in 2007, followed by Phoenix, the first studio effort from the original four after a 25-year break, in 2008.

And now Omega gets heavier, beginning with the stunning Steve Howe riff that opens “Finger On The Trigger.” From the get go, it’s evident that John Wetton is in fine voice, even during a few of the clinkers here, like the lyrically banal "Holy Wars" and "Listen Children." The ballad "Ever Yours" is the first time we hear Howe on acoustic, but Omega doesn’t really get into gear until the midway point. “Light Of The Way” features Howe on slide; he interacts nicely with keyboardist Geoff Downes, like the Asia of old. “Emily” doesn’t quite do it for me, but I like the Beach Boys/ELO-sounding"I'm Still The Same," showcasing that melodic pop sensibility Wetton talks about.

"There Was A Time" is masterful, what I was hoping for, a ballad utilizing some subtle tom drums from Carl Palmer, Howe stepping in as light as he can, Downes' exquisite piano work, and Wetton saving the day with his pipes. Howe stretches out most on "I Believe," the most old school Asia tune on Omega, reminiscent of “Heat Of The Moment.” This is what this band was made for. Palmer opens a slightly Beatlesque "Don't Want To Lose You" with its open acoustic and poppy-ness. Howe sneaks in his usual tasty accents here.

With cover art from legendary artist Roger Dean (he of so many Yes covers, Asia's 1982 debut and many more), the sound of Wetton's big voice, Steve Howe 's precise economy of notes, Geoff Downes' insurmountable keys and Palmer hitting that snare only as he can, this is the Asia we know and love. The progressive part isn’t so apparent; there are more moments of AOR, melodic though they might be. Then again, was Asia ever really a progressive rock band beyond the history of its members? And does it matter anyway? Omega is a solid showing from the original members of Asia. And that's progress in and of itself.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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