Album: Arena Artist: Asia 1996 Warner (Japan) Re-release: 1998 Snapper Music SMM CD 522 (UK) Band members: Geoff Downes: keyboards (all) John Payne: vocals (2-11, 13a), bass (2-8, 10, 11, 13a), solo guitar (3, 8, 10), acoustic guitar (5) Elliott Randall: lead guitar (4-6, 10, 11, 13a), guitar (2, 7), acoustic guitar (1, 3) Aziz Ibrahim: lead guitar (5), guitar (9), acoustic guitar (8), rhythm guitar (3-6, 8, 10, 11, 13a) Michael Sturgis: drums (2-11, 13a) with: Hotei Tomoyasu: lead guitar (1) Luis Jardim: percussion (1, 2, 4) Produced by John Payne & Geoff Downes Engineered by John Brough & John Payne Cover Artwork: Rodney Matthews Tracks: 1. Into The Arena (Downes/Payne/Randall/Tomoyasu) (3:00) 2. Arena (Payne/Downes) (5:16) 3. Heaven (Downes/Payne) (5:17) 4. Two Sides of the Moon (Payne/Downes) (5:22) 5. The Day Before the War (Payne/Downes) (9:09) 6. Never (Payne/Downes) (5:32) 7. Falling (Payne/Downes) (4:58) 8. Words (Downes/Payne) (5:19) 9. U Bring Me Down (Payne/Downes/Ibrahim) (7:07) 10. Tell Me Why (Payne/Downes) (5:14) 11. Turn It Around (Downes/Payne/Sturgis) (4:29) 12. Bella Nova (Payne/Downes) (3:13) Extra tracks: 13a. Out of the Arena 13b. That Season (Downes/Payne) (4:51) Comments: Tracks 1 and 12 are instrumentals. 13a was a bonus track on the Japanese release only. Performers and other details for 13a unknown. 13b was a bonus track on the Snapper re-release (Europe): it had first been released on Archiva 2, but had originally been considered for this album. Ben Woolfenden is thanked in the liner notes. Liner notes for the Snapper re-release include an essay by Dave Ling. Downes and Payne had abandoned plans for the band to have a permanent membership beyond themselves, but they were joined on Arena by Sturgis, a veteran of Aria and subsequent touring, and Ibrahim, who had played on the tail end of the Aria tour. New to the band was Randall, formerly of Steely Dan. Review: (***) The John Payne-era Asia begin to find their feet, but some cheesy keyboard work from Downes and cheesy composition from Downes and Payne detract from some nice instrumental contributions from various guests. Asia seemed torn between trying to be an '80s hair band and a '90s neo-prog band. HP (18 Mar 01)Thanks to Francois Angers for additional information.