Geoff Downes: keyboards, vocals
Steve Howe: guitar, vocals
Carl Palmer: drums, percussion
John Wetton: lead vocals, bass
Produced by Mike Stone
1. Heat of the Moment [Wetton/Downes] (3:50)
2. Only Time will Tell [Wetton/Downes] (4:44)
3. Sole Survivor [Wetton/Downes] (4:48)
4. One Step Closer [Wetton/Howe] (4:16)
5. Time Again [Downes/Howe/Palmer/Wetton] (4:45)
6. Wildest Dreams [Wetton/Downes] (5:10)
7. Without You [Wetton/Howe] (5:04)
8. Cutting It Fine [Wetton/Downes/Howe] (5:35)
9. Here Comes the Feeling [Wetton/Howe]
Notes: (***** HP/*** MP)
Asia was formed in 1981, but was curiously prefigured the year before by an intriguing quartet that could have changed the course of Yes's history. The story of that quartet goes back to 1976: John Wetton and Bill Bruford, the rhythm section of the then dissolved King Crimson, joined up with Rick Wakeman, then out of Yes. The 'supergroup' came to nothing: Wetton and Bruford subsequently formed UK instead and Wakeman rejoined Yes. However, come 1980, UK had ended and Wakeman was back out of Yes, leading to a resurrection of the idea that they should work together. Geffen agreed to sign a new quartet of Wetton, Wakeman, Carl Palmer and Trevor Rabin. Palmer was another prog-rocker now bereft of the band that had made him famous following the dissolution of ELP. Rabin was an upcoming artist who had left behind a glittering career in South Africa to come to Europe, but whose solo career had yet to find commercial success. (Around this period, up until Rabin joined Squire and White to form Cinema (which became Yes), Rabin's name was involved with numerous suggested projects.)
This quartet had, however, never played a note together. (It is not clear whether they had even all met.) This worried Wakeman, who questioned Geffen's motivations, and when the four met to sign the contracts, Wakeman walked out instead, as he recounts in his autobiograpy Say Yes, earning him many enemies in the music industry (according to Wakeman).
While there are no direct links between the 1980 quartet and Asia, they both seem to have been the product of the same connections and Geffen's desire for a supergroup made out of those leftover from the progressive rock of the 1970s. In 1981, with the Drama line-up of Yes having now ceased, Steve Howe started collaborating with Wetton. Writing together proved successful: the pair worked with drummer Simon Phillips, before forming a permanent band to support their songwriting partnership. Wetton brought in Palmer and Howe brought in Downes, with whom he been working recently in Yes, and the band signed to Geffen. Wetton and Downes rapidly struck up a writing partnership, which ironically soon eclipsed the Wetton/Howe partnership on which the band was formed (cf. Asia's second album, Alpha).
Before this new quartet started recording their debut Asia, the band considered expanding to a quintet. The fifth member who got nearest to joining the band was none other than Rabin again. Two 1981 demos exist ("Here Comes the Feeling" and "Starry Eyes", an early version of "Only Time will Tell") on which Rabin shares lead vocals with Wetton. However, it was not to be: the band have said they felt a fifth member was not needed, while, as Rabin describes it, he had already turned down the offer anyway in favour of that from Squire and White.
Made by four former members of the leading progressive rock bands of the 1970s (Yes, King Crimson, ELP), Asia's more mainstream sound was a surprise to many fans of Yes, ELP and King Crimson, but the new sound proved hugely popular commercially with a new audience. The initial leg of touring in North America to support the album had been booked into comparatively small venues, which proved woefully inadequate for Asia's rapidly expanding fanbase. Asia spent 9 weeks at #1 in the US, although it only made #11 in the UK. Two singles were released: 'Heat of the Moment' (US #4, UK #46) and 'Only Time will Tell' (US #17, UK #54).
(HP, 12 Jan 02)