Under The Radar: Asia - Astra (1985)
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Line-up / Musicians
Mandy Meyer / guitars
Geoffrey Downes / keyboards, co-producer
John Wetton / bass, lead vocals
Carl Palmer / drums
Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Go (4:07) 2. Voice Of America (4:27)
3. Hard On Me (3:34) 4. Wishing (4:15)
5. Rock And Roll Dream (6:51)
6. Countdown To Zero (4:14)
7. Love Now Till Eternity (4:11)
8. Too Late (4:12)9. Suspicion (3:45)
10. After The War (5:11)
Asia was made up of John Wetton (King Crimson), Steve Howe(Yes), Carl Palmer( Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Geoff Downes ( Yes). Their 1982 eponymous debut album set the bench mark in terms of commercial sales. The album spent an astounding nine weeks at number one on the United States album charts and selling over four million copies in the States and 10 million units world wide.
Astra was the third full length studio album from the progressive/arena rock band Asia. The album was released in November 1985 with Mike Stone and Geoff Downes producing. Although it was given poor reviews at the time, in retrospect, Astra is a solid and underrated ‘80s rock record.
By the time Astra was released, the group had weathered a career's worth of potentially disastrous changes in the space of just a few short years. First off, the band's second album, Alpha was deemed as a failure, even though it went platinum and had a pair of top 40 singles.
Second, lead singer: John Wetton was fired just prior to a particularly critical gig "Asia in Asia" that was held at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on Dec. 6, 1983. This was the first concert in MTV's history to be aired via satellite transmission. Wetton did return to the group for the recording process of Astra, but tensions were at an all time high leading to the departure of Steve Howe.
Third, Geffen Records did not promote the record as much as they could have, partly because they were switching their distribution in Europe. Without the support from the label, Astra was a commercial disaster, reaching a disappointing number 67 on the Billboard 200 and peaking at number 68 In the group's native United Kingdom.
In my opinion, Astra is a solid record, but unfortunately due to the lack of promotion, firing and rehiring of Wetton and the rushing to the studio to capitalize on that debut album's momentum, it really hurt the band’s credibility.
Still, Astra deserves a second chance to be heard, replacing Steven Howe with Mandy Meyer of Krokus, really adds a welcomed melodic feel to the material.
Albeit the album does sound a tad dated there are numerous gems such as the rocking album opener: Go; the Queen-esque Rock And Roll Dream; the mid-tempo: Voice Of America and the pop rockers: Too Late and Hard On Me.
Astra has been given a bum rap for far too long and deserves to be added to your Asia playlist.