Album Reviews
Band: Asia

Title: High Voltage Live

Label: Frontiers Records


Jeez, is it REALLY 32 years since 'Heat Of The Moment' was a massive hit for pomp-supergroup Asia?? Formed in London in 1981 by John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes, their FM-friendly, AOR style was particularly big in the U.S.A., where their debut album reached no.1, and amazingly for it's time, (1983), their 'Asia in Asia' gig at Budokan in Tokyo was shown live to over 20 million people in America via MTV station.  Now THATS impressive!! Unfortunately, the band lost it's momentum due to band members moving to other original projects etc, but over the years, Asia have come and gone in some kind of format, and now we see the release of a live CD of the band's performance at the High Voltage Festival in London's Victoria Park, with the original members performing classic songs from the 80's, and also tracks taken from 'Phoenix' and 'Omega', the first two albums of Asia's reunion.



It all begins with a well received 'Only Time Will Tell', that familiar intricate keyboard intro instantly drawing handclaps in accompaniment, and it's 'on with the show'! Now, I'm not much of a 'live' CD fan at the best of times, as I don't like to hear any 'wobbles' on the vocals or music, but so far, so good, as by the end of the song, you can imagine yourself at the show if your eyes are shut.  BUT, there is something 'niggly' that REALLY gets annoying as time goes on, and that's the way the 'joint' between each song is so poorly done.  There's no smooth slide from one track into the other where you wouldn't really notice a gap from one to maybes a later song in the set, it's a definite 'CUT.....NEXT SONG!'.  This spoils the whole effect of this album!  There's plenty of banter between songs, some short, some a bit longer, but with such an array of good songs like 'Wildest Dreams', with some very regimented backing vocals from the band, (the old farts from 'Dad's Army' springs to mind!) and the easy-flowing keyboard-led 'One Step Closer', taken from their debut album, 'ASIA', it all fits in nicely.



The 'Phoenix' album gets a mention as Wetton introduces 'An Extraordinary Life', his bassline bold as brass as his vocals, and it's a step up in sound from the previous songs, more full of life if you like, and then, that awful bleeding 'Cut' wrecks the moment! The band show their rock credentials on the very heavy-bassed, twiddly - guitared almost Thin Lizzy-styled 'Time Again', in fact, give it a careful listening ... Recognize anything? 'Cutting It Fine' has Carl Palmer laying into his drum-kit like there's no tomorrow, with Geoff Downes Angelic-styled keys adding to the moment, doing vocal duties rather well too, it has to be said!  Back to Wetton on vocals for the atmospheric rock ballad 'Without You' that has the crowd almost silent throughout, it's pealing bell nerve - tingling in the silence, then ... whoa ... has Neil Young just entered the fray? The heavy riff that kicks in on the intro to 'I Believe' is his signature sound for one or two of his songs, and it continues on scratching away, as does Wetton's voice on one or two occasions! Very well appreciated again by the crowd, a bit more banter begins, then, what the HELL!! 'Cut' and the moment is gone yet once more.  C'mon, you can't tell me that in this age of technology, this couldn't have been dealt with so much better than this, which by now is, by now, pardon my French, P*SSING ME OFF!! What the band think of it if they've heard it is anyone's guess, but I bet they aren't too happy?



'Here Comes The Feeling' skips along merrily enough, changing it's tempo here and there at ease as Steve Howe keeps it all together with some precision fretwork, only to be outdone by a drum solo that The Muppets 'Animal' would be proud of!! You can almost hear Howe mutter "the bastid" in utter disgust! (CUT!) Wetton seems to be just a tad uncomfortable vocal-wise on the pacey, clap-along-if-you-want 'Sole Survivor', but he's no spring chicken now, truth be told, so good on you for still giving it welly Wetts! The crowd still got a buzz out of it, so there's still something appealing about the band, so after another ... well, you know what by now, those world famous power chords herald in Asia's most well-loved song and everyone's day is made!! There's no escaping the fact that 'Heat Of The Moment' is the song that we all want to hear, and even though Wetton hits a couple of bum notes, only due to him REALLY getting into the song, the crowd are urged to sing-along in what would be described in the 80's as a '12-inch version' of the song, all ending in a flurry of drum, guitar and keys mayhem. Glorious!! And ... that's that!



'High Voltage Live' could be, and should be one of the best live albums to be released over the last few years, but as I've gone on so much about that awful 'cut' malarkey, it really puts a bit of a dampener on it, which is no fault of the band at all, and seeing as I'm a bit of a fussy bugger when it comes to music, I would only give it 6.5 - 7 out of 10 tops if asked to rate it that way, simply because of it. What a shame...

Review by: Rob Baldwin




1. Only Time Will Tell
2. Wildest Dreams
3. One Step Closer
4. An Extraordinary Life
5. Time Again
6. Cutting It Fine
7. Without You
8. I Believe
9. Here Comes The Feeling
10. Sole Survivor
11. Heat Of The Moment


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