Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Asia's Latest Album Showcases New Guitarist, Harder Sound

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Asia's Latest Album Showcases New Guitarist, Harder Sound

Article excerpt

On new album "Gravitas," British progressive rock maestros Asia both let loose and show restraint. "It is a bit of a classically influenced Asia album," drummer Carl Palmer said by phone. "Some of it is quite intellectual in its approach."

At the same time, Asia's 14th disc showcases the band rocking harder within its traditional framework than in recent years, thanks in part to the addition of new guitarist Sam Coulson. "He makes the band a bit heavier, which is where we all wanted to go, a bit more rock," Palmer said. "Even the ballads sound bigger."

Coulson, 27, joined Palmer, bassist-singer John Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes last year following the amicable departure of legendary six-stringer Steve Howe. The latter left the band to pursue other projects. Asia, which released "Gravitas" in March, performs this week in Morristown and Englewood.

The numerous standout tracks on "Gravitas" include "Valkyrie," an elegiac yet triumphant number framed by somber strings; the pulsating eight-minute title track, which is broken into classical and rock movements; and the dynamic "I Would Die for You," a Wetton- Downes composition originally written in 1986 that never made it past the demo stage. "Sometimes things aren't right at the time, and when the song feels right you can move forward, even if it's almost 30 years later," Palmer said.

Asia formed in 1981, bringing together veterans of the leading 1970s British progressive rock scene: Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer); Wetton (King Crimson); and Howe and Downes (Yes). Downes also played with new wave favorites The Buggles.

Asia was labeled a supergroup because of its members' pedigrees, but fans expecting mind-bending prog-rock epics were in for a surprise. Asia instead initially aimed to refine the complex compositions of its former bands into a more compact and melodic style of rock.

That vision was carried out to perfection on Asia's 1982 self- titled debut. …

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