Monday, November 30, 2015

Progressive Rock Review: Asia-Axis XXX Live In San Francisco

Release Date: 22nd June 2015
Label:  Frontiers music

This is a recording produced by the original line-up of the band, Asia, when they toured in support of the album XXX, released back in 2012.The venue for the recording was the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and the date was the 7th November 2012.

The four members of the band were John Wetton (bass, vocals), Carl Palmer (drums), Steve Howe (guitars) and Geoff Downes (keyboards).

This is the band’s 23rd live album, if the information to be gleaned from  progarchives.com is to be believed. Axis XXX Live In San Franscisco is a 2 disc release with a total playing time a few seconds over the 2 hour mark, (120:21), and comprises 19 tracks. Disc 1 has 12 tracks including the obligatory “Introduction” and has a running time of 62:50 minutes with the second disc, 7 tracks and a slightly shorter playing time of 57:31 minutes. The longest track on offer is found on disc 2, “ Holy War-Drum Solo” at 15:03 minutes and the shortest track is “Pyramidolog,” on disc 1 with a playing time of 3:26 minutes.

The recording concentrates on the earlier albums, although it was headlined as the Axis XXX tour, with 10 of the 19 tracks coming from the first album, Asia in 1982 (7 tracks) and second album, Alpha in 1983 (3 tracks). The only other album to be “plundered” in any way is XXX, from 2012, with 3 tracks. An odd inclusion to my mind is a track taken from the solo album release by Steve Howe in 2001, Natural Timbre.

After the fairly low-key introduction, which is simply the music prior to and during the band entering the stage, as evidenced by the clapping/cheering that starts up part way through. Once ready, the band burst into life with 2 classic tracks from the debut album, Asia, now 33 years old, “Only Time Will Tell” (5:22) and “Wildest Dreams” (6:02) and follow this duo with a track from the 2012, XXX album, “Face On The Bridge” (6:01). All four members of the band are excellent as you would expect from such seasoned musicians, and the power still present in the voice of John Wetton is amazing.

The band then run through a selection of material, which tends to form the bulk of their live shows, so there are no real surprises. “Pyramidology” (3:27) and “Golden Mean” (4:11) allow Steve Howe to highlight his acoustic guitar playing, which most people are well aware of, and then the band pull together for another track from the XXX album in the form of “I Know How You Feel” (5:50).
Whilst the album, Axis XXX is not going to “set the heather alight” and shift shedloads of copies, it is a very competent, satisfying release. If there is anything to flag up as a negative, it is simply the lack of the surprise factor, with the playlist being firmly planted in “safe” tracks, and a similarity to other live recordings by the band.

For Asia fans, this will be an essential purchase, but I am not convinced that this issue will add to the number of Asia fans. In the same manner as the album started with a “bang,” it concludes in a similar manner with the rousing pairing of “Sole Survivor” (7:24) and “Heat Of The Moment” (7:55).

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Only Time Will Tell, Tomorrow The World, Heat Of The Moment

Tracks:

Disc 1:

Introduction
Only Time Will Tell
Wildest Dreams
Face On The Bridge
Time Again
Tomorrow The world
Ride Easy
Pyramidology
Golden Mean
I Know How You Feel
Don’t Cry
Smile has left Your Eyes

Disc 2:
Cutting It Fine
Holy War-Drum Solo
Extraordinary Life
Here Comes The feeling
Open Your Eyes
Sole Survivor

Heat Of The Moment

Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-Sr. Reviewer Prog Rock Music Talk
November 30, 2015
Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk


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