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The Return of 'Art-Rock' Band Asia - 2004-08-12


Formed in the early-1980s, Asia was considered one of the ultimate progressive or art-rock bands, with hits such as "Heat of the Moment" and "Don't Cry." Waning in popularity in the 1990s, they've now re-grouped with a few new members and are releasing a new album, Silent Nation.

The original members of Asia came from several pioneering rock bands. Guitarist Steve Howe gained legend as part of Yes, John Wetton was the vocalist for King Crimson, keyboard player Geoff Downes was the mastermind of The Buggles and Carl Palmer was the drummer for Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Asia's self-titled debut album was released in 1981, the same year that video music channel MTV signed on the television airwaves. After two albums together, the members started shuffling, and album sales began to decline. They continued to record and tour, with Geoff Downes as the sole original member. For the past four years, he's been playing with John Payne on vocals and bass, Guthrie Govan on lead guitar and drummer Chris Slade. Asia is about to release Silent Nation, which they call a deliberate return to their musical roots, with an updated sound for the 21st century. The CD will be the first on their new record label, Inside Out Music.

Keyboard player Geoff Downes comments, "Our common goal with this album was to return to our rock sound, and focus on the four members as a band. The new songs are very melodic. They do have technical flourishes and they occasionally venture into progressive areas, but they are rock songs."

Preparing material for Silent Nation, Asia's Geoff Downes and John Payne wrote more than 50 songs during a seven-month period. They worked out the melodies on acoustic guitar and piano, then added the arrangements. Both members agreed, "If a song doesn't work when it's played on an acoustic guitar or a piano, then it's not a song."

Geoff Downes admits, "Perhaps our long-term impact would have been better if we would have had a slow climb. We were an original band, but the music business is an up and down game." They're hoping that older fans will connect with the name Asia, and younger listeners will be attracted to their combination of melody and technical expertise. The special edition of Silent Nation includes a bonus DVD with interviews and a documentary on the making of the album. Member Geoff Downes says, "What Asia is all about is this - good songs that are well-played."

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