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  out of 4 Music Review: Aura

Artist: Asia
Genre: Rock
Release Date: June 2001

Review by Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
No rating supplied

Okay I admit it, I expected the Asia of the eighties that shook the world of rock and roll to come blaring over my speakers when I gave this CD a spin. Hey, I am no different than anyone else, I place unrealistic expectations on groups that I have always enjoyed, and this was no exception. I will never learn. The first listen of "Aura" was a complete disappointment to me. Obviously I wasn't paying enough attention to what was playing. I thought it was syrupy and fluff. I was dead wrong. I left the CD alone for several weeks and put it on again today. What a difference it can make when you listen to music without placing any expectations upon it. This is a great album, and Asia's first studio recording in ten years.

The beautiful and inviting keyboards of Geoff Downes returns to the fold and the legendary Yes member Steve Howe joins in once again to add his signature sound with guitar. And what prog-rock project would be complete without the legendary Tony Levin on bass? Has enough been said about this man? I seriously doubt it. He has played with everyone from Lennon to Zappa and more. His presence adds a touch of class, and his impact is enormous in any project he contributes to.

The first track that will really grab you is the spiritually driven and touching 'Ready To Go Home' by Graham Gouldman (10CC) and Andrew Gold. Downes leads the group through the first seven tracks as his governing keyboards accentuate the unassailable lead vocals of John Payne, who also plays bass and guitar. The sound is nice and atmospheric, highlighted by sheets of cascading keyboards and Levin's significant bass lines. By the time the track 'Free' starts playing the focus changes and the lead guitar takes over to juice things up a bit. There are several lead guitars besides Howe… Pat Thrall, Ian Critchton, Elliot Randall, and Guthrie Govan also contribute. The incredible Simon Phillips is on hand to lend his drumming expertise to the rest of the sparkling all-star lineup, as well as Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Slade, and Michael Sturgis.

Some of this music sounds like it could have easily been the soundtrack to a fantasy or sci-fi flick. This music paints a picture and creates an awe inspiring atmosphere that has the movies running in your mind going non-stop. The title track 'Aura' is a real mover. The sheer electricity and power that this music holds will sweep you right off your feet and take you away in the blink of an eye. The bonus tracks are excellent rockers. 'Come Make My Day' and 'Hands Of Time' close out eighty minutes of slick production, excellent sound, and world class musicianship. The rocking tunes prove that this group can step it up and leave behind the more sophisticated numbers and cut loose with the best of them. Another bonus is 'Estoy Lista Para Ir A Mi Casa', a Limited Edition CD Single in Spanish of "I'm Ready To Go Home." A coupon and instructions for ordering the single can be found in limited numbers.

Diversity is the name of the game to sell music in this day and age. I can't see any problems for Asia now, or in the future.

1. Awake
2. Wherever You Are
3. Ready To Go Home
4. The Last Time
5. Forgive Me
6. Kings Of The Day
7. On The Coldest Day In Hell 9. You're The Stranger
10. The Longest Night
11. Aura
12. Under The Gun
13. Come Make My Day
14. Hands Of Time

The Players:

Geoff Downes - Keyboards
John Payne - Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Steve Howe, Elliott Randall, Pat Thrall, Ian Crichton, Guthrie Govan - Guitars
Tony Levin - Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips, Chris Slade, Michael Sturgis - Drums

Asia Touring Band:

Geoff Downes - Keyboards
John Payne - Bass Guitar and Lead Vocals
Guthrie Govan - Guitars
Chris Slade - Drums



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