Phoenix [Special Edition]

by: Asia

Like the Phoenix of the title of their 2008 album, Asia has risen from the ashes and made their first studio album with their original lineup in a quarter century. The remarkable thing about Phoenix is that in pure sonic terms, it could have appeared as the sequel to Alpha in 1985 instead of the Steve Howe-less Astra, which is a remarkable achievement in many ways, but what makes the album more interesting is that it is suffused with a sense of mortality. This is no doubt due in part to singer/songwriter/bassist John Wetton's brush with death via open heart surgery in 1997, but his frankness in regards to death gives Phoenix an emotional pull that Asia lacked on their twin blockbusters of 1982's Asia and 1983's Alpha. This makes Phoenix a richer experience, but the nice thing about the album is that it's also easy to appreciate on a simpler musical level, in how the band has a suppleness when they stretch out into multi-part suites while retaining a knack for big, arena pop hooks. All this adds up to a comeback that is surprisingly compelling and surprisingly moving, something that only die-hard fans may have suspected the band still had in them. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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