‘Asia’ are an English Progressive Rock band who in their long career have undergone multiple world tours and have released two platinum albums. Seen as one of the first music “Supergroups”, the band’s original line up consisted of vocalist and bassist John Wetton of ‘King Crimson’, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes of the band ‘Yes’, and drummer Carl Palmer of ‘Emerson’ and ‘Lake & Palmer’. Years after the demise of these bands mentioned above, Wetton and Howe were brought together by ‘Geffen Records’ to start writing material for a new album, after a number of failed projects featuring these members. After the other founding members joined what would become Asia, their first release initially received poor reviews from critics. The album that was considered closer to ‘Album-Orientated Rock’ than Progressive Rock clicked with fans of popular acts of the time such as ‘Journey’ and ‘Boston’. This album, entitled ‘Asia’, was released in March 1982 and gained considerable commercial success, spending nine weeks at number one in the United States album chart and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, going 3x Platinum in Canada, 4x Platinum in the US and Gold in the UK. While the band never found huge success in their home country, in the US the band sold out every date of their first tour, with many of the venues being upgraded to arenas due to the huge demand for tickets. Asia would also go on to receive a Grammy nomination for “Best New Act” in 1982, and the future looked very bright. Sadly the band never achieved the same commercial success that they did on their first album, despite their second album entitled ‘Alpha’ (1983) peaked at #6 in the Billboard 200, and has been certified Platinum in the US and Silver in the UK.
Things have never truly been the same since and shortly after the release of Alpha, Wetton left the band supposedly due to poor sales of their second album, however there have been many contradicting stories on this case. After cancelled tours and with interest in the band dwindling, Howe soon left the band as well. Their third album ‘Astra’, released in November 1985, was not as commercially successful as their first two albums and soon after the release their record label cancelled the projected world tour because of this lack of interest. From here tours and new material were few and far between, with Wetton and Palmer briefly rejoining for a few tours in in Europe in 1989. Asia returned to the studio in 1990 with Downes, ‘Toto’ guitarist Steve Lukather and other musicians and released ‘Then & Now’, a ‘best-of’ which also featured four new tracks but this wasn’t considered by some to be a new release.
However Wetton would soon depart the band again, and in his place vocalist/bassist John Payne joined the band. Together with Downes, they enlisted new musicians and this line up would last all the way up to 2006. The next album to be released by Asia was entitled ‘Aqua’, their fourth studio album which was released by FM Revolver in the UK in 1992. It was the first album to feature new vocalist and bassist John Payne, new guitarist Al Pitrelli and the first album to feature original guitarist Steve Howe since the 1983 release ‘Alpha’. Howe and original drummer Carl Palmer would both leave Asia shortly after the release; making Aqua the band’s final release to feature either of them in an official capacity until the original line-up reunited in 2006 and released 2008’s ‘Phoenix’. In addition to Downes and Payne, the album featured Howe, Palmer, and guitarist Al Pitrelli (of ‘Danger Danger’, ‘Megadeth’ and ‘Alice Cooper’). Howe returned during the sessions having just left ‘Yes’ once again, but Palmer would soon leave, and as a result was only able to play on just three songs. The breathtaking artwork for this album was created by famous fantasy artist/illustrator Rodney Matthews who was designed album artwork for many successful bands including ‘Thin Lizzy’, ‘Magnum’, ‘Eloy’, ‘Diamond Head’ and ‘Uriah Heep’.
From this point the band enjoyed much more stability and continued to tour and release new music. Then in 2006, the original line-up reunited and have released a further four albums since. In 2013, Howe retired from the band to continue with Yes and pursue other projects, and was replaced by guitarist Sam Coulson, completing the current lineup.