So part two following the splurge on CDs this week.
Asia - XXX
Firstly a tip - when you hear that one of your favourite prog super groups from the 80s is planning a 30th anniversary album entitled XXX (see 30 in Roman numerals - these UK prog types are so funny!) think carefully about what you bung into the old google search box, especially when the group in question is Asia. Something like "Asia band 30th anniversary album release date" - would be good just typing "Asia XXX" was a bad idea! It was like several chapters of 50 Shades of Grey had been blatted all over the screen.
Anyway enough of my search issues - what is the album like? Very good. Asia hit the scene in 1982 with their stunning eponymous debut album. I remember buying that totally on spec and bunging on the old music centre and from the first power chord and then the first line of John Wetton's vocals on Heat of The Moment I was thinking "This is great, but different from what I'd expected". Having learnt from the punk and NWOBHM in the late 70s this was prog with a difference, hooks, catchy riffs, songs not epics etc. The band wanted to catch that essence on this 30th anniversary album and I think that they have got close but repeating exactly that 30 year old feel would of course be impossible - they are all for a start 30 years older! But this is probably the best they've turned out since the original line up reformed for the 25th anniversary. There are some really top Asia tunes on this No Religion, Faithful, and Face on the Bridge for example - actually I'd have had that later one as the kick off track so that the album started on a more uptempo feel but that is a minor and purely personal point and of course these days I can adjust the track order in a jiffy on the old MP3 player, tricky on my old vinyl player! If you've ever liked Asia of old then do check this out. Steve Howe is as ever simply brilliant, compare his work on this with the recent Yes outing (first in a decade) on Fly From Here and marvel how a guy can sound so unique and like himself but have also two completely different sounds within a band context. Mr Howe - we bow to you as we are simply not worthy. Also John Wetton's lyrics on a few of the numbers are for me highly emotive, he has had his demons to deal with over the years and some of that shows in his lyrical content these days. All in all top stuff. Been a prog blast this year, best Rush album for years, Squackett arriving on the scene, Asia on top form and not so long ago Yes coming back again with in my opinion best thing they've done in a mighty long time.
Slash - Apocalyptic Love
So Slash - I never really got it with GnR - they produced some stunning songs on the first album but frankly for me I thought there was a good deal of fluff on that as well and after that I'm sorry but for me they hit the downward slide rapidly and I lost interest - the only real point of intrigue being how long after the official start of any show they'd actually bother to show up on stage! In the end Slash tired on the madness as well and walked away and then got himself cleaned up (His autobiography is a brilliant read by the way on all of this). Velvet Revolver was an attempt to sort of finish off the GnR to me, again great first album with some stunners (Fall to Pieces is an amazing song) but then the second album didn't have much energy or passion and it wasn't a surprise to hear that band had fallen apart acrimoniously as well. Although a recent one off reunion does seem to show they are on speaking terms now. Anyway enough history - Slash then produced a solo album with a bunch of singers RnFR which was a brilliant album showing his undoubted talents in a good variety of song settings - using the different singers lent the whole thing huge range and depth. But you can't tour with 10 singers all of whom have major commitments elsewhere - enter Miles Kennedy who was on two tracks and is one of the best singers in the world of rock (Led Zep considered him when Robert Plant refused to continue on from the one off London reunion gigs for example). He picked up the touring gig with Slash and clearly got on well together (Live in Stoke is a great live performance DVD btw).
With Alter Bridge flipping between Creed in the USA and Alter Bridge commitments in Europe largely (side note - three members of Alter Bridge are three quarters of Creed as well) Miles had some down time and recorded a follow up album with Slash that we have here and... WHAT A BELTER! Yes folks finally I feel a total album from Slash that has his stunning tone all over it, great songs with more of a hint towards his punk influences there are a couple on here that you can tell have more than a nod to the Sex Pistols with a singer who has the vocal range and ability to match him and who doesn't appear to have a major ego issue with sharing the space/stage/billing with the top hatted boy from Stoke. This sounds like a band album not a solo effort by someone between other things. This is one of the best straight ahead rock albums for years. It is more GnR than Chinese Democracy would ever be (that is however still a very good album and possibly my second favourite GnR record now!). So if you wish to be taken down to the Paradise City all these years on buy this album!