Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"



Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby coalescestudionyc » Thu May 20, 2010 9:08 pm

I've listened to them both a number of times, even one right after the other, and I have to say that I prefer "Phoenix" over "Omega." A lot. All the reviews I've read at the iTunes Music Store have people preferring "Omega," but I just don't see it. Another review said that "Phoenix" sounded like the band wasn't ready to record together, but I disagree.

First off, each album has a track on it that I have no use for, but for different reasons. "I Will Remember You" sounds like a generic schmaltzy ballad, and "Finger On The Trigger" doesn't miss a rock lyric cliché, so that's a wash. To me, "Phoenix" sounds more progressive and "Omega" sounds more "safe," if that makes sense. No real flexing of muscles, either lyrically or musically. Lastly, I absolutely love "An Extraordinary Life." I think when it comes time to determine which tracks go where on an album, the hardest songs to place are the second song (because it has to carry the energy of the strong opening track and make you want to listen to the rest of the album) and the last track (always leave 'em wanting more.) "An Extraordinary Life" is worthy of being mentioned with "Here Comes The Feeling." "I Don't Wanna Lose You Now" just isn't as strong. That's my problem with "Omega:" all the songs sound like middle tracks. If it were a baseball team's pitching roster, it would have nothing but number three starters: good, competent players, but no Cy Young candidates.

Anyone else want to chime in?

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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby tardistraveler » Tue May 25, 2010 8:28 pm

Having not heard either of these, I'm not qualified to "chime" . . . ;)

Anyone else?
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby thehallway » Wed May 26, 2010 4:05 pm

Never ventured into Asia myself, or the continent for that matter!
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby Chris2210 » Thu May 27, 2010 3:27 pm

Omega has just arrived. I haven't listened to it yet so your opinion is a little foreboding.

I was a little surprised to note that Wetton is [presumably] writing the lyrics on Howe's two tracks this time out. Previously I've found Steve's lyrics a bit of a relief from the painfully obvious, trite nonsense that is the character of JW's penmanship. I felt pretty much the same about 'An Extraordinary Life' in spite of the passion and conviction it's sung with [to be fair Wetton's vocal performances always have that sort of power and commitment].

I enjoyed Phoenix [and come to it the first two Asia recordings] in spite of the lyrics. I've liked them on the level of the craft - the songs are well-constructed and the musicianship, it hardly needs saying, is superb - particularly from Howe and Palmer. If Omega is indeed a return to simpler more conventional pop forms, I don't find that tremendously encouraging. Windy bugger that I am I thought I'd share these thoughts now; I'll let you know later on what I think of the new disc once I've given it a few rotations.
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby topographic_drama1980 » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:54 am

Having listened to both albums I prefer "Phoenix" overall because of the musical content. The band got to go into some prog territory with the "Sleeping Giant/No Way Back/Reprise" tune and "Parallel Worlds/Vortex/Deya." "Orchard Of Mines," although a cover tune is also a highlight as well as "Never Again" and "An Extraordinary Life." "Omega" is not that bad but it seems more like a Wetton solo album to me, not that it's a bad thing. Sound and production-wise, "Omega" sounds better and everything is neatly mixed. On the other hand, as much as I like "Phoenix," minus "I Will Remember You" and "Heroine" (which sounds like a re-hash of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes"), the overall production and mixing could've been better, especially Carl Palmer's drums. It's as if they're totally buried on certain tracks and sound rather stale on others. They had the same problem with the "Fantasia - Live In Tokyo" album with the drums being too damn low in the mix.

As happy as I am to see the original line-up still together (an amazing feat), I prefer the John Payne-era Asia material. I feel they covered more ground musically and were really progressing into something better musically before Geoff Downes left Asia to join... Asia over 4 years ago.

To me, when it comes to Asia, the first album is the best, although I prefer Payne-era Asia. I know it doesn't make sense, but that's just me. :)
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby thehallway » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:58 pm

I read that Rick Wakeman the other day, joked that if he joined Asia they would have more legitimate Yes members than the current band Yes!

And I still haven't heard any Asia, but Omega got a very decent review in a Prog mag. And Howe especially, was pleased that he was given more room to "do his thing" on the album, compared to the restrictive Phoenix.

And they aren't the only supergroup who are doing well at the moment, ELP are reuniting briefly for the High Voltage festival next month (if anyone goes, PLEASE review it!) and I'm hearing good things about Them Crooked Vultures, who are currently recording a second album.

Exciting times!
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby tardistraveler » Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:51 pm

Josh, I really like Payne-era Asia as well - and agree that they were pushing the envelope a bit more musically than the "original" Asia.

I too am looking forward to that ELP review . . . we'll see how it goes . . .
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Re: Asia's "Phoenix" and "Omega"

Postby Chris2210 » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:43 pm

Having now listened to Omega - a lot - the misgivings I had were happily unfounded.

It should almost go without saying that the lyrics are best put out of mind (although I doubt the two Howe/Wetton tracks are Wetton lyrics). Well unless you want a laugh that is. 'Finger on the Trigger' does actually sound like a deliberate listing of trite lines - I'd be tempted to think so if there was any shred of irony or wit throughout. But you never know - it just might be very, very, very dry. Wetton's usual approach appears to be 'as long as it rhymes/scans, it's going in'.

It's astonishing that he can summon up so much commitment and seeming sincerity for this stuff. I actually like his voice - not an incredible vocal range and the pronunciation is often cheesey in the extreme, but he's tuneful and passionate without the sort of whiney angst-ridden edge that marrs emo or Michael - just-kill-me-now-Bolton's warblings [or Meatloaf or Bon Jovi - come to think of it you American's are much better at it than Brits ;) ].

My favourite in this vein is 'Emily' in which he pours out his grief for the doomed unrequited love he feels for this woman, which includes the lines: "I was blind, to the signs of your sex-yew-ally-tee/ Now it can't be denied, you bat for the other side". It's astonishing such a sensitive soul couldn't turn the lass. I can imagine his bewildered reaction: "Hey babe, it's such a shame our eternal love, that could maybe even have lasted a lifetime, was not to be. It will be hard for me to overcome the grief for this etcetera. Anyway, how long have you known you were lesbian?" And her reply: "Oh, a good 30 or 40 seconds..."

But putting the lyrics to one side [if you can and clearly, I do] there isn't a bad track on this album. I actually think that it's musically more adventurous and has more thematic material and densely-worked arrangement than its predecessor, in spite of the absence of those purely instrumental segments. My favourite tracks are the two Howe/Wetton numbers and not because they are bereft of those lyrical howlers - they are both just very strong songs. In fact I think if you junked the lyrics from this album and the self-contained song structures, you'd have the makings of an extremely strong prog album by linking, layering and judiciously ordering the thematic material.

There isn't anything amazingly ground-breaking - it certainly does sound like it could be an 80s album. But the craft from these four and the musicianship of Howe and Palmer in particular, still shows the hallmark of masters at work.
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