Asia was formed in 1981 when a bunch of prog-rockers who’d already enjoyed success with their former bands (namely, John Wetton of King Crimson, guitarist Steve Howe of Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes of Yes, and drummer Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) decided they had the makings of a supergroup. Their debut album was a sensation, spawning several hit singles and certifying platinum. None of their future releases quite matched up to their debut’s early promise, but their irresistible fusion of prog rock and pop won them armies of fans around the world. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Asia songs of all time.
10. Open Your Eyes
Compared to their debut, Asia’s second album, Alpha, is a more polished, radio-friendly affair, with less emphasis on prog and more on pop. It didn’t quite match up to the commercial success of its predecessor, but it still managed to reach the top ten of the Billboard 200 and sell enough copies to certify platinum. It also gave us the glorious Open Your Eyes, a meaty, beefy joy of a song that might start slowly, but builds into a stunning climax.
9. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Asia’s second album may have come as something of an anti-climax after the huge promise of their debut, but if you prefer your prog to be of the more accessible, pop flavored kind, there’s a lot to enjoy about the album. One of its highlights is The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, a smooth ballad in which Geoff Downes’ majestic keyboard takes center stage. Released as the second and final single from the album, it climbed to number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 25 on the Mainstream Rock charts.
8. Wildest Dreams
Asia’s self-titled debut received a mixed reception on its release, with some critics praising its commercial, pop-oriented brand of prog rock and those of a more purist persuasion lambasting it for the exact same reason. But even its harshest critics would have to agree that it was a slick, stylish affair, with all the grandeur of prog but with enough of a pop flavor to keep it radio-friendly. One of its highlights is Wildest Dreams, a song in which Steve Howe’s guitar and Geoffrey Downes’ transcendent keyboards positively smolder.
7. Days Like These
Recorded for the compilation album Then and Now and released as a single in August 1990, Days Like These found Asia in an unusually upbeat, optimistic mood, something which went down a storm on rock radio (the single charted at number 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart) and on MTV, but less well on the pop charts, where it managed to put in a fleeting appearance at number 64 – Asia’s last ever entry on the Billboard Hot 100.
After two successful albums, Asia’s fortunes took a turn with 1985’s Astra. The critical reception was mixed and the commercial reception was downright dismal, with the album scraping a pass into the Billboard 200 at number 67. But even though it might not be up to the standards of its predecessors, there are still plenty of enjoyable moments to be had, including the superb single Gone. Released as the lead single from the album in November 1985, it reached number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a regular fixture on MTV.
5. Don’t Cry
Commercially, it started to go downhill for the band from their third album on, but they still had a few more chart hits left in them at the time of their second album. Don’t Cry, an opulent power ballad that fuses grandiose prog rock with straightforward rock and roll, is a clever, compelling romp that even listeners who normally turn up their nose at anything with a whiff of prog can enjoy. Released as the first single from Alpha, the song reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Rock Tracks chart.
4. Here Comes the Feeling
As Liveabout.com says, Here Comes the Feeling might have been a lesser single in comparison to Asia’s more well-known songs, but this epic guitar romp is still pretty glorious. John Wetton proves yet again why he’s considered one of the greatest voices in rock and roll, Downes and Howe are allowed the space to shine as only they know how, the arrangments are watertight, there’s a lively, pop-inflected chorus… basically, everything you could possibly expect or want from a group of prog-rock maestros.
3. Soul Survivor
As classicrockhistory.com says, Soul Survivor might not have enjoyed the same level of commercial success as Asia’s first couple of singles, but it’s still a transcendent moment of prog rock. Written by Geoffrey Downes and John Wetton, it was released as the final single from the band’s 1982 self-titled debut in October 1982. Although it didn’t manage to make a dent in the Billboard Hot 100, it climbed to number 10 on the U.S Mainstream Rock Charts, becoming their third single to crack into the top ten. It’s been covered by various bands since, including the Japanese power metal band Galneryus.
2. Only Time Will Tell
Explaining the background of Only Time Will Tell to rediscoverthe80s.com, John Wotton revealed, “It’s fairly self-explanatory. It’s my lyrics again; a very personal one about the end of a relationship, and it’s my verse, Geoff’s chorus (“Heat of the Moment” is the other way around). I had been stockpiling songs during the leadup to Asia, and a lot of my lyrics were about personal experience–Joni Mitchell is one of my all-time heroes, and she is the undisputed queen of the confessional.” Built around a powerhouse keyboard riff, it’s a wonderfully complex, thrilling piece of prog rock that should be considered essential listening for fans and casual listeners alike. Released as the second single from the band’s debut, it hit number 8 on the US Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
1. Heat of the Moment
In at number one on our list of the best Asia songs of all time is this captivating song from their debut album. Their first ever single, and, in most people’s eyes at least, their greatest, it features one of the most irresistible power chord riffs ever committed to tape, a water-tight performance from the band, and a clever narrative about the dangers of too much passion. Released in April 1982, it turned the band into an instant sensation, picking up heavy rotation on MTV, taking the top spot on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and coming in at number 4 on both the Canadian Singles chart and on the Billboard Hot 100. As introductions go, they couldn’t have hoped for a better one.