Unfortunately the last day of January brought us the loss of one of the pioneers of progressive rock – John Wetton. The co-founder of ASIA and bassist/singer for King Crimson, Uriah Heep and Roxy Music, died at the age of 67 after a battle with cancer. Seems like 2017 picks up where 2016 left off – yet another veteran and a beloved rockstar is gone now and we can’t but be devastated. The smile has left our eyes…
I have been a huge fan of ASIA for as long as I can remember. It all started with the first couple of albums – “Asia” and “Alpha”. These two albums introduced me to this unique supergroup, composed of ex- YES, ELP, King Crimson and The Buggles members. I can’t really imagine my life without those records and frankly, I don’t even want to. Songs, like “Heat of the Moment”, “Don’t Cry”, “Sole Survivor”, “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” and many other classics will always run through my blood. One of the reasons why ASIA became such a huge inspiration for me was of course John Wetton. I found so much comfort and peace in his singing so the only thing I feel like saying right now is one huge “thank you” to him for bringing harmony to my life when I needed it with his blissful voice. I will truly miss him…
To honor his memory and remind my readers about ASIA – one of the supergroups which not only defined the sound of the ‘80s but also became an international sensation, I have prepared a playlist of my most beloved John Wetton songs from his time in ASIA. He was with the band for the release of “Asia” (1982), “Alpha” (1983), “Astra” (1985), “Then & Now” (1990), “Phoenix” (2008), “Omega” (2010), “XXX” (2012) and “Gravitas” (2014). I am the person who would always s prefer the classics, however there are some glorious gems in all of these albums. Let’s listen to some ASIA!
The absolute crown jewel of ASIA‘s career (in my opinion, of course) has to be their #1 hit single, “Don’t Cry”. I immediately fell for this beautiful progressive rock masterpiece, combining catchy hooks and superb guitar work. The song was written by vocalist John Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes.The lyrics are I believe the absolute strongest point of the song. Probably because I am a girl, but words like “Don’t Cry now that I’ve found you. Don’t Cry take a look around you. Don’t Cry it took so long to find you. Do what you want, but little darling please Don’t Cry…” are affecting me on a deep level.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
“The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” comes from Asia’s sophomore platinum album “Alpha” (1983). The stunning intro and divine melodies turned it into one of the most beautiful ballads of the ‘80s (even though it could’ve been produced a little bit better). The lyrics and John’s vocals are sending me to another world every time I play it! “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” is the only track from “Alpha” that was written by John Wetton alone (the rest of the songs are credited to the songwriting collaboration of Wetton and Downes). The emotional lyrics can’t but provoke a strong response in the listener: “…Now it’s too late you realized, Now there’s no one can sympathize, Now that the Smile Has Left Your Eyes…”
Written by Geoffrey Downes and John Wetton, “Sole Survivor” came out as the fourth single from their groundbreaking 1982 self-titled album. Top 10 chart positions, worldwide recognition and covers from so many artists are just some of the triumphant outcomes, the release of the song triggered. “Sole Survivor” impresses with its solid guitars and empowering melody. I am also captivated by the lyrics, which can’t but give you that extra push: “…And from the wreckage I will arise, Cast the ashes back in their eyes, See the fire, I will defend, Just keep on burning right to the end…”
My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want)
Another song from “Alpha” (no surprises there, that’s my favorite Asia album). “My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want)” is yet another blissful progressive/AOR tune that proves that John Wetton is a brilliant songwriter with outstanding voice, capable of bringing nothing but sweet delight to your life. The intriguing lyrics are also sending a strong message – sometimes you have nothing to lose so you gotta let go of the rules and have faith in yourself! “…You think you always had me under ties, Someone better tell you that the table’s turned, Getting your fingers burned, how does it feel? Now it’s for real this is the deal…”
How can you not fall inlove with that mesmerizing intro of “Time Again”? It’s absolutely brilliant, if not one of the best intros of all time! First time I heard “Time Again” I thought the song has that perfect balance between old-school progressive rock vibes and new-age radio-friendly sounds. Moreover, it’s the only song from “Asia” (1982) to feature a songwriting contribution by Carl Palmer which by the way is absolutely evident! The lyrics talk about betrayal and the loss of trust: “…But others wouldn’t see things you could only see, And someone showed you, then why was it always me, You knew the limit you were always out of bounds, How could I trust you when I caught you messing ’round…”
“Phoenix” was an absolute breakthrough – finally, in 2008, all four original member of Asia got back together and put it all behind them. The marvelous opening tune, “Never Again” is a strong statement of power and commitment. The energy that comes out of this song is indescribable! Once again, Wetton and Downes wrote something magical! “…NEVER AGAIN will I bear arms against my brother, NEVER AGAIN will I dishonour anyone, NEVER AGAIN will I wish evil on another, NEVER AGAIN will I spill blood of any mother’s son…”
I Will Remember You
A very touching song about missing someone and having that sad fire still burning inside you because they are no longer with you… The 2008 comeback album, “Phoenix” gave birth to incredible songs and “I Will Remember You” is definitely one of the most deserving ones on the album. I have a soft spot for ballads so it comes as no surprise that I included it in my favorite Asia/Wetton songs. It’s a very sad songs, so in case you are longing for someone you lost, I suggest you don’t listen to it; the outcomes might be heartbreaking, especially because of lyrics like these: “…Locked in my memory, Your silhouette, The only face I see, I can’t forget…”
Light the Way
“Light The Way” is the seventh track of Asia’s 2010 album “Omega”. Written by Steve Howe and John Wetton, the tune may not be the typical choice for a favorite Asia song, however there was something very intriguing that drove me to it, like a magnet. Was it John’s vocal performance, the mysterious melodies, that guitar solo…the excellent keyboard intro or the lyrics, I cannot say for sure. Bottom line is I think this is a splendid tune and for something so precious to come out in 2010, it was quite the surprise! The lyrics are very uplifting and hopeful: “…No matter what it is, be sure it can be fixed, Letting go of yesterday, Might – just might – light the way…”
“Astra” was the last album to feature John Wetton (before he came back in 2008 for “Phoenix”). The 1985 release didn’t really make a huge splash on the charts, compared to the previous two albums, however that doesn’t mean the album lacks substantiality and great tracks. The opening tune “Go”, for instance, is your ultimate first-rate journey on finding your inner strength. Sometimes in life we gotta make a faithful choice, pick up the right direction and simply go. We can be lost and lose our balance but as long as we “go” things might fall into place! “…There’s some way out, there’s some way through, But I’m lost, I’m lost, I’m down again, My direction is changing, which way, Which way can I go…”
Face On the Bridge
The final album to feature the original line-up, led by John Wetton was out in 2012. XXX (or thirty) celebrated the 30th anniversary of Asia’s debut in quite the elegant way, if I may say. The album showcased a perfect sound blend between modern-day and old-school Asia. I gotta say, the first single, “Face on the Bridge” absolutely did it for me. Nothing much to say when something is done in such an outstanding way; first-class Asia and John, being his best-self!