Astra (album)

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Astra
Asia - Astra (1985) front cover.jpg
Studio album by Asia
Released30 November 1985
Recorded1984–1985
Studio
Genre
Length45:06
LabelGeffen
Producer
Asia chronology
Alpha
(1983)
Astra
(1985)
Aurora
(1986)
Singles from Astra
  1. "Go"
    Released: November 1985
  2. "Wishing"
    Released: February 1986 (US and Canada only promo)
  3. "Too Late"
    Released: 1986 (US only promo)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3/5 stars[1]
Sounds1/5 stars[2]

Astra is the third studio album by British rock band Asia, released on 30 November 1985 by Geffen Records.[3] It was their last full-size studio album with co-founding vocalist and bassist John Wetton until Phoenix (2008), released after the original line-up reunited in 2006. Astra is the group's only album with Swiss guitarist Mandy Meyer, who replaced Steve Howe.

Background[edit]

Started in 1984, it marked the return of Wetton to the group after his firing in September 1983. He had been replaced by Emerson, Lake & Palmer co-founder Greg Lake, temporarily, for the concerts at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in December 1983. The opening night of these shows, highly advertised as Asia in Asia, was the first in the history of MTV to be broadcast via satellite transmission. Following a two-month stint, Lake had left Asia and soon Wetton had been convinced to come back. The latter agreed, but made it a condition to his return that Howe depart the line-up. By the time sessions for Astra began, the group had recruited Meyer, a former guitarist of the Swiss hard rock band Krokus.[3] This personnel change marked a shift in musical direction for Asia to a more edgy, slightly arena rock and pop metal sound.[1]

Production[edit]

Continuing the trend from Alpha (1983), the main composers on Astra were Wetton and keyboard player Geoff Downes, with only one song, "Too Late", co-written by drummer Carl Palmer. Two songs, "Voice of America" and "Wishing", were started by Wetton during his time away from the group, initially towards a solo album. "Hard on Me" was written solely by Wetton at the end of the sessions, when the label complained about the lack of a potential hit single. One of the out-take tracks, "We Move as One", was used by former ABBA vocalist Agnetha Fältskog for her solo album Eyes of a Woman (1985).

Astra was recorded at Westside Studios, The Townhouse Studios and Sarm West Studios, all of which are located in London. Like the two previous recordings, it was produced by Mike Stone, but this time with the participation from Downes. The album was originally intended to be titled Arcadia, but was changed prior to the release to avoid confusion, when it was learned that a side project of the same name of Duran Duran was being recorded at the same time. The cover artwork was designed by Roger Dean, who had collaborated with Asia since their debut.

Reception[edit]

Astra has received mixed reception from music critics. Sandy Robertson in his review for Sounds gave the album a rating of just one star out of five.[2] However, Matt Collar has given the album a retrospective rating of three stars out of five on AllMusic. He has called Astra "a solid prog rock outing" and "a truly underrated '80s rock album and a must-hear for fans".[1]

According to Downes, Geffen did not promote Astra as much as they could have, partly, because they were switching their distribution in Europe.[4] Without the support from the label along with general lack of public interest, the album was a commercial disaster in comparison with the preceding albums. It reached disappointing number 67 on the Billboard 200 and spent 17 weeks on the charts.[5] In the group's native United Kingdom, the album performed even worse, peaking at number 68 and staying just one week on the charts.[6] The lead-off single, "Go", reached number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed to number 7 on the Mainstream Rock chart. "Too Late" was released as a promotion only 12" single in the United States and was a minor radio hit, peaking at number 30.[7] The lackluster reception of Astra led to cancelling a supporting tour by Geffen and by 1986 Asia dissolved despite the group not making any official statement.[8]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by John Wetton and Geoff Downes, except "Hard on Me" written by Wetton and "Too Late" written by Wetton, Downes and Carl Palmer.

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Go"4:09
2."Voice of America"4:29
3."Hard on Me"3:37
4."Wishing"4:17
5."Rock and Roll Dream"6:53
Side two
No.TitleLength
6."Countdown to Zero"4:17
7."Love Now till Eternity"4:14
8."Too Late"4:14
9."Suspicion"3:47
10."After the War"5:09
Total length:45:06

Personnel[edit]

Asia[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

Technical personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1985–1986) Peak
position
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[9] 66
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[10] 48
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[11] 18
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[12] 17
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[13] 10
UK Albums (OCC)[6] 68
US Billboard 200[5] 67

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Collar, Matt. Asia: Astra > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Robertson, Sandy (14 December 1985). "Asia 'Astra'". Sounds. London.
  3. ^ a b Giles, Jeff (30 November 2015). "30 Years Ago: Asia Go Through Changes to Make 'Astra'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  4. ^ Downes, Geoff (24 February 1993). "My Interview with Geoff Downes of Asia" (Interview). Interviewed by Joseph Christina. Facebook. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Asia Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Asia | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Asia Chart History (Billboard Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  8. ^ Coates, Rick (8 May 2011). "Asia Brings Continent-Shaking Prog Rock". Northern Express. Traverse City, Michigan. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 0617". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Asia – Astra" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Asia – Astra". Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Asia – Astra". Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Asia – Astra". Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 May 2018.