For those who have been living under a rock for the past few decades, Asia is a multi-platinum selling global superstar rock band, formed in London in 1981 and celebrating their 40th anniversary last year. The Official Live Bootlegs, Volume One ten CD box set features some of Asia’s most raw and intimate live shows from around the world from 1982 to 2010. It consists of five shows: Buffalo (USA) in 1982; Worcester (USA) in 1983; Sao Paulo (Brazil) in 2007; Tokyo (Japan) in 2008 and London (UK) in 2010. Each show is presented on 2 CDs.
Released in 2021, these vintage live performances are housed in a box, featuring beautifully designed original artwork by fabulous painter and (house) artist Roger Dean. The audio for all five previously unreleased concerts comes from high-quality, original mixing console sound sources. The box set also includes a 12-page booklet with rare band photos and commentary by Asia expert Dave Gallant. There is also a collection of 24 songs available for download, some sort of ‘Best Of’. Earlier in 2021 the band also released another compilation, The Reunion Albums, 2007-2012 with five CDs covering the albums released by the band’s reformed original line-up during that period.
Well, at TPA we are not very keen on compilation albums and only to a lesser extent fans of live albums – and this is a combination of both, while also more or less bootlegs in terms of quality. Only a few people within the team feel the urge to put something on paper, but I’m going to give it a try – based on a download version, of course.
The question quickly arises: A 10-CD box set? Is all that really necessary? And more importantly, does it have added value? You just have to ask the artists and the record company about the first. The second I will try to answer in a while.
True Asia aficionados will undoubtedly already have all of the band’s official live albums in their possession, and probably also a stack of illegally recorded works. Moreover, the quality of this type of material often leaves something to be desired. But I wouldn’t just dismiss it with slogans like ‘superfluous’, ‘rip-off’ or ‘substandard’. First of all, it’s a lovely overview of the decades of this exceptional supergroup. Without overdubs or any embellishment, just as those present in the hall experienced it. But in addition there are a few little gems that are definitely worth checking out.
For instance, the set kicks off with the oldest live recordings ever from Asia, from May 1982 in Buffalo, USA, of all places. The relatively unknown Midnight Sun was played here, beside all the songs from the unsurpassed self-titled debut album, released just two months before. Howe’s solo spot from a show in Worcester, USA in August 1983 is also worth mentioning. With the medley Beginnings/Valley of Rocks/Clap, in an unruly room (to say the least), he plays a few small gems that were not often played before – except for Clap, of course. The version of Clap from Brazil in 2007 includes a small piece of the Concerto in D movement from The Steve Howe Album from 1975, but acoustically. Delicious and surprising at the same time. In comparison, Clap is just a trite and vulgar tune.
Also interesting is the guitar solo that Howe adds to ELP classic Fanfare for the Common Man during the aforementioned show in Brazil. It certainly would have met with Keith Emerson’s approval. And what about the almost acoustic version of The Smile Has Left Your Eyes from Tokyo in May 2008, with Howe on Dobro and emotional vocals by John Wetton? And then they still had to perform a full second show later that same night.
The songs sound energetic, rough and almost raw; the mix is far from optimal – not entirely unexpected. Especially during the 1982 show the bass is much too dominant. The vocals are messy, Howe forgets the lyrics from time to time. But that certainly adds to the charm of these recordings as far as I’m concerned. Made within a few months after the release of their debut album, during the supergroup’s tenth live show ever. As the years go by, the sound quality also improves. And the rough edges disappear, like snow in the Asian sun. Unfortunately.
The addition ‘Volume 1’ suggests that there’s more on the way. I am curious what old material is still in the vaults of the remaining three musicians. I come back to the question about added value: I’ll be brief this time. Sure, if you’re an Asia fan, there’s definitely some interesting material here. I don’t know whether you should buy the entire box, but the compilation that I play from my computer is definitely worth it. Even if it’s just for those rough edges and little gems.
01. One Step Closer (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
02. Midnight Sun (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
03. Cutting It Fine (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
04. Wildest Dreams (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
05. Sole Survivor (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
06. Heat of the Moment (Live at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY, USA, 3 May 1982)
07. Only Time Will Tell (Live at the Centrum, Worcester MA, USA, 22 August 1983)
08. Geoffrey Downes Solo (Live at the Centrum, Worcester MA, USA, 22 August 1983)
09. Beginnings/Valley of Rocks/Clap (Steve Howe Solo) [Live at the Centrum, Worcester MA, USA, 22 August 1983]
10. Time Again (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
11. Clap (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
12. Fanfare for the Common Man (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
13. The Court of the Crimson King (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
14. Here Comes the Feeling (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
15. Video Killed the Radio Star (Live at The Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 23 March 2007)
16. The Heat Goes On (Carl Palmer Solo) [Live at The International Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2008] [First Night]
17. Never Again (Live at The International Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2008) [First Night]
18. Bolero (Live at The International Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2008) [First Night]
19. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (Live at The International Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2008) [First Night]
20. An Extraordinary Life (Live at The International Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 12 May 2008) [First Night]
21. Finger On the Trigger (Live at The Forum, London, UK, 14 December, 2010)
22. End of the World (Live at The Forum, London, UK, 14 December, 2010)
23. Go (Live at The Forum, London, UK, 14 December, 2010)
24. Open Your Eyes (Live at The Forum, London, UK, 14 December, 2010)
Steve Howe – Guitars, Background Vocals
Geoffrey Downes – Keyboards, Background Vocals
Carl Palmer – Drums
John Wetton – Lead Vocals, Bass
Record Label: BMG
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 26th November 2021
– The Reunion Albums, 2007-2012 (2021)
– Gravitas (2014)
– XXX (2012)
– Omega (2010)
– Phoenix (2008)
– Gold (2005)
– Silent Nation (2004)
– Heat of the Moment 1982-1990: The Very Best of Asia (2000)
– Aura (2000)
– Anthology (1997)
– Arena (1996)
– Archiva 1 & 2 (1996)
– Aria (1994)
– Aqua (1992)
– Then & Now (1990)
– Astra (1985)
– Alpha (1983)
– Asia (1982)
– Official Live Bootlegs, Volume 1 (2021)
– Resonance (2012)
– The Omega Tour Live (2011)
– Spirits in the Night (2010)
– Asia at High Voltage 2010 (2010)
– Fantasia Live in Tokyo (2007)
– Live In Moscow (1990)