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agentarmstrong

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Reply with quote  #1 
Today I realized that this week marks the one year anniversary of the release of the GRAVITAS album. Unbelievable! It really doesn't feel like it has been that long already, does it?

The build-up, the studio tweets and photos, the music video on USA Today, the album hitting record stores (and mailboxes), and finally the WORLD TOUR.

Since March 25th marked the anniversary yesterday, it seems like a good time to reflect on the newest album from John and his band, and see how the songs hold up for us with a year's worth of life lived around them...

- Douglas
/AgentA\

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agentarmstrong

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Reply with quote  #2 
I'll offer my own experience. Initially, I was expecting a much harder sound from the overall album. I have an open mind, of course - but comments from Carl and John seemed to point to a less commercial sound, and perhaps a more "AOR rock radio" type of feel based on Sam Coulson's contributions to the new song cycle.

When I first saw the music video debut for "VALKYRIE", I was completely, TOTALLY blown away. All John's gushing about cranking this song loud was justified. "Atypical" of an /ASIA\ chorus - yet impossible to deny its impact. This song remains the chorus that my teenage daughters like to sing (unprompted) the most - and "The Closer I Get To You (Acoustic)" is a solid 2nd.

The album, as I listened upon release day in my car (leaving the record store), marked the first time I "didn't know what to think" (upon hearing a brand new /ASIA\ album). Not BAD, mind you (not at all!) - just not a "heavy listening experience" in the vein of hard rock (as I think I expected).

I needed a week or so to "live" with these songs, to formulate a real impression (beyond my "harder rock" expectations)... 52 weeks later, I still keep the CD up front in my car nearly constantly. I LOVE this album... and once it "connects, it never stops revealing its beauty and power and lyrical pleasures to me as a listener. I actually rate this higher than "X X X" and PHOENIX for me today - with my beloved OMEGA still just a few steps ahead. GRAVITAS may be the "most John Wetton" /ASIA\ album I've ever heard. It is so mature, it is so full of instrumental (progressive! And classical!) subtlety, that for whatever fears I felt in the initial wake of the great Steve Howe's departure - Sam Coulson's irresistibly tasteful guitar parts MORE than made up for.

One year later, I realize that /ASIA\ didn't *need* to make an album that is "better" than the other reunion-era SH albums - they sought to deliver an album with their new guitarist that was FRESH, and nearly beyond needless comparisons. And on that point, John & Geoff (with Carl and Sam) delivered. The TOUR was a shot of adrenaline for the fans, too. Beverly Hills blew my MIND!! The band looks so genuinely "happy together" onstage, that the reinvigorated chemistry really shined in the performances.

RELEASE DAY - I gave this /ASIA\ album a 6.5 out of 10.

ONE YEAR LATER - Today, I give GRAVITAS a 9.25 out of 10.0. I dont think it works as well piece-by-piece... you have to enjoy the full album TOGETHER, on repeat, to reap the patient reward.

I "pray" Frontiers gives /ASIA\ a green-light for (at least!) one more studio project. But if GRAVITAS was the "end", I would only feel gratitude and joy for the 4 great albums we have been given since 2006's XXV Tour.



My personal song-for-song review of GRAVITAS:

1- "VALKYRIE" - Who needs "hard" rock. This is "EPIC" ROCK... the Beethovens and Holsts of Europe's past would be proud. Moves the foot hard against the floor in time... but fills the head and heart with sublime pleasure. (10.0 out of 10.0)

2- "GRAVITAS" - Another winner. Fans who like rock radio-ready choruses layered with Brian Wilson's "smile" of inspiration will like this a lot! (8.25 out of 10)

3- "THE CLOSER I GET TO YOU" - I bought my first Joni Mitchell album last year (LADIES OF THE CANYON) after all John's talk of her meaning to him. Here - I really get that. This song is a sweater that you just cannot let go of (esp. that acoustic version!!) - warm, irreplacable. (9.25 out of 10.0)

4- "NYCTOPHOBIA" - still weird for me, and I can't say why! I like the "movement" that drives the song - its just not my favorite here, that's all. (4.75 out of 10).

5- "RUSSIAN DOLLS" - FANTASTIC!! What a surprise. It has such a rich, evocative "feel" from beginning to end. From the sound of the train's departure at the start to the end, it just cries out "John! John! John!" from start to finish. Every note and vocal is essential, gorgeous, nothing is disposable. And a bass solo from the Zon-master (!) - what have we done to deserve all this greatness!!! Chilly, European, romantic, unforgettable - I love this song so much, I named my "L.A." GRAVITAS show at the Saban Theater for it). A masterwork. (10.0 out of 10)

6- "HEAVEN HELP ME NOW" - Clearly the "future" of /ASIA\. Deeply moving orchestral power, meets the talents of progressive rock's finest. For those fans (like me) who asked for more "progressive" music from /ASIA\, this is where you'll find it. Yet its not a "backwards" glance at past prog glories at all - "Heaven Help Me Now" paves the bricks for prog's future in a real songwriter's hands. A great, big new sound for /ASIA\! Love it!! (9.50 out of 10)

7- "I WOULD DIE FOR YOU" - I can't believe how GOOD this unearthed 80s Wetton / Downes song sounds re-done. THIS is a no-brainer single for Top 40 and AOR rock radio in a better radio climate... I LOVE the chorus!!! SO good! What a hook! Mike Stone would have loved this one. (10.0 out of 10)

8- "JOE DIMAGGIO'S GLOVE" - A slow-grower for me. I think John took a creative leap with this one... I honestly did not like this for awhile... but after a few months, in the background, it grew on me. My wife really likes it, so maybe Joe was pitching this more her way in the first place LOL. (5 out of 10)

9- "TILL WE MEET AGAIN" - God, I LOVE songs like this from /ASIA\! "Till We Meet Again" is the kind of brotherly uplift I felt from that 1st /ASIA\ album, so long ago in 1982 and for many years after... this NEW song takes me back to that positive place, that only John & Geoff can take you. I raise my glass to the future of John, Geoff, Carl & Sam with this rousing anthem! What a JOY to listen to... (10.0 out of 10)


CODA...

GRAVITAS, as an /ASIA\ album, has surpassed my lofty expectations. As the great songs have improved with subsequent listens, becoming part of my family's and my own consciousness for one year now, I must say I love it MORE even still. (9.25 out of 10)

Thank you, John. Your hard work ethic is greatly enjoyed and appreciated, sir!

- Douglas
/AgentA\


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GattoNero

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Reply with quote  #3 
Well done Armstrong!!
This is my Gravitas interpretation one yaer later: Asia minus Paxton minus Steve Howe could have been iCon. But the "magic couple" decided to change the general atmosphere of the songs from romantic (iCon) to classical (Gravitas). The result is that the new record sounds different from everything has been done before in their discography.
Eventually I think Omega and XXX are always one step ahead, because they are more sharp in the rock tracks, and more dramatic in the slow ones, they sound a little more focused (to me).
But maybe it's just an impression or the fruit of my ill fantasy.

Up the Asia forever!
Let's spread the word guys!
madgoose6

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Reply with quote  #4 
Good review AA.   A year later I still feel the same way about Gravitas.  If I was putting together an Asia's greatest hits of 10 songs there isn't one on the album that I feel makes it.  That being said as a full album I like it better than Astra, Phoenix and Omega.  It is one of those albums if you have a long drive or I am working on a design at my desk I would put on and enjoy from end to end. 

It is a nice bridge.  It sounds like Asia but it is a fresh sound and it is different.  Then again Asia has never been ACDC where every song and style was very similar. 

The only two real disappointments is it feels a song or two short for an album and Sam seems to be restrained.

I hope it did well enough and the guys are up for another one..... or two, three, etc.....  

I would like to see what they could do now that Sam has settled in. 
victor1970

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Posts: 28
Reply with quote  #5 
Great review. Pretty much sums up how I feel too. After reading your review I'm going to have to give DiMaggio's glove another try. One year later, Valkyrie is still among my favorite Asia songs and just one of my favorite songs period.
johnwettonfan

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Reply with quote  #6 
For me, I give Joe DiMaggio's Glove a 9 of 10.  I love this song.
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GattoNero

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Reply with quote  #7 
Aso for me, Joe Di Maggio's Glove is the best ballad of Gravitas, really dreamy.
emwhy

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Reply with quote  #8 
For personal reasons I will put Joe Di MAggio's Glove at the top of my ASIA list. A family member was waiting for a follow-up call on a very important medical test. We're grateful that the results came back negative. When she called to give me the news, Joe Di Maggio's Glove was playing on my car CD player. I will never forget that moment, or the song.
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