Asia: John Wetton (vocals, bass); Mandy Meyer (guitar); Geoff Downes (keyboards); Carl Palmer (drums).
Released in 1985, Astra is Asia's third studio album and first without guitarist Steve Howe. While somewhat unfairly regarded in comparison to Asia's first two albums, Astra is nonetheless a solid prog rock outing that finds bassist/vocalist John Wetton, keyboardist Geoff Downes, drummer Carl Palmer, and replacement guitarist, Krokus' Mandy Meyer, delivering a set of melodic and driving rock anthems. Admittedly, Astra came on the heels of a tumultuous period for the band that found Wetton unceremoniously booted and replaced by ELP singer Greg Lake right before the highly publicized 1983 live televised concert event Asia in Asia. By 1984, Wetton had been reinstated, but tensions remained and Howe eventually left the band early in the recording process for Astra. Featuring a slightly more arena rock and pop-metal sound, Astra featured two Top Ten singles in the epic "Go" and the dramatic "Too Late." Elsewhere, there was a handful of similarly radio-ready cuts, including the sparkling George Harrison-sounding "Hard On Me," the '50s-influenced synth balladry of "Wishing," and the grand and symphonic rock theatrics of the very Queen-esque "Rock and Roll Dream." Certainly, while Asia is at its best with the original lineup, Astra is a truly underrated '80s rock album and a must-hear for fans. ~ Matt Collar