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Album: Aura
Artist: Asia
2001 Recognition Records CDRECX501 (UK Digi-Pack), CDREC501 (UK regular)

Band members:
Geoff Downes: keyboards
John Payne: lead vocals (not 11), bass, guitar (not 2, 12-14)

Elliott Randall: guitars (9, 11)
Ian Crichton: guitars (4, 8, 12-14)
Steve Howe: guitars (4, 8)
Pat Thrall: guitars (8)
Guthrie Govan: guitars (1-3, 5-7, 9, 10)
Tony Levin: bass (3)
Vinny Colaiuta: drums (3, 4, 10)
Simon Phillips: drums (6, 8)
Michael Sturgis: drums (1, 5, 7, 9, 11)
Chris Slade: drums (2, 12-14)
Neil Lockwood: additional backing vocals
Gary Liederman: additional bass
David Grant's Gospel Choir: backing vocals (1, 3)
Luis Jardim: percussion [tambourine, cabasa, congas, daibouka, dunbec, bongos, go-go bells, shaker] (1, 3-6, 9, 11)

Produced by Simon Hanhart & Asia
Engineered by Simon Hanhart
Assistant engineer: Lawrence Williams
Additional engineers: Graham Stewart, Gerry Kitchingham
Executive producer: Andy Richmond
Cover Artwork: Roger Dean

1. Awake [Downes/Payne] (actual: 5:59; given: 6:08)
2. Wherever You Are [Andrew Gold/Graham Gouldman/Downes/Payne] (actual: 4:48; given: 5:14)
3. Ready to Go Home [Gold/Gouldman] (actual: 4:47; given: 4:50)
4. The Last Time [Downes/Payne] (actual: 4:58; given: 4:56)
5. Forgive Me [Jimmy Santis/Richard Tancredi/Downes/Payne] (actual: 5:23; given: 5:26)
6. Kings of the Day (Regis Diem) [Downes/Payne] (actual: 6:40; given: 6:51)
7. On the Coldest Day in Hell [Downes/Payne/Ben Woolfenden] (actual: 6:24; given: 6:25)
8. Free [Downes/Payne] (actual: 8:12; given: 8:51)
9. You're the Stranger [Downes/Payne] (actual: 5:46; given: 6:05)
10. The Longest Night [Downes/Payne/Woolfenden] (actual: 5:19; given: 5:28)
11. Aura [Downes/Payne/Randall] (actual: 4:43; given: 4:14)

Extra tracks:
12. Under the Gun [Downes/Payne] (actual: 4:48; given: 4:48)
13. Come Make My Day [Downes/Payne/Crichton] (actual: 5:00; given: 5:01)
14. Hands of Time [Downes/Payne] (actual: 6:30; given: 5:23)

The track times given on the release are completely wrong for reasons
which have not become apparent.

Tracks 11 is an instrumental. Tracks 12-14 were bonus tracks on the
Digi-Pack release only. A promo single was reported in the UK for track 2.

Graham Gouldman was one of the founders of 10cc and has been writing with
Andrew Gold for some years. They recorded a version of "Ready to Go Home" (with
Adrian Lee) for 10cc's 1995 album Mirror Mirror, which was released as
a single (AVEX CD8). The song was, however, first released by Mitch Malloy
(in a duet with Paul Carrack) for his solo 1994 album Ceilings & Walls
(RCA 07863 66369-2).

In the Japanese edition, guitar on track 9 is wrongly credited to Thrall and
not Govan. Andy Nye is thanked in the liner notes. He had been reported to
be helping on the album at one stage. pointed out that 'regis diem' translates, poorly,
as 'of the king, the day'. The correct translation of 'kings of the day'
would be 'reges diei'. The lyrics for track 1 are based on Omar Khayyam's
"The Rubaiyat" and seem to have been written mainly or solely by Payne.
Track 10 was inspired by Wilfred Owen's 1918 poem.

The album was released on various dates around the world in early 2000,
beginning with Japan (JVC/Victor, VICP-61250). Release elsewhere included
on: Thailand (Rock Records), Scandinavia (Playground Music).

After Arena, the permanent membership of Asia was back down to Downes and
Payne, but plans emerged in 1999 for a stable quartet of Downes, Payne,
Slade and Crichton (with Crichton simultaneously remaining a member of
Saga). Meanwhile, there was an attempt at an Asia reunion by Wetton and
Palmer. Downes initially agreed to the latter. Wetton says the door was
also open to Steve Howe, but the relationship between Howe and Wetton
was such that this was never a serious proposition and the guitar spot
was to be filled by David Kilminster. The Asia reunion had been principally
to tour, but there were reports of new material, although this seems to
have just been some songs Wetton brought to the band.

The Asia name was owned solely by Payne by now: Wetton, Howe and Palmer
had all disposed of their rights to it, until finally Downes sold the
name to Payne. The question of what was to happen to Payne dominated
the question of what would happen to the Asia reunion. For a while,
planning seemed to continue in parallel for both an Asia of Downes/Payne/Crichton/Slade
and one of Downes/Wetton/Palmer/Kilminster. Wetton wished to pay off
Payne, but Downes was committed to bringing Payne into the Wetton/Palmer
band. Meanwhile, it seems commercial interest in the Asia reunion was
less than hoped for. Eventually, Downes, unable to convince Wetton to
include Payne, backed out of the project. However, other work commitments
also killed plans for Crichton's and Slade's permanent involvement in
the Downes/Payne Asia. The three bonus tracks (12-14) on Aura represent
this quartet with Crichton/Slade.

Wetton/Palmer/Kilminster recruited John Young on keys to form Qango and
toured playing mainly old Asia material with some ELP, solo Wetton and
other pieces. A live album, Live in the Hood, was released in 2000, but
the band attracted little interest from promoters and was put on the back
burner that year. Kilminster and Young stayed together in a new band,

Downes and Payne continued working on Aura with an array of guest musicians,
including Crichton and Slade and others already known to the band (Howe,
Randall, Thrall, Phillips, Sturgis, Jardim), as well as some new faces,
including Tony Levin on Stick. Various other planned guest appearances
on the album could not be arranged in time, but there had been discussions
with Carl Palmer, Brian May (too busy working with boy band Five), Steve Lukather,
Steve Rothery and Steve Gadd. Guthrie Govan was brought in to fill in a few
guitar parts, but proved so popular with the band that he became the main
guitarist on the album.

There were a number of tracks recorded and not used on the album, including one
with Levin/Phillips.

The touring line up emerged as Downes, Payne, Slade and Govan. Songs played
at one gig or another on the first UK leg of a world tour were: "Awake",
"The Heat Goes On", "Wherever You Are", "Arena", "Go", "Forgive Me", "Ready
to Go Home", "Only Time will Tell", "Heat of the Moment", "Video Killed the
Radio Star" (Downes solo), "Sad Situation", "Military Man".

HP, with Ray Riethmeier. (8 Apr 01) Thanks to Dave Gallant for additional information.

Review: (***) A new sound for Asia. Very mellow. Atmospheric. Hypnotic in
places. The disc boasts a stellar cast of musicians, including longtime
Asia associates Michael Sturgis, Elliott Randall, Pat Thrall, and (most
significantly) Steve Howe. The album is worth having if only for "Free,"
but there is much more worth discovering upon multiple spins. Ray Riethmeier

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