Asia

20th Century Masters - The DVD Collection: The Best of Asia

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When Asia's mesmerizing self-titled debut album was released in 1982, it was an instant smash. What surprised naysayers was the fact that Asia was a bigger commercial hit than any album its members -- vocalist/bass guitarist John Wetton (ex-UK, ex-King Crimson), guitarist Steve Howe (ex-Yes), keyboardist Geoff Downes (ex-Buggles, ex-Yes), and drummer Carl Palmer (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer) -- had recorded with their previous bands. Holier-than-thou critics who despised these earlier bands no doubt felt compelled to blanch at Asia's ascent. The fledgling MTV latched on to the quartet's videos and five of them from Asia and Alpha (the only two albums recorded by the original lineup) are compiled on 20th Century Masters - The DVD Collection: The Best of Asia. "Heat of the Moment" is notable for its dizzying images rapidly scrolling horizontally on miniature screens. Simple shots of lip-synced soundstage performance footage is interspersed with frequently surreal images. "Only Time Will Tell," directed by Godley & Creme, is another oddly conceived video. A young female gymnast executes various routines in a white room for no apparent reason; the band's lip-synced performances are interesting but the members appear on monitors, diminishing the effect. Wetton, Howe, Downes, and Palmer don't appear at all on the antiwar "Wildest Dreams," which is loaded with footage of wars, soldiers, riots, and explosions. "Don't Cry" is full of jungle and desert scenes; mysterious, beautiful women attack the unsuspecting bandmembers. The most successful video in terms of dramatic ambition is "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes." Asia is depicted playing in a studio as if scoring a French film. This film-within-a-video appears to be about a couple with a young daughter and the woman is cheating on the man. It is strongly implied that the daughter commits suicide, but the last shot shows her entering the studio and smiling at Wetton. Very strange indeed.

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