Recognition Records / Universal
Produced by: Simon Hanhart

Released: OUT / Website
Closest Relative: Cornerstone, Dare
GENRE: Progressive AOR

  1. Awake
  2. Wherever You Are
  3. Ready To Come Home
  4. The Last Time
  5. Forgive Me
  6. Kings Of The Day
  7. On The Coldest Day In Hell
  8. Free
  9. You're A Stranger
  10. The Longest Night
  11. Aura

I was really looking forward to hearing the new Asia album, after their last one Arena left me a little disappointed and the one before that (Aria) left me wanting more.
It has been a few years since Arena and on Aura the guys have called in all the stops, with an impressive line up of talent involved.
In comes famed progressive producer Simon Hanhart, who does an OK job with the material presented, certainly not as sharp as some of his other production work.
The nucleus of the band - vocalist John Payne and keyboardist Geoff Downes are joined by some familiar names in Tony Levin on bass, Steve Howe, Elliot Randall, Pat Thrall and Ian Crichton on guitars and Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips and Michael Sturgis on drums.
You would think that with a guitar line up such as this, the album would be more dominated by some classic guitar riff work, but it isn't necessarily so.
The first four tracks are typical of recent era Asia - big, moody with an epic feel, with layers of rich keyboard and vocal textures, surrounded by the necessary accompanying instrumental support.
These tracks all have their necessary allotment of melodic hooks, plus a few chord changes and harmony vocals separating the chorus from the verse by the narrowest of margins.
Wherever You Are and Ready To Come Home offer the best examples of epic AOR balladry at it's best, with sweeping harmonies over a moody backdrop. Whenever You Are also features some tidy guitar work.
If you liked the moody and laid back Cornerstone release, and even the feel of the last Dare album, this compares favorably.
But the whole affair is surprisingly laid back, and after these first 4 tracks pass and with the exception of the good ballad On The Coldest Day In Hell, the rest of the album is a little uninspired and actually a little dull.
It just gets a little slow and repetitious and by the time the instrumental title track Aura passes, you will be well and truly ready for the album to finish.
Taken individually, there is probably little fault to find with each track. But collectively, there is little variation and distinction between them.
It is definitely an album for early morning or late night listening. I wouldn't take this out in the ca with me, for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.
BOTTOM LINE: In reality, if you take the line up of players on this album and add their collective past achievements together, you could not be blamed for expecting more. At least an album - style aside - with more life in it.
It unfortunately sounds flat and uninspired over several songs, with only a handful of tracks warranting repeat listens.
If soft and moody does it for you - this might. Good in parts, but as an overall addition to the excellent Asia legacy, it's a disappointing album.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Long time Asia fans and Geoff Downes die-hards. Some fans of the included guest musicians.

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