Album review: ASIA, JAH WOBBLE, STRAWBS, GONG (Access All Areas)

Asia - Access All Areas

Edsel Records [Release date 08.06.15]  CD/DVD

The latest batch of AAA releases run the full gamut from the melodic pop rock of Asia to the weird and wonderful meanderings of Daevid Allen’s Gong. All packages include a CD plus DVD of the performance and at a mid-price.

Do we really need another Asia live album with a setlist that invariably includes ‘Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘Sole Survivor’? The band inevitably focus on that multi-million selling debut and five tracks are included here along with two new songs (‘Prayin’ 4 A Miracle’ and ‘Days Like These’) from then current album ‘Then & Now’.  In fact the setlist pretty much follows this album in terms of the old and the new.

This TV gig from 1990 exposes a truism: that for television specials bands – by dictate or design – are going to rely heavily on a “greatest hits” set.  Perhaps the only point of difference here – apart from how young everyone looks – is the guitarist Pat Thrall who brings a sub-eighties metal vibe to the proceedings replacing Steve Howe who had dipped out in 1984.  ***1/2

Ex-Pistols bassist Jah Wobble (aka John Wardle) spent much of the eighties driving an Underground train in London.  By 1992, as this gig demonstrates, he’d swopped his dead man’s handle for something perhaps more stress-inducing, a show which featured exotic dancing by one Christina Amran.  The music is a strange psychedelic/reggae hybrid that – like Gong – is probably best savoured under the influence of something bong-shaped.  ***

The Strawbs - Access All Areas

The Strawbs always struck me as Lindisfarne-lite and I never warmed to their folk pop ditties.  There’s no denying they have a solid fanbase and again – on this outing in 1992 – the band stick with the familiar such as ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Part Of The Union’.   Whilst most of these AAA sets restore missing footage from either the original broadcast or subsequent VHS releases, this gig is missing a couple of tracks that appeared on an earlier (1993) version.  ***

This round of releases is rounded off with those spaced out journeymen Gong.  Perhaps this will have more poignancy value now given band leader Daevid Allen’s passing in March 2015 at the age of 77.

Gong veered from somewhat inaccessible density  to moments of infectious intensity.  It is easy to see how they influenced bands like Ozric Tentacles with a track like ‘Flying Teacup’ predicated on an incessant, hypnotic riff.  ***

As with the other albums in this series, extensive and illuminating liner notes help create an excellent audio-visual package, either to fill in the gaps in your collection or maybe even start a collection.

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

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