Friday, January 31, 1992

Asia returned with Aqua

Jan. 1992: Aqua: Asia
First posted 4/19/2008; updated 9/8/2020.

Aqua

Asia


Released: January 1992


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Aqua, Pt. 1
  2. Who Will Stop the Rain? (8/92, --)
  3. Back in Town
  4. Love Under Fire
  5. Someday
  6. Little Rich Boy
  7. The Voice of Reason
  8. Lay Down Your Arms
  9. Crime of the Heart
  10. A Far Cry
  11. Don’t Call Me
  12. Heaven on Earth
  13. Aqua, Pt. 2


The Players:

  • Geoff Downes (keyboards)
  • Steve Howe (guitar – guest appearance only)
  • Carl Palmer (drums)
  • John Payne (vocals/ bass)
  • Al Pitrelli (guitar)

Rating:

2.810 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings)

About the Album:

When Asia forged a new pop-meets-prog-rock format in 1982 with their self-titled debut, detractors had plenty to complain about. How could a supergroup with the pedigrees the likes of Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, John Wetton, and Geoff Downes reduce themselves to such simple music? The record-buying public, however, lapped it up, making it Billboard magazine’s album of the year.

After a top-ten platinum follow-up, Asia quickly fell off the radar. By 1985’s Astra, guitarist Steve Howe had left the band. Wetton would leave soon after the album’s release. Nothing much was heard of the band for another five years, when a tour (with Pat Thrall replacing Howe) and a greatest-hits package would garner the band a bit of attention, enough attention, in fact, to warrant the band’s return to the studio for a full-fledged release.

Well, not exactly the same band. 1992’s “Aqua found the band infused with new energy, represented by a younger generation of arena rockers in bassist/ vocalist John Payne and guitarist Al Pitrelli,” AMG “who had recently worked with Alice Cooper.” AMG “Although Payne doesn’t invite comparison to John Wetton or Greg Lake (his voice tends to get rougher as it gets louder), he gets the job done and turns out to be a pretty good songwriter.” AMG

As for guitar, Steve Howe guests on the album, but most of the guitar work fell to Pitrelli. He “knows his rock guitar; he’s no replacement for Steve Howe, but he doesn’t have to be.” AMG

“Geoff Downes (who continues to write much of the material) keeps the music punchy and professional; gone are the dated synthesizers of the ‘80s, replaced by cutting-edge keyboards and savvy production. The opening and closing instrumentals, Aqua I and Aqua II, show just how far Downes had come since Astra.” AMG

“The rest of the songs are pretty much of a piece; written with outside collaborators in many cases, they tend to be either moody ballads or hard-driving numbers about love and war (some things never change). Who Will Stop the Rain? was chosen as the single; it didn’t chart…but it’s as good a track as you’ll find here.” AMG That song and the equally punchy Lay Down Your Arms should have found homes at album-oriented rock stations.

Heaven on Earth “apparently tested as the second single, is another standout track, shifting from a ballad to an all-out rocker that sounds like Yes’ music from the ‘90s. Someday and The Voice of Reason are other tracks that represent the album well.” AMG

Still, there is some difference of opinion about how well the album should be regarded. According to critics ratings gathered by the DMDB, this is the most critically panned album of Asia’s career; note the 2 ½ star rating. On the flip side, All Music Guide’s Dave Connolly sees says the album “avoids sounding sappy or self-pitying, two adjectives that would describe Alpha or Astra.” AMG He goes so far as to say that “Asia finally produced a suitable follow-up to their first album.” AMG The DMDB respectfully disagrees. After jettisoning John Wetton, pulling only guest appearances from Steve Howe, and relegating drummer Carl Palmer to pretty much the role of session musician, you can’t possibly have an album the compares to its three predecessors.

Regardless of critical acclaim or lack thereof, “after ten years and two label changes…few fans remained in the seats to hear” AMG Aqua. The irony is that the “amalgam of arena rock and hair metal” AMG might have found more of an audience if marketed as a new band instead of the has-been Asia.


Notes: The song “Obsession” was added to later editions as a bonus track.

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Related DMDB Page(s):

Monday, January 6, 1992

Tori Amos released Little Earthquakes

First posted 3/11/2011; updated 10/4/2020.

Little Earthquakes

Tori Amos


Buy Here:


Released: January 6, 1992


Peak: 54 US, 14 UK, 49 CN, 14 AU


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.1 UK, 2.26 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: adult alternative singer/songwriter


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Crucify [4:58] (5/12/92, 52 CB, 22 MR, 15 UK, 73 CN, 83 AU)
  2. Girl [4:06]
  3. Silent All These Years [4:10] (10/21/91, 65 US, 26 A40, 26 UK, 27 AR)
  4. Precious Things [4:26]
  5. Winter [5:40] (3/9/92, 25 UK, 49 AU)
  6. Happy Phantom [3:12]
  7. China [4:58] (1/20/92, 51 UK)
  8. Leather [3:12]
  9. Mother [6:59]
  10. Tear in Your Hand [4:38]
  11. Me and a Gun [3:44]
  12. Little Earthquakes [6:51]

All songs written by Tori Amos.


Total Running Time: 57:11

Rating:

4.477 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings)


Quotable: “The most accessible work in Amos’ catalog…also the most influential and rewarding.” – Steve Huey, All Music Guide


Awards:

About the Album:

“With her haunting solo debut Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos carved the template for the female singer/songwriter movement of the ‘90s.” SH As both a classically trained pianist and a singer with “the attitude of an alternative rocker,” JD she was “a sometimes spacey, new-age chanteuse with a flair for cynical satire, and a raging punk who could also play the flighty faerie princess.” JD Her “delicate, prog rock piano work and confessional, poetically quirky lyrics invited close emotional connection” SH and “stressed emotion over technique.” JD.

“As the disc’s ‘Tori-in-a-box’ cover art evocatively illustrated, Amos would never be an artist who could be pigeonholed, stereotyped or walled in in any way. She proudly flaunted the many conflicting sides of her artistic persona, leaving listeners to sort out what it all means.” JD

“Amos grew up in Baltimore, the outspoken daughter of a Scottish Methodist preacher and a mother who was part Cherokee. She was a child prodigy on the piano, entered the Peabody Institute at age 5 and was expelled at 11. In the late ‘80s, she fronted a pop-metal band called Y Kant Tori Read. The group released one album that flopped, prompting Amos to move to England in 1990. There, she reinvented herself as a solo artist and began recording her debut, drawing inspiration from a number of heroines ranging from Kate Bush to Patti Smith.” JD

“Working on several tracks with producer and then-boyfriend Eric Rosse, Amos kept the sound spare but tuneful, mostly focusing on her fluid piano playing and soaring vocals. Like Leonard Cohen before her, she proved that these two simple sonic elements can pack as powerful a wallop as Nirvana’s crushing guitar, bass and drums. (Shortly after the album’s release, she paid homage to the Seattle trio with her own striking cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ which none other than Kurt Cobain hailed for its creative reimagining of his song).” JD

“But what really elevated Little Earthquakes from similarly minimalist singer-songwriter, adult-alternative fare was its songs' emotional content.” JD Its “intimacy is uncompromising, intense, and often far from comforting” SH as “Amos tackles hot-button topics such as gender stereotyping, religious conservatism, male hegemony and rape.” JD Her “musings…were just as likely to encompass rage, sarcasm, and defiant independence as pain or tenderness” SH and she did so “in a frank, unflinching, and alternately poignant and heartbreakingly funny manner;” JD “sometimes, it all happened in the same song.” SH

“The apex of that intimacy is the harrowing Me and a Gun;” SH it is “the album’s most striking track, and the one most indicative of the artist's honest-at-all-costs approach.” JD “Amos strips away all the music, save for her own voice, and confronts the listener with the story of her own real-life rape; the free-associative lyrics come off as a heart-wrenching attempt to block out the ordeal.” SH (‘Me and a gun/And a man/On my back/But I haven't seen Barbados/So I must get out of this’).

Crucify is a brutal look in the mirror of self-examination (‘Every finger in the room is pointing at me/I wanna spit in their faces.../Why do we crucify ourselves/Every day I crucify myself’). Girl chronicles the never-ending search for a strong feminine identity (‘She’s been everybody else’s girl/Maybe someday she’ll be her own’).” JD

Little Earthquakes isn’t always so stomach-churning, but it never seems less than deeply cathartic; it’s the sound of a young woman (like the protagonist of Silent All These Years) finally learning to use her own voice – sort of the musical equivalent of Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia.” SH That song “is a furious protest against an unnamed man (her father? a lover?) who has kept her down for far too long (‘Well, I love the way we communicate/Your eyes focus on my funny lip shape/Let's hear what you think of me now but baby don’t look up/The sky is falling’).” JD

“That’s why Amos draws strength from her relentless vulnerability, and that’s why the constantly shifting emotions of the material never seem illogical – Amos simply delights in the frankness of her own responses, whatever they might be.” SH “Like a great, soulful blues artist, Amos finds catharsis from personal pain in her music. But like the best rock ‘n’ rollers (Cobain among them), she entertains, inspires and energizes while she’s doing it. And the impact of her songs is indeed like the ‘little earthquakes’ referenced in the title.” JD

“Though her subsequent albums were often very strong, Amos would never bare her soul quite so directly (or comprehensibly) as she did here, nor with such consistently focused results. Little Earthquakes is the most accessible work in Amos’ catalog, and it’s also the most influential and rewarding.” SH


Notes: A 2015 deluxe edition added a second disc with eighteen B-sides and live cuts.

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Related DMDB Link(s):

Saturday, January 4, 1992

1/4/1992: U2 charted with “One”

First posted 12/29/2019.

One

U2

Writer(s): Bono/U2 (see lyrics here)


Released: February 24, 1992


First Charted: January 4, 1992


Peak: 10 US, 3 CB, 2 RR, 24 AC, 12 AR, 11 MR, 7 UK, 14 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.36 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 86.0


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

Inspired by the fall of the Berlin wall, U2 went to Germany to record their album Achtung Baby. It has been speculated that the song “One” is about the reunification of the country SF while it is also theorized that the song is about the reunification of the group itself. They bickered over the direction over their sound and even broke up temporarily before achieving a breakthrough with “One.” WK The Edge, the band’s guitarist, said, “It was a pivotal song in the recording of the album, the first breakthrough in what was an extremely difficult set of sessions.” SF

U2’s lead singer, Bono, was initially vague about the song’s theme, but did say in the book U2 by U2 that the song “is not about oneness; it’s about difference.” SF Prompted by a number of fans who told the band they played the song at their weddings, Bono said, “Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!” WK In fact, Bono may have been writing about the Edge’s problems with his wife from whom he split soon after the recording sessions and/or the girl troubles his friend Guggi, an Irish painter, was experiencing at the time. SF The Edge said the song was “a bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty stuff” SF but that it’s also about the “privilege to carry one another. It puts everything in perspective and introduces the idea of grace.” SF

In a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone, Bono said the song was “about someone I knew who was coming out and was afraid to tell his father.” SF The proceeds from the single were donated to AIDS research. American artist David Wojnarowicz, whose work created controversy for its uncompromising depictions of homosexuality and his own infection by the H.I.V. virus, created the artwork for the single. The liner notes described the depiction of how native Americans hunted buffalo by running them off cliffs as representative of how we are “pushed into the unknown by forces we cannot control or even understand.” WK One of the three videos done for the song focuses on buffalo running in a field.

Mary J. Blige, Adam Lambert, and the Glee Cast have all charted with versions of the song. Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, and Usher have also recorded it. Half of the band – Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen – joined with R.E.M. members Michael Stipe and Mike Mills to perform the song at the 1993 inaugural ball for Bill Clinton.

In 1992, readers of Rolling Stone voted “One” the best single of the year. In a 2007 pool done by the Irish radio station Today FM, the song was voted the best Irish single ever. SF In 2003, it was voted the best song EVER by Q Magazine. SF More specifically, in a 2006 VH1 poll, the line “one life, with each other/ Sisters, brothers” was voted the UK’s favorite song lyric. SF


Resources and Related Links:

Awards: