(All Album Reviews by wetton_for_president)
After the worldwide success of their debut (9 million copies sold!), Asia was forced to put out, in a very quick time, a follow-up album that should have equalized the same sales. Due to this kind of pressure from outside and to the increasing divergences between Wetton and Howe from the inside, the work on Alpha was really tormented.
Wetton and Downes soon took the leadership of the band and Howe was demoted as a mere performer of the guitar parts: that means that the style of Asia became more keyboards & vocals oriented than in the past. If the "artistic" departure of Howe is, without a doubt, a negative fact, on the other side Alpha has an impact and an intensity (provided by the strong collaboration of Wetton and Downes) that will be never reached in the future of the band.
The sound is really powerful, sometimes even "pomp", but never too redundant. All the songs are based on strong melodies and the vocals by Wetton have a clear, dominant role. Geoff Downes plays his best: he's not a virtuoso, but assures plenty of magniloquent orchestrations and effective solos.
The songwriting is solid and well-balanced, even if there are some tracks to point out: the wonderful ballad "The smile has left your yes" (my favourite song from the 80’s!), the hit-single "Don't Cry", and again, the symphomic "Open your eyes", the aggressive "The heat goes on" with a splendid Hammond solo by Downes. The only song "out of the context" is "Midnight sun", an unconventional ballad where Carl Palmer plays an odd rhythm on his drums.
Needless to say that, unfortunately, the critics destroyed the album (easy to foresee...) and it didn't sell as much as its predecessor did (mission impossible...!) but overall Alpha still stands today as a very good symphonic pop-rock album, surely much better than the 99% of all the music made in the 80’s.