PART ONE - ASIA
2022 is a double anniversary for the group Asia. Forty years ago in 1982, Asia debuted with their self-titled album with Steve Howe from Yes on guitar, Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer on drums, Geoff Downes from The Buggles and Yes on keyboards, and John Wetton from the band U.K. on lead vocals and bass. The first single “Heat of the Moment” which included the line, “Now you find yourself in ’82,” was also their highest charting hit. Its flip side, “Ride Easy,” was not included on the vinyl album, but fans have stated that it certainly was up to the standards of the rest of the album.
Flip side: Ride Easy
A side: Heat of the Moment
Billboard Top 100 debut: April 17, 1982
Peak position: No. 4
Ten years after Asia’s debut, personnel changes had happened, and John Payne became the new lead vocalist and bassist for the group for several albums beginning with the 1992 album Aqua. The catchy single “Who Will Stop the Rain?” was released in the U.K. with the beautiful instrumental opener “Aqua Part 1” as its flip side.
Flip side: Aqua Part 1
A side: Who Will Stop the Rain?
U.K. debut: 1992
Musidisc UK 109527
Today there are two versions of Asia. One features Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes, called Asia. The other group is called Asia Featuring John Payne, who will be on the double anniversary tour, spotlighting 1982’s Asia debut album and 1992’s Aqua album, John Payne’s debut with the group. The ninety-minute show will include “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Sole Survivor,” “Time Again,” “Who Will Stop the Rain?” and more. John Payne stated, “This is going to be very nostalgic for me, I haven’t played some of these songs in thirty years and I’m extremely excited to do this tour with our band. We want the shows to sound as close to the original recordings as possible.”
PART TWO – RACHEL FLOWERS
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on Bigger on the Inside. Before we discuss your new album, please tell me about opening for Asia Featuring John Payne last November.
RACHEL FLOWERS: It was fun! It was just me and a grand piano, doing stripped down versions of my songs and I ended my set with the song “With You,” the closing track from Bigger on the Inside, about my close relationship with my mom. Asia’s songs have strong, singable choruses, and I think I matched that style by ending with “With You.”
GM: What Asia song jumped out at you that night?
RF: “Time Again” got my attention with the shuffle rhythm on the drums, similar to how Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed “Fanfare for the Common Man.” There’s a little break where the guitar and piano go back and forth, which is very cool. John was definitely cool and shared great stories about working with Geoff Downes and Greg Lake.
GM: I certainly hear the ELP influence in your music with you being the Keith Emerson of your generation. At age 28 you have accomplished a lot with your documentary Hearing is Believing, three albums and an EP. Your new album has a great variety of styles and instruments that you play and sample. To get this all in one place is amazing. I shared the lyrics to “This Is the Way I Am” with my daughter Brianna. She said that it was incredibly powerful, got her misty eyed, and loved the line beginning with the “epic fail.”
RF: My mom wrote those lyrics. The “epic fail” line begins the musical power, channeling Deep Purple’s Jon Lord.
JEANIE FLOWERS: The lyrics came from things Rachel told be about her experiences being a blind student at her school.
RF: They dismissed creative expression at public schools, where my aides and teachers would bully me and not take my music career seriously.
JF: When Rachel was in elementary school, they were very dismissive about her spending weekends at the music conservatory and felt that she should be going to braille institute youth activities instead, which she wasn’t interested in. She was very involved with her music classes. However, when there was a talent show, there were other teachers always encouraging her to be part of it, playing piano. They would ask her if she would play Debussy and said that it would be the only time these kids would hear classical music. So those teachers were encouraging her, but those directly involved in her education told her that music was just a hobby. I found out years later that they would say things that they thought were behind her back, which were very hurtful and mean. She was very shy. The way that I found out is that I would ask Rachel something and she wouldn’t answer me. I told her that even if she doesn’t know, please say, “I don’t know.” She quietly said, “I don’t know.” I asked why that was so hard for her. She said, “In school I was taught to never say ‘I don’t know’ because that wasn’t an answer.”
RF: That was before I listened to George Harrison singing “Something” on The Beatles’ Abbey Road, “You’re asking me will my love grow. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
GM: Ah. That is such a wonderful part of “Something.” I was listening to Engelbert Humperdinck’s version of that song recently and that section just jumped out at me. You mentioned classical music. Well, I was introduced to Pictures at an Exhibition through Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1972 album, which is one of my all-time favorite live albums. My wife Donna and I had two songs from Pictures at an Exhibition played at our wedding at the end of that decade.
RF: I love that album, “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Tocatta” and all that cool classical rock blend.
GM: I was also reminded of Keith Emerson’s soundtrack work from one of Donna’s favorite films, Sylvester Stallone’s Nighthawks from 1981, when I was listening to "This Is the Way I Am.”
RF: I was thrilled to meet Keith Emerson and Greg Lake on different occasions. I played with Greg once at a soundcheck on my Nord keyboard. I am certainly influenced by ELP and Ambrosia. When I was little, my mom had Ambrosia’s Anthology and I loved their harmonies on songs like “Biggest Part of Me,” and then started researching their early work with more of a progressive rock sound. A couple of years ago I got to hear Tin Drum Music with Ambrosia’s drummer Burleigh Drummond and his family which is some pretty cool stuff.
GM: You certainly have progressive rock length songs on your album, with three songs being ten minutes or longer, beginning with “Take Me Away.” Brianna said, “It went from sounding like it belonged in Phantom of the Opera to smooth jazz to a fantasy adventure sound. I truly loved it! There is depth and complexity to Rachel’s songs that you don’t often get, like a Jim Steinman level.”
RF: Wow! Thank you. I love musicals, Les Misérables, West Side Story, and different versions of Jesus Christ Superstar. I think the original version of that one was quite jazzy, and the new John Legend version is more polished, so it is interesting to hear these different interpretations.
GM: You mentioned jazzy. Another one of your long songs, “Feel” is quite jazzy.
RF: Until I wrote the lyrics, I referred to it as the Frank Zappa inspired song.
GM: Frank Zappa is exactly what I thought of when I heard your guitarwork on “AB” until I learned that the title was for guitarist Adrian Belew’s inititals.
RF: I was at the progressive rock cruise, Cruise to the Edge, in 2019 and I got to hear Adrian Belew perform. Sometime after the show I was in the cabin, relaxing, and I had one of my machines with me and I immediately heard the start of “AB” in my head as a guitar track. On the album I used a small 24 fret Ibanez, reworked as a mini-Fender Stratocaster. On the cruise I played piano songs, opening for Yes and did a couple of shows in the atrium, too. I did the song “Rendezvous 6:02” with Michael Sadler on the cruise.
GM: That’s a beautiful song, which I learned on a John Wetton live album, where he did songs from his U.K. and Asia days. We had a Goldmine Giveaway on December 29, 2017, in memory of Keith Emerson and John Wetton, featuring the albums Emerson Plays Emerson and John’s double live Akustika/Akustika II. Michael Sadler has done some interesting work with orchestras over the years in addition to all his recordings with Canada’s Saga, known for the single “On the Loose.” There is one he did with The Frankfurt Rock Orchestra with the vocalists performing Moody Blues songs by Justin Hayward and Friends and Michael is one of the vocalists.
RF: Michael and I had a lot of fun. Our EP called 3 X 2 has us performing songs from his solo albums. He sent me some songs, which I listened to and recorded piano tracks. Michael did his vocals and I got to do background vocals on one song, which was pretty cool to be able to do.
GM: Another jazzy song is “The Darkness,” which is so powerful. There’s a melody in there reminding me of “Just the Two of Us” by saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. with Bill Withers.
RF: Interesting. That’s a cool song with a great saxophone solo by Grover Washington Jr. and also has a cool steel drum solo in the extended album version. I started “The Darkness” by creating orchestral sounds on my computer. I heard the middle section in a dream sometime earlier and it took me a while to figure out some lyric ideas. I was thinking of the bands Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard. I also listened to a lot of movies that experience dark places, like The Hunger Games series and some of my favorite Disney Pixar films, which helped create the atmosphere.
GM: “Too Much” is definitely progressive rock inspired and you hit some amazing high vocal notes.
RF: Thanks. I started taking vocal lessons in 2014 from Linda Ottsen and continued until the pandemic hit and Linda decided to retire. Her son is jazz guitarist Hans Ottsen, who I got to play with at a jam and I was doing some singing, but shy about it, because I would listen to all these powerhouse singers like Whitney Houston to Kelly Clarkson but then when I got into jazz singing like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, that just changed for me. I did classic warmup techniques and classic repertoire. Linda was a pretty cool teacher because she was about studying the classics and developing my singing. Whitney Houston’s voice was powerful in the upper register where I consider my voice to be a lighter, mellow voice. I ultimately learned that I didn’t have to belt out to be a singer and that it is OK to have a whispery tone.
GM: As much of a rock fan that I am, growing up in what is now considered the classic rock era, the first concert that my wife Donna and I went to when we were first dating in 1976 was Ella Fitzgerald with Joe Pass, Count Basie, and Joe Williams. I noticed what you said that she was not a belter, like Ann Wilson from Heart who was new on the radio that year, and Ella had this little girl voice. It was beautiful and amazing.
RF: She always had that childlike voice. I am having a blast listening to what recently came out, The Lost Berlin Tapes, recorded in 1962. Her dynamics are incredible, like the way she can swing when she is singing “Cry Me a River.” Lately I have also been listening to Dinah Washington who had more of a conversational approach and would pause in delivering a lyric so that you could really hear the words. The way that she enunciated was so clear and her vibrato was really cool.
GM: When people see you open for Asia Featuring John Payne, Yes and these other acts, is it generally mainly piano that you are playing?
RF: Yes, mainly piano. It is hard to channel my entire imaginary studio band, so it is piano and voice a lot of the time.
GM: On your album, I hear your piano, synthesizer and guitar. What else is rounding out the sound? I am not hearing your flute.
RF: Right, this one doesn’t have any of my flute, but my first two albums did. For the orchestral sections and drums I am using these incredible sample libraries. For drums there is an old program called Cakewalk SONAR, which is no longer called that, Session Drummer 3 and the Steven Slate drum library, although that library isn’t accessible for the blind, just like my orchestral libraries. I hope that will change one day. With each of my albums, listeners will hear a different side of me as I’m still growing. Thanks for having me in this interview. I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.
JF: Thank you and Goldmine so much for telling the people about Rachel’s music.
Australian singer-songwriter, guitarist, music journalist, podcast host and Goldmine contributor Joe Matera has released his book Backstage Pass. Matera’s experience as a guitarist and traveling musician brings a unique perspective as an interviewer of fellow musicians, building bonds and capturing deep and thorough quotes. He takes the reader backstage and on interviews where he highlights the wit of The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, the kindness of Queen’s Brian May and the humor of Yes’ Rick Wakeman. We learn who producer George Martin considers as his favorite guitarist. Matera shares stories of hanging out with more guitar heroes including Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. He brings us onstage where he opened for sold out shows for The Bay City Rollers and to radio interviews where he played guitar alongside Steve Harley, forging a friendship of trust and mutual admiration. Backstage Pass is an entertaining and well written glimpse into a part of the music world where fans would love to visit.
In the book, Matera describes his time with guitarist Steve Howe from Yes and Asia, “He gave me forty-five minutes of his time, and happily talked to me about Yes, Asia, his guitar playing and various other musical topics of interest. Being a guitarist myself, I was particularly interested in his influences. He affirmed that his all-time favorite guitarist was American finger picking country guitarist Chet Atkins. He also mentioned to me that one of the most influential tracks on his playing was ‘Classical Gas,’ an instrumental guitar piece by American guitarist Mason Williams that came out in 1968. Howe said, ‘When ‘Classical Gas’ came out I used to say ‘that was me’ because that was exactly what I was trying to do. I sat down and learned it because to me, that could have been written by me, if only I had written it. It was exactly the kind of guitar music I loved so much,’ which summed up Howe precisely to the type of guitarist he himself had become and was respected for. He also shared with me a story that involved ‘Classical Gas’ and the legendary British guitarist Eric Clapton. ‘I actually played that song for him one time’ he revealed. ‘It was back in the early 1970s when we shared a hotel together. He asked me if I could play ‘Classical Gas’ and, trying to impress him, I said ‘Yes.’ So, I sat there and played it for him. Once I finished, Eric turned to me and said, ‘That’s great!’”
Recently Matera interviewed The Korgis for Goldmine. In the U.S., The Korgis achieved one hit, the soothing “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime,” which reached No. 18 in 1980. The Korgis’ new album Kartoon World is filled with a combination of catchy pop-rock and beauty. “Bringing Back the Spirit of Love” recalls a 1970s post-Beatles sound. The up-tempo “Back in the Eighties” is filled with 1980s synthesizer sounds and references pop culture, songs and film. “Cartoon World” is equally nostalgic, reflecting on the 1970s. The 1980s sounding “Broken” is a beautiful ballad with a gentle opening piano, a driving bridge and a solid guitar break. The tender finale, “The Best Thing You Can Do Is to Love Someone” is delivered on acoustic guitar, like an anthemic prayer, recalling Extreme’s “More Than Words.”
Matera’s interview led to his collaboration with The Korgis on the new single “Always a Sunny Day.” The Korgis’ lead guitarist Al Steele told Goldmine, “The song is about the rich and poor divide.” The recording was done long distance with The Korgis in England and Matera in Australia. Matera said, “When I was a kid growing up in Australia, there’s no way I would have ever thought I’d be doing a collaboration with the people I grew up listening to.” “Always a Sunny Day” is a bright piece of pop-rock, with vocals shared by James Warren and Joe Matera, Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies, an outstanding guitar solo from Matera, arrangements recalling Eric Carmen’s 1970s classics, and strings sweetening the sounds in the final segments.
PART FOUR – JENN VIX feat. ALI SCORE from A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
In the early 1980s, the U.S. saw a flood of new British groups. In addition to Asia and The Korgis, there were A Flock of Seagulls, The Eurythmics and many others. A Flock of Seagulls had three Top 40 hits in the U.S. from 1982 through 1983 beginning with “I Ran (So Far Away),” which reached No. 9, followed by “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You).” The group was comprised of Mike Score on vocals and keyboards, his brother Ali Score on drums, Paul Reynolds on guitar and Frank Maudsley on bass. If you combine the steady drum sound of A Flock of Seagulls with the female vocal and electronic sounds of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees The Eurythmics, you get the new electropop single “You Are a Star” by Jenn Vix Feat. Ali Score, a solid follow-up to Jenn Vix’s 2021 “PTSD.”
Like The Korgis & Joe Matera’s collaboration “Always a Sunny Day,” Jenn Vix and Ali Score also recorded the single long distance during the pandemic. Vix told Goldmine, “Ali and I are both in the U.S. I am in Rhode Island and he now lives in Florida, like you. We connected through a mutual friend, and chatted on email, text, and on the phone, and then while I was down in Florida visiting a couple of friends, I stopped by to meet with him in person. I didn’t have a lot of time and had to head back to Rhode Island. I love their music, especially ‘I Ran (So Far Away).’ Ali recorded his part for ‘You Are a Star’ at Big Andy Studios in Ocala, Florida and I recorded my music at Villino in Newport, Rhode Island. I mixed it and produced it. It was mastered by in Edgewater, New Jersey.” Regarding the comparison to The Eurythmics Vix stated, “Thank you for the compliment! Annie Lennox is a stellar singer. I love her voice and the music of The Eurythmics! I would, of course, love to see them entered into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year! They were part of a major change in the way popular music sounded when they released their debut album. They are legends!”
“You Are a Star,” is a powerful song of encouragement, beginning with the line, “Made of stardust, you sparkle and shine.”
Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its seventh year