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Asia Minor — Crossing the Line
(AMS AMS331, 1979/2022, CD / LP / DL)

Crossing the Line Cover art

Hailing from the same year and country as my previous selection, Asia Minor was actually formed by two young Turkish men in Paris, and despite their love for the English symphonic and progressive bands, still managed to bring an Middle-Eastern touch to the writing. Like a lot of flute-led rock bands, their sound was superficially similar to and likely inspired by Jethro Tull's, except the melodies were a lot more romantic, angular, and mystical. The young quartet were brimming with energy on their debut and their ambition was always just a touch greater than their growing talent, always a good recipe for this style of music. Their debut album matches some intense, high-flight jamming with more mournful ballad-like pieces and the sheer passion for what this young band was doing really sold it. The guitar playing is quite versatile from the more Crimsonesque picked chords to what was almost like a 60s fuzz tone in the soloing. One can only imagine what it must have been like to see this group at the time in some small audience, young, vigorous, and completely against all odds for the time period.

by Mike McLatchey, Published 2017-02-23

The AMS label has been working its way through its extensive catalog of classic albums and reviving for a modern audience, often remastered for better sound. Asia Minor’s Crossing the Line is a particularly welcome release. The Turkish-French band put out their debut album in 1979 on the relatively obscure W.A.M. label, and Musea reissued it in the late 80s. Since then it’s been generally available, but this new AMS edition cleans up the sound, making it clear that these guys knew what they were doing right from the start. There are some gentle passages for flute and atmospheric guitar, but it’s the energetic instrumental passages that really stand out. The group was a trio, with guitar and bass duties shared by Setrak Bakirel and Eril Tekeli plus drums and percussion from Lionel Beltrami; Bakirel handled the vocals and Tekeli the flute, and guest Nick Vicente played keyboards. While Asia Minor certainly had their own sound, if I had to make a comparison for unfamiliar listeners, it would probably be Camel from around the time of Moonmadness, although Asia Minor has a big infusion of energetic jazz-rock that really sets them apart. (Or you could just go to the Bandcamp page linked below and hear for yourself.) One of the enduring impressions of Crossing the Line is that Beltrami was a kick-ass drummer, and his imaginative propulsion elevates the music to classic level. The lyrics are split between Turkish and English, and the vocals are pleasant enough — but it’s the instrumental sections that cement the album’s status. This album is a sure winner, and the recent remastering sounds amazing. This is surely one of the highlights of 1979.

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-07-15

Filed under: Reissues, 2022 releases, 1979 recordings

Related artist(s): Asia Minor

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