Erik NorlanderThe rock supergroup Asia can be seen as either having brought progressive rock ideas to the masses or as having bastardized the form. The real answer is probably a good deal of both.

The group, started in the early 1980s with a lineup of writer-performers who were not just stars but also were truly gifted musicians: John Wetton (vocals and bass guitar, formerly of King Crimson), Steve Howe (guitars, Yes), Geoff Downes (keyboards, the Buggles, Yes), and Carl Palmer (drums, percussion, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer). After a couple of decent albums with some big radio hits ("Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell," "Don’t Cry," "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," etc.), the group disbanded in 1985.

They reformed in 1990, however, with John Payne taking Wetton’s place, and has recorded sporadically since then and has toured extensively. Now the band has reformed again, with one of my favorite keyboardists replacing Downes: Erik Norlander of the Rocket Scientists.

Here’s the announcement from the Asia website:

John, Jay and Guthrie are pleased to officially announce that the band lineup has finally been completed with the addition of keyboard wizard par excellence Erik Norlander. Erik’s evocative synthesizer technique and style is reminiscent of the legendary Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Jon Lord while still creating a very unique musical voice of his own.

Erik has stayed active with his own solo releases and his Rocket Scientists project, and he also produces, performs and writes with his wife, Lana Lane, for her highly regarded solo albums.

Vocalist John Payne adds, "We know that the keyboard position is extremely critical to this band and therefore much time was invested to find the right person and all roads lead us to Erik."

The band has commenced recording the much-anticipated album `Architect of Time’ to be released in 2008.

Red Entertainment is currently booking worldwide tour dates.

For me this is news not because Asia is back at it again but because it will bring Erik Norlander to the attention of a much larger audience. I hope that it will boost sales of the Rocket Scientists releases and Norlander’s solo albums and those with his wife, vocalist Lana Lane.