Being a huge ASIA fan I am well versed in the music and history of the band. Most of you who know me also know about my friendship with the late John Wetton. As a friend of John's, people always are shocked when I would tell them how much of a fan I was of the John Payne era of ASIA. With Payne at the mic, the band really stretched their horizons, became a bit heavier and created some of the best music in the band's entire career. Now John Payne and keyboardist Erik Norlander have teamed up to bring us their new band, Dukes Of The Orient and their self titled debut album from Frontiers Music SRL.
If you didn't already know this, Payne possesses one of the best voices in all of music! He has so much power, emotion and soul that it is a perfect match for the musical direction he and Norlander works in. The two previously played together in a version of ASIA and have reunited to continue the legacy of that amazing band, creating modern progressive music with hooks, melody and listenability.
Musically, DUKES OF THE ORIENT is the the album you would expect, combining the best elements of ASIA, UK, ELP but with a new twist to it. The music contained inside has a lot of variety; some straight ahead rockers, some progressive epics and everything in between. If you were or are a fan of ASIA, then you will love this release.
You want the big chorus? It's here! Swirling keyboards? Yup! Sensitive guitar? Got that too!!!!!
There are eight songs on the disc and picking favorites is tough because there is so much to love here. The song that starts it all off is Brother In Arms, a song that sounds like John Wetton singing which took me by surprise. Lyrically the song is another anti war/fighting song that Payne has always done so well. Each song has something that gives it a certain charm, from the elegance and playing of the first single, Strange Days or the complete progfest of A Sorrow's Crown! For all the expressions musically and the stretching of boundaries, there are some very AOR, pop/rock tracks like Time Waits For No One and Seasons Will Change. Knowing the track records and talents of Payne and Norlander, it is nice to see and hear them making this a 'song first' album. In each song, you can hear a certain influence; Give Another Reason sounds like classic YES and the chorus in Fourth Of July feels like the Moody Blues. All... just... amazing!!!!!
Something I noticed throughout the album is keyboardist Erik Norlander's style of playing. Like Geoff Downes has always done, he fills every empty space with the right sound to progress the song and gives the guitars, drums and voices a nice bed to play over. Unlike many prog keyboard players in the day, they would dictate the song and sometimes the band's direction, where Norlander, like Downes do everything for the sake of the song.
Joining Payne and Norlander on the album are drummer Jay Schellen and four amazing guitarists; Jeff Kollman, Guthrie Govan, Moni Scaria, and Bruce Bouillet who all help to make this album an incredibly satisfying listen. All the musicians on the record have played with Payne's version of ASIA at one time or another which adds to the overall sound and cohesion of the musicianship. In fact, guitarist Jeff Kollman has worked with ASIA, UFO, Michael Schenker Group and Glenn Hughes!!! If Kollman was ever a member of the Beatles, he would be my favorite player in the world.
We are still a week away from the release of DUKES OF THE ORIENT and I encourage all of you to trust my judgement and pick this one up. I already have my copy reserved at Music Outlet in Enfield, CT (plug plug) and I encourage you to do the same wherever you buy your music. This album, the music and the line-up are something very special.
Isn't it so much fun to get excited about music?
DUKES OF THE ORIENT will be released on February 23, 2018 by Frontiers Music. My thanks to John Freeman for providing me the tools to help push this awesome project!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7etFNXFsn5U - video for Seasons Will Change
official site - www.dukesoftheorient.com
Brother In Arms
Amor Vincit Omnia
Time Waits For No One
A Sorrow’s Crown
Fourth Of July
Seasons Will Change
Give Another Reason
The Power Chords Podcast is a twice-monthly podcast celebrating rock and metal music of the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond. The show is co-hosted by Matt Herring and Brian LeTendre.