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Dukes of the Orient: Dukes of the Orient

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist John Payne (Asia) and keyboard virtuoso Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane, Last in Line) have a long history together, the duo, along with World Trade drummer Jay Schellan and a few guitar players (including Guthrie Govan, Bruce Bouillet, Jeff Kollman, and Moni Scaria) comprised Asia Featuring John Payne after founding member Geoff Downes left to reform the original line-up of Asia once again back in 2007. After the death of John Wetton in early 2017, both Payne & Norlander decided to retire the 'Asia Featuring John Payne' name and release all new recordings under the name Dukes of the Orient. Their self-titled release for Frontiers Records contains songs written and recorded over the last few years, with all the musicians listed above taking part but the bulk of the work done by Payne and Norlander.

The results are quite good actually, the duo providing for a great meeting of both the AOR world that Payne specializes in and Norlander's love for all things classic progressive rock. Lead off tracks "Brother in Arms" and "Strange Days" both contain some stunning hooks and plenty of keyboard & guitar firepower, while "Amor Vincit Omnia" is a great vehicle for Payne's powerful & emotional vocals, with Norlander's majestic piano and synths the icing on the cake. "Time Waits for No One" is a must for any fan of the original Asia, a hook laden yet slightly proggy rocker, and "A Sorrow's Crown" is one of the albums darker, heavier tunes, sprinkled with hard charging riffs and Norlander's blazing synth textures. "Fourth of July" is another winner, over 8-minutes of addicting vocal hooks from Payne and prog keyboard bliss courtesy of Norlander, again, the comparisons to vintage Asia are unmistakable. Two very potent tracks close out the album, the soaring "Seasons Will Change", complete with a stunning Payne vocal, blazing lead guitar, and symphonic arrangements from the keyboard wizard, and the epic "Give Another Reason", which is littered with classical & acoustic guitars (Steve Howe fans are going to love this one!), layers of haunting vocals, and plenty of vintage styled keyboard passages.

Payne and Norlander have hit a home run here on the debut from Dukes of the Orient, and I think ultimately it was a great idea to ditch the 'Asia' connected name and start fresh, regardless of how many musical elements might still remain from that band. The combination of AOR & prog hasn't sounded this good together in years.

Track Listing
01_Brother In Arms 5:22
02_Strange Days 5:33
03_Amor Vincit Omnia 5:44
04_Time Waits For No One 6:03
05_A Sorrow's Crown 5:05
06_Fourth Of July 8:27
07_Seasons Will Change 6:37
08_Give Another Reason 10:08

Added: February 19th 2018
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2160
Language: english

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