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GPS: Window to the Soul

GPS are a brand new prog-rock supergroup of sorts, consisting of John Payne (Asia), Guthrie Govan (Asia), Jay Schellen (Asia, Hurricane, Badfinger), and Ryo Okumoto (Spock's Beard).Tagged as a "meeting of musical minds", the fellows who make up GPS took time out from their main gigs to put together this little side, project, and the result is Window to the Soul on InsideOut Music, a solid melodic rock album with plenty of prog flourishes, mostly thanks to the stellar keyboard work from Okumoto. Those familiar with his continued work in Spock's Beard know what he is capable of on the Hammond organ, Mellotron, and various synths, so expect more of the same here, which really helps propel the music of GPS. Led by John Payne's powerful vocals and supplemented nicely by Govan's acrobatic guitar style, songs like "New Jerusalem" and the title track really soar, with extended passages that allow for wild guitar and keyboard solos. The rhythm tandem of Payne on bass and Schellen as would expect keep a solid groove throughout the ten tracks. While many of the songs here have that Asia stamp to them, mostly due to the songwriting of Payne, the band has made effort to inject plenty of instrumental parts to stretch out each piece, so amidst all the catchy hooks and anthem-like choruses, you get to enjoy an assortment of solo spot, again, vehicles mostly for Okumoto and Govan. On "Heaven Can Wait", a solid and catchy rocker for the most part, about mid-way through the band rips into a blistering instrumental section that could have easily come off an early Spock's Beard album, complete with stunning Hammond, electric piano,and synth passages from Ryo. Also look for a fantastic lead vocal from Payne on this one, as well as on "Written on the Wind", a tender number that also features some hot acoustic and electric solos from Govan. Other highlights include the Saga-like rocker "I Believe in Yesterday", the Mellotron drenched "The Objector" (a must hear for Spock's Beard fans), the heavy 'All My Life", and the rhythmic workout that is "Gold", which sees drummer Schellen really put in a fine performance.

There's a good chance that "Window to the Soul" will please a lot of prog lovers, and not only those who are already Asia and Spock's Beard fans. Filled with great melodies and exceptional displays of instrumental virtuosity, GPS have put together a very fine debut here.

Track Listing
1) Window to the Soul
2) New Jerusalem
3) Heaven Can Wait
4) Written on the Wind
5) I Believe in Yesterday
6) The Objector
7) All My Life
8) Gold
9) Since You've Been Gone
10) Taken Dreams

Added: September 30th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: InsideOut Music
Hits: 5029
Language: english

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GPS: Window to the Soul
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-30 17:51:48
My Score:

When news that the upcoming Asia album was shelved due to the long-awaited Asia reunion, the band's long-time vocalist and co-songwriter John Payne had to leave the band along with guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Jay Schellen. Needless to say, it was a sad departure, considering Payne had been in the band for nearly fifteen years and sung on some of Asia's finest albums, including their much overlooked previous effort Silent Nation. Thankfully, Payne and his friends wasted no time in getting together and bringing in Spock's Beard's amazing keyboard player Ryo Okumoto to round out the lineup of their new band GPS.

The result is a powerful debut. Window to the Soul is far from a typical supergroup album. It works on various levels. For starters, as would be expected, comparisons to Asia will be drawn whether they are true or not, but it should be no surprise that some of the songs carry the trademark Asia sound. However, it seems little or no material was transfered onto this record from Architect of Time, which was supposed to be the follow-up to Asia's dark work Silent Nation. This disc is a lot more guitar-friendly and features a different vocal style from John Payne. Gone are his crystal clear, deep vocals that perfectly defined the sound of Silent Nation. Rather, Payne uses a slightly more gritty tone while singing in order to match the guitar-driven material. This is not to say the keyboards have been relegated to a supporting role. On the contrary, Ryo Okumoto's work is nothing short of amazing. He makes an invaluable contribution to this album, utilising excellent Hammond organ, awesome string arrangements, beautiful piano work, and some really searing synth leads.

Guthrie Govan is arguably the most underrated guitar virtuoso from England. Even though his technical ability on his instrument is right up there with the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Eric Johnson, little of it was displayed on his works with Asia. While still not as broad as his recent solo album, Window to the Soul has plenty of guitar crunch balancing out Okumoto's ethereal synth work, and also features lots of varied solos, from bluesy to funky to jazzy. Similarly, Payne's bass playing isn't as subdued as one some later Asia discs, he lets out lots of groovy licks that are complemented by Jay Schellen's confident drum beats.

The first song "Window to the Soul" is also a great number that gives an overall summary about the album. Its slow and dark organ intro underscores Payne's deep, unmistakable vocals before a great rhythm drive of bass and drums enter the scene. As mentioned earlier, Payne's singing is a bit more aggressive fitting the musical environment seamlessly. The song ends with a great guitar and keyboard solo respectively. Govan's fretwork is both melodic and unconventional, delving into Vai territory in places; while Okumoto's extended piece is filled with exotic scales. On the longer songs, references to Asia can be heard on "New Jerusalem" during the clean midtempo vocal harmonies, but other than that, this song is graced by a cool Spock's Beard type of string arrangement, funky bass, and Blackmore-like guitar solo. There is also a very cool synth breakdown in the middle where Payne sings in whisper-like tone over fragile synth melodies. Okumoto's finishing lead work at the end is also his best on this disc. The solo is a deadly combination of speed and melody, and despite its two-minute running time, one cannot get enough of it.

While none of the songs are boring in the least, I feel the last couple of tunes seem to slightly pale in comparison to the first half of the album. The first set of tracks are simply written to perfection, exuding killer vocals and top-notch performance. One track that especially deserves to be mentioned is "Written on the Wind", starting out with cool counterpoint acoustic guitars playing a nice folky melody before Payne's regretful tone delivers lyrics that seemingly address white man's arrival in America and killing the natives. By the time the haunting line "We gave you rules" is repeated over and over, the acoustic guitars have secretly transformed into a bluesy-driven solo, proving Govan's diversity. On this album, Govan gets to input a lot of character and impress the listener with both his sense of melody and complex fretwork. That said, one would have to hear his solo work to truly see how he pushes the boundaries of the guitar.

The vocals at the end of "I Believe in Yesterday" induce goose bumps; Payne hasn't sung so well in a long time; while prog rock at its best is served on the epic "The Objector", which stands out for its invigorating keyboard and guitar duel, unusually complex structure, and stunning guitar acrobatics. The Asia-like pop of "Since You've Been Gone" and the more straightforward rocker of "Gold" also add to the diversity of the record.

GPS plus Okumoto have released a more than satisfying debut and will hopefully stick together for a few more albums.

GPS: Window to the Soul
Posted by John Larocque, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-19 05:45:29
My Score:

Window to the Soul is the debut effort from GPS, which is built around ex-Asia members guitarist Guthrie Govan, singer John Payne and drummer Jay Schellen and Spock's Beard keyboardist Ryu Okomoto. This release features generous helpings of keyboards and guitars, and Payne's voice has a real character to it. The epic "Window to the Soul" features a heavy, driving instrumental section. "New Jerusalem" (one of Okomoto's showpieces) and "All My Life" have a distinct Asia feel to it, and there were Blackmore-flavored guitarwork on several tracks, including "Heaven Can Wait" and the melodic-minor scale assault of "The Objector" . One of the gems of the piece is "I Believe in Yesterday", a majestic, melancholy lament for a love the singer still believes in and wishes he had. It quiets down to a a piano section that crescendos with guitars and drums to the final chorus. Listening to this track, I wondered what Michael Schenker could have done with this material (perhaps with Tony Martin) - it's really in the same aural and emotional territory. ("Open Your Eyes" - which is a different flavored kind of song off of Alpha, kind of starts, stops and restarts the same way. "Since You've Been Gone" is catchy, simple mid-paced rocker. The album closes out with another energetic Rainbow-like rocker, "Taken Dreams", which comes packaged with two great guitar solos. The work - which is somewhere bewteen progressive metal and progrock in execution - really stands up on its own.

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