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Dukes of the Orient – Dukes of the Orient [2018]

Dukes of the Orient is the masterful collaboration between vocalist John Payne (ex-Asia, GPS) with keyboardist Erik Norlander (Last in Line, Lana Lane) who now present their eponymous debut album, ten years in the making. The musical direction of this debut is lies somewhere between melodic rock and progressive AOR. The album features an admirable cast of renowned musicians of the genre including Jeff Kollman, Guthrie Govan, Moni Scaria and Bruce Bouillet on guitar and Jay Schellen on drums. Payne provides bass guitar and additional lead and rhythm guitar parts to complete the audiophile production.

Though undeniably a prog-rock album, the mood of “Dukes of the Orient” lightens considerably after the fourth song, to a more anthemic rock approach, evident on songs like “A Sorrow’s Crown”, “Fourth of July”, and “Seasons Will Cange”, though fundamentally different in tempos and melodies they all feature extensive choruses with minimal instrumental support-these are the songs where Payne uncovers his ability.

As expected, the songwriting is based on a multitude of keyboard melodies and supporting harmonies, robust bass lines setting the tone of each song while the guitar leads and colorful rhythm guitar parts kept to a minimum. “Dukes of the Orient”, despite its impressive vocal/keyboard performances, is first and foremost about the songwriting. Every song on this album has perfectly defined opening melody, main body, bridge and chorus. Production-wise “Dukes of the Orient” is bigger particularly when it comes to the choirs and backing vocals while the keyboard harmonies and the rhythm patterns are very catchy.

Following the death of original Asia vocalist, John Wetton, in early 2017, Payne and Norlander decided that these recordings should give birth to a new band, both out of respect for Wetton and for clarity with the Downes-led “Asia”. Overall Dukes of the Orient is a substantial melodic/progressive rock album featuring largely what a fan would expect to hear from the two musicians.

Band Members
John Payne – Vocals, bass, guitar
Erik Norlander – Keyboards
Guthrie Govan – Guitar
Jeff Kollman – Guitar
Moni Scaria – Guitar
Bruce Bouillet – Guitar
Jay Schellen – Drums

Tracks
01. Brother In Arms (5:22)
02. Strange Days (5:33)
03. Amor Vincit Omnia (5:45)
04. Time Waits For No One (6:03)
05. A Sorrow’s Crown (5:07)
06. Fourth Of July (8:26)
07. Seasons Will Change (6:37)
08. Give Another Reason (10:10)

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Dukes of the Orient - Dukes of the Orient [2018], 7.3 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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