Dukes of the Orient began life as Asia. John Payne joined Asia back in 1991 for the “Aqua” album. Payne partnered with Asia leader Geoff Downes for 5 excellent albums before Downes reformed Asia’s original lineup leaving Payne without a band. Payne then formed the band GPS which included the remaining members of the last Asia lineup that Payne was in (Guthrie Govan and Jay Schellen). They released one very underrated album “Window to the Soul” with Spock’s Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto.
That band then evolved into Asia Featuring John Payne, with keyboardist Erik Norlander joining the group. After a few years, the band would release the digital single “Seasons Will Change” in 2012 and a cover album “Recollections: A Tribute to British Prog” in 2014. Still, no full length album to follow up the last Asia album with John Payne “Silent Nation.” With the passing of original Asia bassist/vocalist John Wetton, Payne and Norlander decided to rename the band out of respect to Wetton. Thus, Dukes of the Orient was born. Got it?
So Dukes of the Orient’s self titled debut has been in the works for the better part of 10 years. The orphaned single “Seasons Will Change” is now at home as part of this album. In addition to that song, the album is filled with amazing melodies and plenty of vintage prog sounds. If you liked any of the Asia albums with John Payne, it’s fair to say you will like this album too.
“Dukes of the Orient” definitely sounds like the proper successor to “Silent Nation.” Joining Payne and Norlander is drummer Schellan and even Govan makes an appearance on “Strange Days” with some incredible guitar work. What I love albout this album is the balance of pop/AOR hooks and old school prog rock. Songs like “Amor Vincit Omnia,” “Fourth of July” and the 10 minute plus closer “Give Another Reason” are very prog but never lose sight of being catchy. The remainder of the tracks are very catchy but never forget they are part of a prog band.
This is indeed the album I was hoping for from Payne and Norlander. I like that they took a new name so that the band has its own identity. Using the word “orient” gives a tip of the hat to the “Asia” name as well. Without a doubt, Dukes of the Orient have released one of my favorite albums of 2018. I just don’t want to wait another 10 years for a follow up!
1. Brother In Arms
2. Strange Days
3. Amor Vincit Omnia
4. Time Waits For No One
5. A Sorrow’s Crown
6. Fourth Of July
7. Seasons Will Change
8. Give Another Reason