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
Phase is the debut album from Melbourne-based band Mildlife. The lead single The Magnificent Moon is the first track on the album and it is a wonderful introduction to this band.
On first blush, this song reminded of another Aussie band, Cut Copy, with its rhythmic beat and lush keyboards. There is more going on here, however, as there are textures that invoke jazz and psychedelic sounds. Check the YouTube link below and hear it for yourself.
I also enjoyed the track Im Blau, which features a spacey synth, a nice guitar line and filtered vocals. A touch of Can is in the mix, but this is Mildlife’s song.
This collection of tunes fits together nicely as an album. Nothing is jarring, none of this music feels out of place. The set has a wonderful flow. And, as with all good listening experiences, something interesting can be discovered on each play.
The press release states that the members of the band are old friends. This group sounds like a tight unit and I’m sure the friendship between the musicians contributes to this.
This is a strong debut. It will be interesting to see how Mildlife progresses down the road
- The Magnificent Moon
- Zwango Zop
- Im Blau
- Two Horizons
- The Gloves Don’t Bite
Label: Research Records
Airbag guitarist Bjørn Riis put out one of my favorite albums of 2017 with “Forever Comes to an End.” Needless to say (yet I am), I was very excited to find he was releasing a follow up mini-album/EP called “Coming Home.” Riis is not only a great guitar player but even though he is not the lead vocalist in Airbag, he very well could be because he is a great singer as well. Add in that he writes excellent songs and you have a formidable combination.
“Coming Home” is definitely an extension of “”Forever Comes to an End” but it definitely does NOT sound like left overs or outtakes. They might very well be but Riis is so talented that his cast offs would be as good as any of his music. “Coming Home” does get off to a bit of a rocky start for me with the new age instrumental “Daybreak.” It’s nice and all but never really goes anywhere.
Things are back on track with the title song “Coming Home” which builds from an acoustic piece with a great vocal to a full band number that has that Floydian vibe Riis (and Airbag) are so good at doing. “Drowning” is a duet with Norwegian singer Sichelle, who I was not familiar with prior to this. Her voice fits in well with both the music and Riis’ voice. The song’s lyrics are so moving and emotional. Plus, there’s some excellent guitar work on it as well. Next is “Tonight’s the Night” is piano heavy track with TONS of atmosphere.
The album closes with an alternate semi-acoustic take of the title track from his first solo album “Lullabies in a Car Crash.” It definitely fits the overall vibe of the EP but in including it, it also makes the EP into a nice sampler for those not familiar with Bjørn Riis. “Coming Home” is both a welcome addition for fans who know Bjørn Riis and a nice introduction to those who will be fans of him as well.
1. Daybreak 4:00
2. Coming Home 6:44
3. Drowning 6:14
4. Tonight’s the Night 3:16
5. Lullabies in a Car Crash (alternate version) 6:29
Label: Karisma Records
Release: 23 February 2018