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Dukes Of The Orient: Dukes Of The Orient
Dukes Of The Orient 2018 Self-titled Debut CD Album Review

Dukes Of The Orient: Dukes Of The Orient

Melodic Progressive Rock/AOR
5.0/5.0

Having roots in Asia featuring John Payne Dukes Of The Orient brings together John Payne (vocals, bass, guitars) with his former Asia keyboard player Eric Norlander. They are helped along by additional former Payne associates including guitarists Jeff Kollman, Guthrie Govan, Moni Scaria, and Bruce Bouillet, and drummer Jay Schellen. The songs for the new album have been in process for some time, and intended for a new Asia featuring John Payne album. But Payne and Norlander ditched that idea after the death of original Asia vocalist John Wetton, choosing to separate their music from Asia.

Dukes Of The Orient Band Photo

Dukes Of The Orient's Payne and Norlander

If you think that Dukes Of The Orient sound like an Asia-type band, you're not far from the truth. Large hints of Asia are here, but also ELP, Yes, and parts Toto. Dukes Of The Orient is simply melodic neo-progressive rock in an AOR wrapper. Or said another way, the songs are very catchy, pop-like, AOR rock songs with some technicality, and a large portion of Norlander keyboard wizardry.

When you listen to the album you get the sense that, Payne and Norlander wanted more to entertain with accessible and digestible songs, rather than "wow" you with their technical skill. Yet that impressive expertise comes along side the tasty songs like a fine wine pairing. Rich melody, harmony, and groove abound, and are easily embellished by fine vocal arrangement and catchy refrains. Payne is in fine form, sound strong, smooth, and melodic in his vocals. Norlander delivers his usual lush synth accents and embellishment, then intrigues you with his spry solos. And it's not all keyboards, the guest guitar drop in some fine solos (often paired with Norlander).

Putting these things together, and as alluded to earlier, the songs are masterful and intriguing, yet instantly accessible and enjoyable. Amore Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), Fourth Of July, and especially the uber catchy Strange Days and Seasons Of Change are some the best examples. Even the longer Give Another Reason, which is more progish and technical than the other songs, turns on another fine catchy refrain.

Essentially, Dukes Of The Orient, featuring John Payne and Erik Norlander, are modern heirs to the rich tradition of the melodic neo-progressive rock established by bands like Asia, and this new album is outstanding. Get it. Quite recommended.



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The Bottom Line

Dukes Of The Orient, featuring John Payne and Erik Norlander, are modern heirs to the rich tradition of the melodic neo-progressive rock established by bands like Asia, and this new album is outstanding. Get it. Quite recommended.

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