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GPS - Window to the Soul CD (album) cover





3.58 | 53 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Good Prog Super-group

I feel a little bit sorry for John Payne. After having served as the frontman of Asia for some 14 years and recorded five studio albums with that band (for which he co-wrote much of the material), he was dumped to give way to the reunion of the four original members (John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, and Geoff Downes). After that Payne formed a little super- group of his own together with two other ex-Asia members in guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Jay Schellen, and keyboardist Ryo Okumoto of Spock's Beard fame. This became GPS (for "Govan, Payne and Schellen", I suppose?)

Window To The Soul was the new band's first release and it comes across as a more progressive version of Payne-era Asia. The final Asia album featuring Payne, Silent Nation, already showed signs of a more progressive direction on several songs, but GPS takes this a little further. More space is allowed for instrumental work-outs and Govan and Okumoto shine on tracks like the eight minute plus New Jerusalem and the title track. The material is strong and melodic, the production values are high, there is a nice balance between rockers and ballads, and the musicians involved are highly professional. I get the feeling that they were more at liberty to do what they really wanted here, not being constrained by the Asia-name and the expectations that brought with it. I am certain that GPS will appeal more to Prog fans than Asia's output, but the difference from Asia is still primarily one of degree, not in kind. If you hate everything Asia ever did, I doubt that this would win you over.

John Payne is an overlooked singer, from an overlooked period of Asia's long career. Sadly, GPS's Window To The Soul is similarly overlooked. I am surprised to see that I am the first to review this album. I hesitated between three and four stars, but after having heard the album repeatedly over several days I conclude that it has a staying power deserving of a higher rating. Admittedly, not all the songs are great (Since You've Been Gone is as generic as its title indicates), but the few weaker moments are somehow better disguised here than on most Asia albums.

The latest news has it that there is a new studio album in the making that will be released under the name "ASIA featuring John Payne" and include Erik Norlander on keyboards. I suppose that is the end of GPS, but hopefully the Prog-spirit present on Window To The Soul will be carried over into that version of Asia and thus outshine the original line-up's recent works (like the dull Omega).

If you like Payne-era Asia, and desire a Prog-touch, GPS's Window To The Soul is for you

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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