"Window to the Soul" (Inside Out Music; 2006)

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

John Payne is known as one of the main creative and driving forces behind melodic rock band Asia for the last 15 years. In 1992,  founding member Geoff Downes formed a partnership with Payne. Payne’s strong vocals, powerful bass playing and -- most of all -- his instinct for extraordinary songwriting and production secured the existence of that band for their next five albums, all in the top ranks of melodic rock. When Downes recently decided to reunite with the original Asia line-up, Payne moved onwards to found GPS along with remaining Asia sidemen Guthrie Govan and Jay Schellen, and Spock’s Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto.

Asia addicts, be warned: GPS will throw some serious twists and turns to the obviously Asia-infected sound of GPS. The music is more edgy, more rocking, and has a lot more progressive elements, but never loses sight of the band's goal. All songs still sound compact and to the point, even though they run over seven minutes. 

For instance, “Written On The Wind” starts off as a romantic folk song and develops into a rich ballad with piano and organ, only to end in an upbeat blues rock sound. Ryo Okumoto plays a big part in the GPS sound with his swirling and furious playing. His style is organic, and what the man can do on a Moog is singular. Same goes for the ever smiling and friendly Govan. Guthrie plays an admirable counterpart as he convinces the listener with his complex fretwork and hard shredding riffs, complimenting the songs with some awesome solos. The previously mentioned power bass from Payne, accompanied by the amazingly skilled playing of Schellen, boosts the overall sound. 

The chemistry in this quartet is spot on, which can clearly be heard in the songs, from the opening title track on with its hard square riff, all the way to “Taken Dreams.” Okumoto plays his wonderful trademark Hammond sounds, but also offers up a lot of other colors to the mix including Mellotron choirs, energetic synth runs and string arrangements as in the drop dead gorgeous “New Jerusalem,” with its fine moodswings. The track features a swirling and flickering fast keyboard-solo spot from the Beard-ster. The 8-minute running “Heaven Can Wait,” with its raging guitar spot on Govan, and “Cold” are warm and heavily orchestrated tracks with large choirs.

John Payne contributes his stunning vocal delivery with great harmonies. GPS expects him to step up in the harder section of the songs, and John gives it his all, occasionally squeezing some notes and sounding rather forced (“I believe in Yesterday”).

One of the finest offerings is the remarkable piano ballad “Written on the Wind,” with its warm and intense emotional mood. The more furious “The Objector” lets loose the power captured in fifteen years of Asia-mellowness with some exceptional guitar playing, where “Since You've Been Gone” is opening the band's melodic rock registers.

“Taken Dreams” again is warm and mega melodic with some nice guitar arrangements and ditto keyboard lines, enabling Payne to shine with his warm and atypical voice. The orchestration is heavy and suddenly the track shoots into high gear, evolving into a true at heart motorway song!

GPS marks the return of the large and pumped Asia sound of the last five albums, but adds a lot more fuel to the fire. The combustion caused by this band is due to a true chemistry in both the performance and the songwriting. GPS’ “Window to the Soul” is another gem in a year flooded by high quality releases. This will stir up my top ten for this year, folks!

GPS: John Payne - Vocals, Bass; Guthrie Govan - Guitars; Jay Schellen - Drums; Ryo Okumoto - Keyboards.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10 Jul 2022 15:03:28 -0400 .