Style: hard rock, prog rock
Label: Devgel Records
Members: John Payne ~ vocals/bass/keyboards/guitar
Andrea Datwyler ~ lead vocals
Steve Howe, Al Pitrelli, Sandro D'Incau, Ian Crichton, Guthrie Govan, Torstein Flakne, Elliott Randall, Joel Bogen ~ guitar
Geoff Downes, Alex Seiberl, Ryo Okumoto ~ keyboards
Tony Levin, Emilio Barrantes ~ bass
Chris Slade, Michael Sturgis, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chuck Sabo, Ronnie Wolf, Jay Schellen, Steiner Krokstad ~ drums
Luis Jardem ~ percussion
Steve Overland ~ b. vocals
For me, one of the most distinctive features of British vocalist/bassist & songwriter John Payne is not his bass playing nor his songwriting, but a distinctive baritone that's unique in the rock world of tenors & screamers. It's made his output over the decades immediately recognizable that includes solo work & the bands Lunatica, CCCP, ELO, GPS & most prominently Asia. His songwriting, which I happen to like, comes in second place only because its changed over the years & with different groups.
But, his distinctive baritone means that the songs on this quasi-career retrospective tend to sound more alike than not. Compilations tend to either have a disjointed approach where you hear a musician go through distinct musical styles, if not also technology changes, but the high quality of the songs keeps it all together or compilations tend to sound more like a complete studio album in itself as if everything was recorded at the same time. Different Worlds could easily be mistaken as an original studio album as the collection flows easily from song to song & style to style, though its far from that. It's also potentially one of the best compilations Payne has produced of his music that's neither a gluttonous affair nor focused just on hits, nor featuring any controversial re-recordings, plus gives one a complete picture of his career versus just of Asia, which might be his step-child but isn't all he's done. Also, pulling, the compilation full shows his diverse compositional skills & creativity. If a listener didn't know Different Worlds was a compilation one might be thinking that this John Payne is a very talented guy whose got his thumb firmly on the modern AOR prog-rock sound a la GTR & Genesis. The problem is, I feel, he's not given the credit he deserves, as the shadow of pre-Payne Asia is an albatross around his neck. The early Asia might have the hits, but I've always enjoyed his singing & his songwriting far more. The thing with Payne, though, which I've already hinted at at the beginning of this reivew, is that he's never an anonymous backing musician but fully involved from songwriting to production, thus all the songs tend to fall into the same slow rock ballad approach which has become almost a trademark style for him & is really best for his vocal approach that is more comfortable trying to yank the guts out of words than rush through them. Payne has often worked with keyboardists, a regular feature of the prog-rock scene, so his music tends to be more harmonic & keyboard heavy with guitars providing texture instead of just typical riffing. This isn't technically a greatest hits collection as many certified hits are missing but more a general look at Payne's sometimes under-appreciated career that he's hand-picked. For those who only know him via Asia it's a good introduction to the rest of his work & with nine tracks given to Asia it's even a good introduction to his most popular musical child. The one problem with the release is it doesn't tell which tracks belong to what bands as outside of identifying writing credits, such as Payne/Downes is Asia, one would have to do any research to know what song belongs where. Though, its probably already-made fans that will pick up this album so that may not be a problem but compilation albums really should be made for strangers not fans.