For those who don't know, John Payne has a voice totally unlike John Wetton - he's more in the "Rick Astley" school (remember '80's pop?), although he's got a bit more rawness, and has occasionally been accused of "hystrionics" (most unfair!).
There are only 3 uptempo songs on this CD, one of which is an instrumental.
The songwriting quality is overall very good. Some of it is excellent - Kings of the Day gives me goosebumps - I just wish there had been more rockers, like on the first 2 or 3 releases. But never mind, it's still a good listen. The musicianship is, as usual, high standard, although I'm not sure why they need all the guest bass players and drummers - having said that, Vinnie Colaiuta is excellent, and so is Simon Phillips. The others are solid, if unimaginative.
The real discovery, for me, is guitarist Guthrie Govan, who has now joined full time, and whom I saw on tour with them last month.
The man is a phenomenon. He can tap, sweep, shred, and all with a bid grin on his face. He gets to play solos on several songs, and I can guarantee that if you like fast guitar you'll struggle to find anything better this side of Dream Theater. And he can play the blues too.
Not to diminish Steve Howe's contributions, he's good as well. The other guys aren't bad. The three bonus tracks are left from early sessions with Ian Crichton on guitar (Saga), and they aren't bad, especially Hands of Time (not Tim!), which is perhaps the most "prog" of the songs.
Now if Guthrie had got to play on the uptempo numbers as well, WOW!!!!!
And apparently there's a DVD due in January 2003 of the latest US tour. Where do I sign up?!?!?