Occasionally I write reviews of albums for mailing lists. I have therefore
started to keep them here to.
Erik Norlander – Threshold
Erik Norlander – Into The Sunset
Lana Lane – Live Bonus Discs
Lana Lane – Ballad Collection 2
Erik Norlander – Threshold
I have had this album some weeks put it away and then got it out again because
I wanted to compare it to Into The Sunset. At the time I was a little disappointed
with it as I guess I was hoping for Lana Lane Frankenstein Unbound solos in
early 70’s Rick Wakeman type tunes. This album isn’t really like that at all.
It probably compares well to early 90’s Rick albums (when he is in rock mode).
Arrival is really just a two-minute intro soundscape to Neurosaur. This is
a good tune. It uses keyboard that that has a mike attached to it. Or it did
when I have seen Rick Wakeman producing the sounds. I like the main riff. It
is quite a bubbly jolly little thing. The tune has good variety though.
No Cross To Carry is similar in its riffy way to the previous track. I had
to double check we had moved on as I know the album so well and I don’t remember
tunes well as pieces. I guess this tune is following song format in that it
has repeating sections and breaks etc. I don’t think of this when I am
reviewing Wakeman albums so perhaps it is more structured than him. Sorry I
have no other keyboard albums to compare against so they are they only references
I will think off.
Threshold – I guess of the tracks so far they are all using similar sets of
sounds. A Dirty Riffy sort. The breath one. A Soloing Moog type voice and maybe
a couple of others. Erik uses a real drummer on the album and I think this helps
a lot compares to some of Wakeman’s more recent works in this field. It also
has a bass but must confess I am not listening to him much. Around the 5-minute
mark there is a lengthy nothing much happening phase. Lots of scratching sorts
of going on in the background with some programmed rhythms and a solo line.
Then it reverts back to the main tune. I like the piece but don’t really understand
the middle bit. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just there for me though.
Neuro Boogie starts of a bit like Deep Purple’s Lazy although it still
reminds me more of a more recent Wakeman piece. This is a good patterny tune
(Bach like?) with the occasional Lazy type blues break. Around the 3-minute
mark we have a break for a minute before returning to the main themes at the
end. Again I quiet like this.
Trantor Station -Whoops I thought this was Walts Of The Biots and I thought
it a good name. It does sound like Mechanical Robots mumblings at the start.
Again very Wakeman like to me. Perhaps this album is like his 2000AD – Into
the Future most (It’s probably nothing like it if I play it again :-))
Again this is a good track. I am particularly drawn to the Trumpet sounding
sections expecting them to appear in places they don’t.
Waltz Of The Biots – Particle Storm to about 2mins is just keyboard soundscaping.
I am never sure if I view this as music, annoying or OK. We then get some Chinese/Japanese
sounding sort of Rhythms before a melody kicks in around 3 and 1/2 mins. Oh
this is definitely reminding me of 2000AD. (Or this album 😉 )
It’s no good, I had to suspended this review to spin through 2000AD. The
keyboard sounds on 2000AD are more varied and slightly different it is also
a faster album but I think there is a similarity in the feel between the two.
I think I prefer 2000AD overall but I have had this album many years and it
was the B side of a Cassette I made with Softsword on it and that is one of
my Favourite Rick albums so it had had a lot more play).
Back to Threshold I definitely prefer the real drumming on this. Around the
6-minute mark in Biots we change again. Ah Keith Emerson on the sleeve notes
mentions Phil Glass. I have only heard his Bowie stuff but I think I can here
what Emerson means here. I quite like this phase of the track. It must be the
Grand Ballroom section. When playing the CD I would probably have guessed the
Cocktails In the Vestibule section was a different tune.
Critical Mass starts with church Organ type sounds, which continue in sections
during the piece. I don’t think I could guess the sections on this one. Around
3.30 we get some bottom end Moog then some horns? And the organ again. Around
5 mins there are some more very Wakeman runs. Then there is some piano. Again
quite a good piece.
Overall I think it is a good album for anyone that likes solo keyboard players.
I am not sure the album is for everyone and I have to be in keyboard only mood
to want to play it. It is quite different from Into The Sunset, which is more
of a song/band-based album.
Into The Sunset – Erik Norlander
This is Erik’s 2nd solo album and it is quite different from his first one.
Sunset Prelude – This album starts with Ah’s and this time they are real ones.
It then proceeds to a full band hard rock track. It has Ayreon’s Arjen Luccassen
and guitars and it gives the album a much more rounded feel. Erik is more into
Lana Lane sounding solos and with a full band obviously has less room for keyboard
sounds. This track in fact seems a little guitar biased until around 1.30 and
then we get some good exciting keyboards from Erik. This is more the sort of
stuff I hoped for on Threshold. It is like the difference between a middling
Wakeman album and one of my favourite ones. It is the excitement factor for
Into The Sunset follows on seamlessly. I wonder what makes a song sub part
and what makes one a new track? These two are clearly linked. Edward Reekers
(Who has sung on Arjen’s Ayreon albums) is vocalist on this track and he is
in good form. Being an Erik solo album we get longer keyboard breaks than we
would on a Lana Lane album. Here there is actually interplay between Erik and
Rome is Burning has Glenn Hughes on vocals. Not my favourite vocalist in the
world but he is OK. Interestingly he was lined up to work with Rick Wakeman
and Keith Emerson during the summer. It didn’t happen but I believe an album
might. Lana Lane (who has also worked with Arjen on Ayreon. (I hate it when
solo artist are referred to by bands they used to be in. EG Wakeman in Yes when
he has probably outsold them solo)) also adds vocals to this. This probably
isn’t my favourite track but it is good.
Fanfare For The Dragon Isle is a short instrumental which is far better than
soundscaping. It leads to
Fly which starts with lots of Arjen. It has vocals by Lana and a little section
at the start by Edward. The tracks on this album are a lot paceier than the
previous album. Lana is pretty much used as Erik uses her on her solo albums.
Including the trick of using her to answer herself, which I really like. In
the middle it calms down and we get some piano work before it moves into some
Hammond and then picks up for more keyboard soloing. This is a pretty good track.
Dreamcurrents reminds me of another band. Perhaps Renaissance. It is Piano
and keys. It then has some Cellos by Cameron Stone (possibly not used on Ayreon.
Yet!). This is a nice gentle piece. Very good.
Lines In The Sand – I must train my brain not to think it is sung "Lions
in the Sand"! It clearly isn’t that but the change of note confuses me.
When I first played the album I thought Robert Soeterboek’s vocals rather rough
sounding. It has to be said I think this is my favourite track though. I don’t
think there is anything wrong with the grit in his vocal at all now. I love
all the solos I don’t think it can go wrong really with Arjen and Erik doing
them. I think Erik is using a smaller subset of sounds on this one. At least
for soloing. Oh I just noticed the Breath keyboard in use too.
On The Wings Of Ghosts has an atmospheric start with some cello before a piano
stats tapping and the band finally join in. It must be a Moog that is doing
most of the keyboard solos. The structure of this song prior to the vocals is
a bit like on Threshold but more enjoyable with the extra guitar. This song
is has the early Ayreon combination of Edward and Robert exchanging vocal lines.
It is very effective as Edward is a lovely voice and Robert the gritty contrast.
Arjen’s heavy rhythm backing didn’t really work for me on Lana’s Secrets of
Astrology but on this album it is perfect. The track ends with a quieter section
with piano and good melodic guitar and then keyboard. It is very good. I wish
Arjen would use Edward and Robert like this again.
Hymn is a very short Lana vocal track, which I assumed was part of ..
Into The Sunset Repise and ..
Sunset Postlude. Nothing greatly different here although I know the album so
well I could be wrong.
And there the album ends and I am surprised it feels so short. I guess there
are only 6 or 7 tunes really. Luckily I bought the Japanese version, which has
a bonus track
Alchemy and Astronomy – Oh the notes about this aren’t in the album (or they
are but not English). Mmm I read them at Erik’s site www.thetank.com. It is
supposed to be reminiscent of Rocket Scientist’s (Erik’s other band) Mariner
song. I am only just listening to that but didn’t make the Connection and RS’s
Escape. I can’t recall that one without playing it. I know where Pink Floyd’s
Shine On You Crazy Diamond references comes from though as the song contains
a good sax solo. It is not often I have my favourite three instruments on one
album. The vocal is by Edward again although it is a very small part of this
17 minute song. I like the Bass work in his vocal section. And I like this song
in general although it doesn’t really fit the album. I certainly think it makes
the Japanese album worth the expense. Actually from Erik’s site it was/is only
I think this album is an excellent release. It doesn’t quite reach Ayreon heights
for me but I would certainly love a lot more of it. I highly recommend it if
you are into hard rock with good guitars and Moog solos (and in Japan a Sax
If I am honest this is the sort of music I would like to see Rick Wakeman have
a crack at. It would be interesting to see if Arjen could ever get Rick to work
with him. Rick has a strange taste in Guitar players and is a lot softer these
days so I am not sure it would work out how I would like. I think Erik is as
close to Rick Wakeman as I am likely to find in this area of music. He clearly
has the same obsession with work and writing too. Even better he can right lyrics
and has a more traditional sense of a good vocalist.
Lana Lane – Live Bonus Discs
I got a very pleasant surprised this week. In the post came
two 3 track Lana Lane live discs that I didn’t know about. Apparently they are
give aways in Japan if you know how to fill in the forms. Luckily a very kind
friend was able to get them for me as she had spare forms/tokens
The first disc is a live Covers disc
Long Live Rock’n’roll (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99)
– It has to be said I approached this with fear. The original Rainbow version
is a classic and I have a definite bias against female vocals. (I wouldn’t have
got into Lana if it wasn’t for the fact I was drawn by Erik’s keyboards.) I
therefore wondered how would this sound and I have to say I am impressed it
comes off pretty well. Lana’s vocals are strong and clear and the band does
a good job. Erik throwing in lots of Hand down the keyboard (which is in Hammond
mode if it isn’t one) and a nice little break with the guitar in the middle.
Seasons End (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – This seems
to be a duet by Lana and Erik. I really like the studio version which is a Japanese
Bonus track on Queen Of Ocean. This pretty much only has a piano keyboard sound.
It seems to have key pressure additional voices to give it that little bit extra
but I miss the extra keyboard voices of the Studio version. Especially Erik’s
little phrase at the end of each line. This is still extremely good though.
Lana can certainly sing. I still don’t like the original Marillion version which
is so drab by comparison. Lana’s vocals are really move me, Steve Hogarth’s
just leave me cold. The keyboards on the original just don’t have the same quality
either. I wonder what made Lana choose the song. Playing the Demo version on
the Marillion Season End remaster I get the impression Lana’s version is perhaps
closer to the demo than the final version.
Dream On (Zippal Hall, Tokyo 29 Oct 98) – This is apparently
an Aerosmith cover. I had never heard it before so to me this is a new track.
Again this is Erik and Lana and despite being an earlier tour Erik seems to
be on the same Keyboard sounds. Lana really well does this well to me. I would
love to have seen Lana live or on Video. I think this track is on a par with
Seasons End so I am glad to have heard it.
The Second is High Energy Live
Evolution Revolution (Banana Hall Osaka – 19 Apr 99 – Hey I
have been there!) – Being full band stuff and live versions of tunes I already
know in this format I think the songs on this disc suffer from the mix. I wonder
how they were recorded. At a guess I would say soundboard DATs. This comes across
well but I have a feeling this is one of the songs that has two Lana voices
answering each other and live of course she can’t do that. Ah again I want to
see it in video I bet Erik it fascinating to watch on the keyboard break and
it would be interesting to see the guitar solo etc.
Night Falls (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – I can’t really
find anything to say about this. It is very faithful to the studio version.
The sound is perhaps better than the first track.
Through the Rain (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – Ah the
drum sound on this one seems a bit odd (hollow? muddy?). Everyone else is OK.
Again this is pretty faithful to the original (as far as I can remember). The
middle guitar break might well be different.
I really would like to know what the set lists were on these
tours. The band if they can’t justify a full video shoot ought to release a
homemade video bootleg (with warnings) for dedicated fans by the internet. I
am sure fans dedicated fans would prefer something to nothing but equally I
am sure the band would be too perfectionist to do something like that. I can
live in hope though. Lana Lana are definitely a band I would love to see live.
I am frustrated to have discovered Lana played here in Britain only a few weeks
before I found her Frankenstein Unbound on a Hard Roxx sampler disc. This being
my intro to the band and the source of my compulsion to get everything I can
by them. I think I am down to the first Rocket Scientist album and the live
video now. Boo hoo.
If you can work out how to get these disc I highly recommend
them. It’s a shame there are no notes for them. I particularly like Erik’s notes
from the Producers desk.
Ballad Collection 2 – Lana Lane
Lana Lane’s first Ballad Collection was so popular that after the last Studio
album they were asked to do another one. It is mainly covers but not necessarily
tracks you would expect to hear.
Nether Lands – This is a track by Dan Fogelberg from his self-titled solo
album. I haven’t got a clue who he is or what the original is like but I love
this version. I don’t like the fact it is the first track on the album though
as sometimes I feel I can overdose on it. I am not sure why but I often feel
the need to jump in the middle of the disc if I know I won’t play the disc all
the way through. Erik is on Piano and Harpsichord and I can well imagining Rick
Wakeman playing the same way. Lana sings the track with her usual clarity and
I therefore find myself really listening to the Lyrics. At about the four-minute
mark there is a little interlude which reminds me of fair ground music for some
reason. Erik is getting a lot of other instrument sounds on this one too
Hands To Heal – This is an original composition by Lana’s long time Stick
player Don Schiff and his writting partner Tully Winfield. Lana’s voice
is sometimes used to repeat lines with a different effect on it and I like that.
The track fits well on the album but it isn’t a favourite. I wonder if it is
because there is not much Erik on it? There are certainly a fair few guitar
runs on it from Neil Citron.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – This is of course is an Elton John song and I
was extremely disappointed when I heard it was to be on the album. It is one
of my favourites though. Again Lana brings out the lyrics and I love Erik’s
Hammond including the short hand along the keyboard moments. I also like Erik’s
Moog solo sandwiched between Neil’s guitar solos.
A Place In Time – This was written by Lana herself. I am currently typing
an interview with her up and she was saying how she has been writing on acoustic
guitar recently so it is interesting to hear this is acoustic guitar based now
that I am playing it with knowledge of who wrote it. Again there is less Erik
on it so there is less to excite me. The track is good but not a favourite.
Nevermore – This starts without a break. In fact it starts on a guitar run
which is most unusual. I would never have spotted it was a new song to be honest.
It’s a complete mystery of what makes a new song, what makes a sub part of a
song and what makes an instrumental track. This track has more hints of Erik
in it but it is still a bit Erik light. His backing seems a bit ELO/Louis Clarke
A Place In Time Reprise – This changes at a guitar run again. I am a bit baffled
by why it is here but when I listen to the album as a whole all three tracks
are one to me.
Ghost By My Bedside – The pace picks up a bit for this one and there is some
really nice fretless Bass work on it. I like the rhythm of the lyrics on this.
Strangely Erik’s fairly comprehensive CD notes don’t say whom this was originally
by. It was written by a Gregory Markel though. Erik uses a Mellotron on it so
I guess that is why it feels slightly Beatles like in the background. I like
To The Last Whale Critical Mass and Wind On The Water. This is by Crosby and
Nash. Bum is a word I used to get told off for saying a kid so I guess the first
part of Critical Mass is a bit rude to me with all that Bum, bum, bum be dumbing
on it 😉 My daughters were at least amused when I suggested they shouldn’t
listen to the lyrics. It is a very good Multi-harmony vocal part. I can’t altogether
see the point but why not start a track like it. The tracks ends with some atmospherics
from Erik, which I assumed was the intro to Wind On The Water but again, I am
wrong. The lyrics for this track are very strong. Incidentally a British person
would never have written them. The lines end in Raise, Vase and face. Brits
pronounce Vase as Var-se. It catches me of guard every time. I was convinced
this sounded like a Steely Dan track when I heard it. Something about the rhythm
has that feel to it to me. I don’t know if the original Crosby Nash song has
this feel or if it is just this arrangement. I very much like the track anyway.
The River Maid – This is another Lana Lane original. Is this a record for
one album? I seem to recall checking past albums and normally only finding one
or two songs by Lana herself. Like her other tracks on the album it is a slower
paced track and which makes it harder to excite me. On Erik is on Lead guitar
on this one. A man of many talents.
Autumn Leaves – Is a Jazz standard and again Erik doesn’t mention by whom.
I would never have guessed it. It is very pleasant although not outstanding.
Innocent When You Dream – I rather like this one. Originally by Tom Waits
it has an interesting vocal melody and some nice Keys from Erik. I think the
key to my liking it is it’s slightly more up-tempo again.
If Everyone Was Listening – Here is the only other Cover I knew prior to the
album. By Supertramp I wasn’t sure if Lana could make it her own. I think she
has though. I have been meaning to compare it to the original for weeks perhaps
I will now. Again Erik is the star for me. I love his backing on this. I am
a bit surprised he replaced the Sax solo (whoops Clarinet I think) with a similar
sound on the keyboard though. The guitar solo from Neil Citron works very well
too. Oh this section isn’t on the original at all. I thought it strange that
Supertramp would have two tracks together with big endings. Mmm I can’t decide
which version I prefer. Both are very good. I think I might just edge towards
the Lana version because of Erik sound at the start of the song.
My guess is that I have played Ballad 2 a least twice as many times as the
original Ballad collection. I therefore suspected I preferred it overall. Since
I have got the Ballad Collection Special Edition I decided to play the first
collection again just as a one off. The first thing I noticed was the use of
the Viola. I am a real sucker for well-used String section instruments so this
kind of made the album a bit more varied and special. I also liked the variety
of having the hand percussion on Through the Fire. I therefore wonder if I do
prefer the original Ballad set especially now the disc has Marillion’s Season’s
End on it. I think the key is both discs are great quality and I love them both.
Ballad 2 of course has the advantage of being all new material to Lana fans
whereas Ballad 1 threw in some Re-mixes of old Lana songs.