Category Archives: Music

Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn – The Spirit of Autumn Past (1999)

Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light (2001)

This band is GREAT, and why they are not better known than The Corrs (the closest well known band in a similar style) I cannot understand.
The only disappointment is the packaging of the CDs (mentioned by one of the reviewers) which just looks cheap. A contract with a major record label should fix that!

 

 

Musicians:
Bryan Josh – electric guitar, vocals, e-bow, 6-string and 12-string acoustic guitar
Heather Findlay – vocals, 6-string acoustic guitar, tambourine
Iain Jennings – keyboards, vocals
Liam Davison – electric guitar, vocals, 6-string and 12-string acoustic guitar
Bob Faulds – violins
Stuart Carver – bass
Kev Gibbons – Low whistle, high whistle
Allan Scott – drums (on For All We Shared)
Rob McNeil – drums (on The Spirit Of Autumn Past)
Angela Goldthorpe – flute
Chè – djembe

Contact: www.mostlyautumn.com

 

Magnification

Yes
Magnification   ( 2001)

Possibly their best release since the 1970s classics (I don’t have “The Ladder”). This marks a return to using an orchestra, which probably accounts for the better songs. The second CD has live versions of songs from the 1970s.

Musicians:
Jon Anderson – vocal master magician, midi guitar, acoustic guitar
Chris Squire – bass, vocals
Steve Howe – acoustic and electric guitar, steel, mandolin, vocals
Alan White – drums, percussion, vocals, piano
Orchestra conducted by Larry Group´


Other Reviews:

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, September 2001
More than thirty years before, on March 21st 1970 to be precise, Yes delivered one of the highlights of its career by combining their symphonic rock with a real classical orchestra. The Queen Elizabeth Hall therefore remains unique and has given the band the idea to once again combine their creative skills with the talent of a huge orchestra. This time around though the orchestra’s conductor has been involved in the writing, arranging, and producing of the actual album. None other than Emmy award-winning composer/conductor Larry Groupé raises his baton to steer the original Yes music through cascades of violins, violas and cellos. But can Yes’ music really work without a keyboard player? Has Groupé been able to replace the important, vacant spot of the keyboard player by means of lush arrangements? Has the fact that Alan White leaves his drum kit to play some piano been part of the solution to solve the difficulties regarding the situation of the keyboard player? Accompany us into exploring this brand new outing by one of the most important bands in prog history.

First of all let’s go back to 9th November 1966, to London’s Indica Gallery to be precise. It’s there and then that John Lennon meets Yoko Ono for the first time during one of her exhibitions. Called “one woman show or unfinished paintings and objects,” one of the installations is a white ladder leading towards a magnifying-glass which dangles from the ceiling (see pic). In order to live the experience, visitors have to climb the ladder, get hold of the magnifying glass, and then read the small word that has been written on the ceiling. When you reach the top of the ladder the word suddenly reads YES! That simple yet direct statement is exactly what Magnification is all about, going back to the acoustic simplicity of the composition, yet embraced by the power of the orchestra. Jon’s explanation sees Magnification as magnifying the good in people instead of the media magnifying everything that’s bad and evil (which, in case of the recent US tragedies, surely is no “magnification”!).

[This story can now be heard, told by John Lennon, as part of the interview that is on the remastered edition of Milk And Honey; his final interview recorded five hours before his death on December 8th, 1980 – JB]

It’s a miracle hearing how Jon Anderson’s voice sounds still as fresh and innocent, as if it were his very first recording. Whilst the new material on both Keys To Ascension sets showed great promise, the collaboration with the late Bruce Fairbairn on The Ladder certainly proved that Yes still had some good compositions inside of them. Whilst tracks like “Close To The Edge” and even “Ritual” became firm favourites during the new tours, it became obvious that Yes wanted to go back to its roots, delivering interesting, surprising music with a slight complex touch. Upon listening to Magnification one has to say it is one of the better Yes albums, yet for my liking I would have loved to hear the orchestra more prominently in the mix. The title track already holds all of the favourite ingredients, what with Jon’s unique voice blending with Steve’s stunning guitar sound and Squire’s murdering bass. Only Alan White chooses a more commercial beat. Steve is as his very best during the swinging “Spirit Of Survival,” which has the orchestra add extra power in those segments which really benefit from its inclusion. One of the focal points in “Don’t Go” is certainly the vocal harmonies, resulting in the kind of music which could easily have been recorded during the band’s peak in the seventies. About halfway through the song Jon switches his singing by means of studio magic, which has us think of the Trevor Horn period (he is even thanked in the credits!). We have to wait until “Give Love Each Day” before we really hear the orchestra shine in a solo spot. Because of the trumpet, it comes across as a film soundtrack mixed with After Crying. Once Jon integrates his singing into this song, it switches to some of the best Yes we have heard in years. In fact the spirit of the song takes you back to the Time And A Word period. The French horns of the orchestra really deliver the exclamation mark to an outstanding track.

Throughout this recording I get the feeling that the four remaining Yes men really enjoy the new direction they are taking, hence the fact they all lend their voices in order to deliver an even more diverse sounding album. “Can You Imagine” heavily features Chris Squire, yet it is in no way the kind of material that was delivered for the Squire/Sherwood project. Steve’s acoustic guitar in “We Agree” still has that same magic as during the Fragile days, delivering its distinctive sound as the ideal backing for Jon’s great voice. The violins really underline the majestic chorus, whilst the acoustic elements filter in and out of the song like the washing of the sea. With certain songs one could ask whether they are indeed Yes songs or Anderson solo compositions? “Soft As A Dove” is the best example of this, a joyful acoustic song adorned with harp and flute that would have fit perfectly on Song Of Seven. It even has some Celtic elements woven into it, referring to the band’s origins. Based around tribal drumming, “Dreamtime” maybe is the best example of incorporating contemporary music with the classical formula. There’s an outstanding part here that incorporates Mellotron in a very modern way, as opposed to approaching it as the obvious vintage “prog” instrument. Chris’s bass blends well with the powerful horns of the orchestra, whilst Alan injects the necessary rhythmic fuel. At the end of the song the orchestra gets a solo spot, reminding me of Deep Purple’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra. We are still waiting for some strong melodies though, and with “In The Presence” we get none other than just that. “If we were flowers, we would worship the sun” sings Jon, merging his romantic soul with an outstanding chorus, which is repeated towards the end by the orchestra, interspersed by Steve’s guitar playing. The album closes with “Time Is Time,” a song that could also have been sung by John Lennon, and with Alan White having been a member of the famous Plastic Ono Band, it perfectly closes the cycle Magnification has made.

With the new album, Yes has firmly re-established itself as one of the most important rock bands in the world. Nevertheless it doesn’t reach the quality of Close To The Edge, but then again it will never be the intention of the band to write a sequel to that epic anyway. Personally I think there are some very strong songs, but sadly a couple of weaker ones, too, and yes, I would’ve loved to hear the orchestra more prominent in the mix. I am however very pleased to hear Jon, Steve, Chris and Alan perform so well together, as it’s that “togetherness” that has always been the key to the band’s success. You can only produce the true Yes sound if you sit in the same room at the same time and compose from scratch, as opposed to the “jigsaw” technique that has been used so often over the years. Sadly, because Yes has always been THE band that featured loads of keyboards, there is no way the orchestral arrangement can compensate for the lack of keyboards. After all, which orchestra is able to reproduce the true identity of the Moog synthesizer or the holy sound of the Mellotron, even when the latter was, in fact, the world’s very first sampler based on classical instruments. The new album will certainly grow on you each time you listen to it, magnifying the name Yes into YES once again!

Website: yesworld.com

Mostly Lord Of The Rings

Mostly Autumn
Music Inspired By The Lord Of The Rings (2002)

Here is another Mostly Autumn release. Very similar to previous albums, but covering a familiar subject.

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, June 2002

Whilst Heather has been called the new Sandy Denny or the new Stevie Nicks, it is clear that she is getting better and better all of the time, her voice settling in nicely within the arrangements, as another live favourite illustrates by means of “The Riders Of Rohan.” However, for me, the band is at its absolute best in the quiet songs such as “Lothlorien” where all our attention goes towards the fragile vocals that are sparsely accompanied by guitar and tin whistle, the kind of song one would die for! The song is followed by a complete contrast in the form of “To The Grey Havens” which gets very close to vintage Hawkwind at times. Written, rehearsed, recorded, mixed and mastered in just fourteen days, this means the talented bunch of Mostly Autumn could produce no fewer than 26 of these albums a year. Now that’s what I call magic, and magic you get throughout this album, the unexpected album!

 

Musicians:
Heather Findlay – vocals, guitar, bodhran, tambourine, recorder
Bryan Josh – lead guitar, vocals
Iain Jennings – keyboards
Liam Davison – guitar
Angela Goldthorpe – flute, recorders, vocals
Andy Smith – bass
Jonathan Blackmore – drums

Guests :
Marcus Bousefield – violin
Marissa Claughlan – cello
Ché – djembe
Duncan Rayson – additional keyboards

Joe’s Planet

Joe Satriani
Crystal Planet (1998)

This is possibly Joe’s best album.  What makes this album work is the great  rhythm section that rumbles and grooves along like a train, allowing Joe to do his 20 fingers stuff on guitar.

The album starts fast with “Up in The Sky”, the track has is a strong knock-out punch of an introduction and Joe illustrates his abilities with a few catchy fast repetitive phrases on top of a rock/thrash/gallop beat with sloppy open hi hats and a very plain but dominant and workable bass riff.

My favorite track is ‘Psycho Monkey’ with a great grungy feel. The rhythm section really piles it on with a belting magnificent low end.

A fantastic must buy album – highly recommended for when you need some musical inspiration or if you just want to be wowed by one of the best guitarists on the planet.

 

 

Frippian Influences

Frippian Influences

Robert Fripp laid the foundations for progressive rock when he formed King Crimson and released the band’s frightening first album “In the Court of the Crimson King” in 1969. Since then, over the numerous personnel changes and excursions, the band has somehow continued.

Although infrequently mentioned in the press, Robert has had an enormous effect on musicians of at least two and probably three generations. With the forming of the School for Crafty Guitarists in the early 1980s he laid the foundations for a new generation of musicians who would take a unique style and craft unique albums. Here are some of the best…….

California Guitar Trio
Formed by Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards after attending Robert’s Guitar courses, CGT has over 10 years of touring and made almost as many albums.

Trey Gunn
He was part of King Crimson that reformed in 1994 as a ‘double trio’. Labelled the ‘good looking one’ (he was the youngest) in the band, Trey also had his own band.

Agent 22
Where King Crimson would fill all the musical spaces with noise, distortion and even more noise, this band opens the musical mix. Every instrument is clear and distinct. This reminds me a lot of Manfred Esher’s ECM jazz output, the production is crystal clear, music like this is often the product of the modern jazz school. Everything may be beautifully produced and shined, but there is nothing of interest. The musicians probably liked it at the time, but for the rest of us, it’s just meandering self indulgence. That isn’t the case there. There are strong songs with a wit and often a swing.

Universal Migrator

Ayreon

Universal Migrator 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000)

Universal Migrator2: Flight of the Migrator (2000)

The first album is the better album and remind me of Pink Floyd (in a good way). It also  has better compositions than the second. UM2 is a heavier sounding album although some of the songs are by-the-numbers heavy rock.

Review courtesy John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, May 2000
The story begins in the 22nd century. The final devastating war of 2084 that was foretold on The Final Experiment album, has indeed come to pass and has destroyed all life on Earth, making it completely uninhabitable. The only survivors of the war were the colonists on the planet Mars, who watched the destruction of their home-world from afar. The few descendants of those colonists are now all that is left of the human race.

To combat the dreariness of life on Mars, the Mars colonists have constructed a fantastic machine called The Dream Sequencer. This machine creates a form of hypnosis which allows the colonists to return to their childhood and even to their former lives. Both albums tell the story of what one Mars colonist encounters while piloting The Dream Sequencer.

The CD The Dream Sequencer has a soft and atmospheric feel. This CD follows one Mars colonist back in time as he reincarnates through different personas all the way back to the first man on Earth using The Dream Sequencer machine. Each persona will be presented by a different singer in each song, however all of the songs are seen from the perspective of the same Mars colonist.

Progressive World Review :
The album’s opener “The Dream Sequencer” makes me think of Disney’s “Space Travel” journey what with all these different sounds and spacey atmospheres. The song evolves into pure Pink Floyd, getting very close to “Welcome To The Machine” and boy isn’t Arjen’s sitar solo a dead-ringer for Dave Gilmour! We also have to welcome some splendid Mini-Moog here, the first of a long batch of outstanding analogue solos! The doomy voice of Tiamat’s Johan Edlund blends well with the young, high pitched voice of After Forever’s Floor Jansen in “My House On Mars.” The musical backing lifts this song to a very bombastic whole ending almost in pure classical style. In “2084” Lana Lane looks back at what happened when all life on earth was destroyed. Erik adds some nice rhythmic touches by means of his swirling Hammond. The flanger on the guitar works overtime extra emphasizing the floating atmosphere of this song.

I’ve already told you about the number of superb sounding synths. Well, in the intro for “One Small Step” you are treated to some outstanding synths before acoustic guitars smooth the way for the warm voice of ex-Kayak singer Edward Reekers, who by now has become one of the loyal singers that appear on Ayreon releases. Edward sings “one small step for man but a giant leap for mankind,” but with this album I would dare to say “one small step for Ayreon but a giant leap for music!” What’s strong on these new Ayreon albums is the fact that, once again, Arjen Lucassen uses the help of a huge selection of different singers yet, uses a small number of people for the musical nucleus and uses the same backing voices. Towards the end of “One Small Step,” Arjen’s slide guitar again highlights his all-time love for Pink Floyd! The repetitive bass line in the intro for “The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Cocq” comes very close to the work of Alan Parsons, but as soon as the classical guitar sets in it has to be unmistakably the work of Ayreon. In Mouse Arjen has found the ideal John Lennon clone and, as Arjen has always been a keen fan of the Beatles, this song works perfectly well with the unique timbre of Mouse’s voice.

When Arjen visited Oscar Holleman’s studio, the latter was producing an upcoming young band called Krezip who have just delivered their debut album Nothing Less on the Dutch wing of Warner, apparently a must for fans of Guano Apes and/or Skunk Anansie. Arjen was so overwhelmed by Krezip’s singer that he immediately asked the seventeen old Jacqueline Govaert to sing the soft centred “Temple Of The Cat.” The medieval atmosphere of “Carried By The Wind” is sung by Arjen himself, whilst his guitar solo intertwines with nice synth and acoustic guitar. Ever since he heard Threshold and invited Damien Wilson over to sing on Into The Electric Castle, Arjen has been very fanatic about every move Damien makes. Over the years Damien’s involvement in the world of musical has given him more “body” which can clearly be heard throughout “And The Druids Turn To Stone.” Again this is a very ballad-like structure, emphasizing once again the acoustic simplicity. The production is very open giving all of the sparse instruments all the room to experiment and shine. Rob Snijders’ soulful drumming blends very well with the Hammond sound.

From the moment the mellotron kicks off and the classical ensemble enters the musical arena you know “The First Man On Earth” will be very Beatles-like. In steps Neal Morse to enhance that Beatles feel and what’s more, his ability to create sing-a-long tunes once again proves to be all over this piece. “The First Man On Earth” is indeed a song that is fit for daytime radio (although in edited format) and cello and horns are added in the same fashion as Sir George Martin would have added his knowledge to the Lennon/McCartney classics. It is certainly one of the highlights on this disc, and a song that will certainly please Arjen, being an avid Beatles-fan himself. Strangely enough, Erik Norlander is more into Electric Light Orchestra; but wasn’t Jeff Lynne very much influenced by the Liverpool foursome? The album closes with a reprise of “The Dream Sequencer” adding more Pink Floyd touches to what has become one hell of an artistic merit. This album certainly has all of the ingredients many of you are looking for in a prog album, an album that you’ll certainly end up buying along with the other Ayreon release Flight Of The Migrator. Siamese twins anyone?

Musicians:
Arjen Lucassen – electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, analogue synthesizers, Hammond, Mellotron and additional keyboards
Erik Norlander (Ritual Symphony, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane) – analogue synthesizers, piano, vocoder, Hammond and additional keyboards
Rob Snijders (Celestion Season) – drums

Synth solos:

Erik Norlander – (Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane) on 1, 4, 6
Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon) on 3

Singers:

Johan Edlund (Tiamat) on 2
Floor Jansen (After Forever) on 2
Lana Lane – on 3, 6 and voice on 1
Edward Reekers (Kayak) on 4
Mouse (Tuesday Child) on 5
Jacqueline Govaert (Krezip) on 7
Arjen Lucassen on 8
Damian Wilson (Threshold, Landmarq and now playing the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar)
Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic) on 10

Backing vocals:

Mark McCrite (Rocket Scientists) on 10
Lana Lane on 4, 5

Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, January 2001
Told in two parts, Ayreon’s Universal Migrator tale is a musical journey through time and space. Disc one, The Dream Sequencer is the symphonic prog side of Arjen Lucassen’s theme, where the music often takes on very Pink Floyd-like atmospheres. “My House On Mars” sounds, at times, like it could have easily been on The Wall but for some of the lyrical content; vocals here are by Johan Edlund (Tiamat) and Floor Jansen (After Forever). Except for the vocal-less solo passages, the track is somewhat plodding, moving just a bit to slowly. Perhaps it’s Edlund’s treated vocals that bother me a little bit about this track, though Jansen’s are clear and lilting. With the opening track, “The Dream Sequencer,” we get spacey keyboard themes laying a foundation for Lucassen’s guitar solos and synth melodies.

Like on previous Ayreon releases, there are guest musicians and vocalist each telling a part of the story. The vocalists whose performances stand out for me are Lana Lane, Damien Wilson and Neal Morse. In fact, the Morse/Erik Norlander/Lucassen penned “The First Men On Earth” contains more than a little element of Spock’s Beard, not just because of Morse’s recognizable voice, but also in something about the arrangement and delivery – just a bit off-kilter. Which also tells you that there is also a strong Beatles-esque feel to this track, too…including some brass that made me think of Sgt. Pepper’s. Oddly enough, I think of the Flower Kings, too, and think that this is what I was expecting from Transatlantic.

Lane’s haunting vocals grace “2084” and “Dragon On The Sea,” tracks 3 and 6 respectively. What a great voice! Rich, warm, full-bodied…makes you wonder what she’d do with the phone book, ya know; each address would echo in your mind… It is also Lane who first guides us into the story, as she voices the Universal Migrator program/contraption.

“One Small Step,” track four, reminded me a little bit of Rush’s own “Countdown” and not just because you can hear “space chatter” in the background. There is a driving, throbbing beat to it – perhaps mimicking that very countdown. But, I also thought of Tangerine Dream because of the long synth intro. Edward Reekers voices this track, a man’s impressions about the 1969 Moon landing (and Lana provides some backing “ahhs,”). There are parts here where I also thought of “Comfortably Numb”…if it been on Dark Side Of The Moon. Can’t really explain that except that there are pulsing synths and percussion that hint at Dark Side…. We also get some parping keys from Norlander, another emotional and soaring solo from Lucassen, and heavenly vocal accents from Lane. Reeker’s is another vocalist who got a very, very listenable voice, smooth and very warm.

Almost moving away from Floydian musiscapes, we get “The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Cocq,” and Bobo is right about Mouse (Tuesday Child) sounding like John Lennon. But more than that, his delivery and the keyboards here make a very slight reference to “Strawberry Fields.” A guitar phrase hints at “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” And yet there is no getting away from the Floydian guitar solos (not that I want to) … there are also moments where I thought of “Us And Them,” but only briefly. The setting for this moment in time is the 17th Century.

It’s the 16th Century in “Dragon On The Sea,” where “Queen Elizabeth [has sent] the brave Sir Francis Drake to defend the English realm against the invading armada.” That Armada was the Spanish Armada, sent by Phillip II with hopes of conquering England, who had “horned in on” their trade routes. Because the English had built smaller, faster and more maneuverable ships that could also fire from a longer range (and some nasty North Sea weather) assured an English victory … thus “Dragon On The Sea.” But the lyrics here seem to be a mesh of the English and Spanish point of views…or just very confusing. More great stuff from Lane. If Spears or Aguilera win a Grammy (if they’re even nominated, as I’m not really paying attention) then I’ll certainly demand a recount. As I verily say: in a sing off, the young gals would pack their bags and head home, thinking about what other career they’d best suited to. And, as I keep saying, I’m not often given to such hyperbole, but I’ll do so time and again, I think, with Lane…and on the male vox side, Wilson (of those that appear here).

We leap further back to the 8th Century Mayan Civilization in “Temple Of The King,” sung by Jacqueline Govaert, who has an okay voice…if just a bit childlike at times. Bubble like synths open “Carried By The Wind,” which soon rocks a bit harder than anything else on this album though it still maintains its symphonic feel. Lucassen handles the vocals on this track, which is very appropriate, as it is meant to be Ayreon in the 6th Century – the so-called “Dark Ages.”

But our journey doesn’t end here, as we travel back to 2800 B.C., the Druids and the enigmatic Stonehenge in “And The Druids Turn To Stone,” sung by a melancholy and restrained Damien Wilson. Beautiful arrangement, Wilson’s vocals are warm. The track breaks for an tender and thoughtful acoustic guitar solo, breaks again after a few more vocal passages for spacey synth…and then ends with a moment of near silence…stillness, where only the sounds of nature (crickets) can be heard. After “First Man,” we get “The Dream Sequencer Reprise.” (and then to Part II).

Mangala Vallis Dreams

Mangala Vallis
The Book of Dreams (2001)

If Jon Anderson were singing on this CD, you would swear it was a new Yes album. I think this is mainly due to the distinctive Rickenbacker bass. Despite being an Italian band the singing is in English and very good.

Reviewed by: Clayton Walnum, June 2002
Italy has a new progressive-rock band, but the group sounds decidedly un-Italian. Instead, these folks sound very much like the English prog of the 70s, Genesis in particular, though you can also hear dashes of Yes here and there. According to the band’s website, “Gigi, Mirco and Enzo developed the idea of Mangala Vallis in 1998. The band wandered in the world of progressive rock, and the result of three years of hard work is The Book Of Dreams, a concept album inspired by the fantastic book-writer Jules Verne and his great books. Completely in love with the sound of the early 70’s, Mangala Vallis is influenced by the music of that golden era, even if its music is filtered through its own taste and vision.”

So there you go. The band’s description of themselves is entirely accurate. If you like 70s style Genesis and Yes, you’ll probably go for this album. A caveat though: While Mangala Vallis does a good job of reproducing that 70s sound, the songs here aren’t as intense as the ones after which they are modeled. Also, although the compositions are long, they are less complex than the stuff Genesis and Yes were doing back in those golden years. The resultant sound is actually more neo-prog, with a strong 70s flavor.

A case in point is the track “Is The End The Beginning?”, which starts off sounding like Spock’s Beard doing Yes, but soon turns to a Genesis-inspired instrumental section. Maybe “Genesis-inspired” is actually an understatement, because this section’s rhythms are taken almost directly from Genesis’s magnificent “Apocalypse In 9/8” [section of “Supper’s Ready”] on the Foxtrot album. The instrumentation here isn’t as complex, though, and doesn’t build to anywhere near the intensity of the original. There are, in fact, several places where the band lifts almost directly from Genesis. For example, parts of the song “The Book Of Dreams” will more than bring to mind Genesis’s “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and “The Journey” has a guitar part that sounds suspiciously like something from “Watcher Of The Skies.” Still, while Mangala Vallis draws boldly from yesteryear, on several tracks, they do attempt to forge their own way, albeit much in the style of Genesis. The tracks “Under the Sea,” “Asha (Coming Back Home),” and “A New Century” probably represent best Mangala Vallis’s own sound. The songwriting and performances on these tracks (and on other tracks, except where that borrow heavily from Genesis) demonstrate that the band knows what they are doing and have a lot of potential.

Mangala Vallis is a three-piece with a drummer, guitarist (who doubles on bass), and a keyboardist. Guest vocalists, including Vic Fraja, Matteo Setti and Bernardo Lanzetti (of PFM fame), provide the singing. In many cases, the vocalists go for a Peter Gabriel sound, both as far as their tone and their expression go. Let’s just say that Mangala Vallis may love English prog in general, but there’s no doubt who their favorite English group is. The frequent lack of originality notwithstanding, the band sounds very professional, playing well together and putting together some terrific vocal parts. The band’s guitarist is no slouch either and churns out some tasty solos. The recording is crisp and clear, with every instrument easily audible.

All things considered, I like this CD quite a bit. Maybe next time out, Mangala Vallis can drop the imitations and go for the real gold. I know I plan to keep my eye on this band.

Lana’s Ballads

 

Lana Lane
Ballad Collection (2000)

More of the same from Lana Lane, this time focusing on slower songs. I like her version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” better than the original.

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, March 2001
Prog diva Lana Lane has already made her mark with her superb voice and matching compositions backed by husband Erik Norlander and fellow Rocket Scientists cohorts. One of the first countries to really appreciate Lana’s output was Japan, a country known for its avid fans, and ditto collectors. Hence the idea to release a Ballad Collection solely for the Japanese market way back in 1998 (sounds a long time ago doesn’t it?). Because of the great success in the land of the rising sun, the band and Lana decided it was time to release the album also for the rest of the world and to do so they opted for a double disc.

Going back to the Japanese single release, … that one consisted of the best ballads from Lana Lane’s then three studio albums, augmented with three bonus tracks recorded especially for that release. The opening song “Avalon” not only uses the same name as the band’s Japanese record company, it’s also a Rocket Scientists song from their debut album Earthbound. However, this time around guitarist Neil Citron has joined, plus we certainly have to mention the incredible violin played by Novi Novog. The acoustic beauty “Athena’s Shadow” was written by Lana on acoustic guitar and nicely executed here by Neil Citron, Don Schiff and Mark McCrite.

Another Rocket Scientists “classic” is added in the form of “Stardust,” re-recorded in 1998 and sporting some wonderful mellotron sections. The rest of the material comes from the Love Is An Illusion, Curious Goods and Garden Of The Moon albums, but once again strictly ballads! For this new release this disc sports an extra track in the form of “Season’s End,” a great cover from a Marillion highlight which is hinged around acoustic guitar with some outstanding bass lines, lush mellotron and sparse synthesizer sounds.

To make this set more interesting Lana has added a bonus disc entitled “the 2000 sessions” which includes brand new recordings and covers recorded just after Secrets Of Astrology (or you take the “1998” disc as the bonus disc whatever way you want to look at it). Here she tries her hand at many well known classics in the field of ballads. First up is Dan Fogelberg’s “Nether Lands” title track. Once again husband Erik Norlander adds a fair amount of mellotron which kind of lifts this song from the ground so it can view the world from up in the blue sky! The military drums introduce Lana’s melodic singing. Superb organ sounds fill the newly penned “Hands To Heal” written by the Winfield/Schiff household who previously wrote Lana Lane classics such as “Cold Outside,” “Let Heaven In” and “Take A Breath”. Again Neil Citron adds a great sparkle by means of a tremendous guitar solo. Great! Next up is a small tribute for Elton John whose “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” apparently wasn’t just my favourite but also one of Lana’s. To give it a new “look,” Erik decided to substitute Elton’s piano for a Hammond.

Sitting under the elderly oak in her own backyard, Lana strummed the acoustic guitar playing two new compositions which strangely seemed to fit together hence the medley of the new songs “A Place In Time” and “Nevermore” both sporting great orchestral arrangements. “Critical Mass” opens in true barbershop style with loads of different voices blending nicely together before culminating into “Wind On The Water” which has Lana’s voice create the waves on the musical ocean. Initially recorded by David Crosby and Graham Nash this is indeed a song which perfectly illustrates the quality of the voice. Written in 1947, “Autumn Leaves” is probably the first jazz standard ever to be committed to the Lana Lane CD collection. The nice melody is taken over by Neil Citron whilst Norlander delivers some whirling Hammond to add extra depth. It’s also interesting to hear how the drunken voice of Tom Waits is replaced by the velvet sounds of Lana during “Innocent When You Dream.” The disc ends with the Supertramp classic “If Everyone Was Listening.” Knowing how high pitched Roger Hodgson sings the original of course Lana has no problems what so ever singing this little gem.

I keep finding it difficult in order to find an explanation why Lana Lane still hasn’t made it in a big way. At the same time I still doubt whether at all this music is progressive rock or not. For all I know this is great rock music with superb arrangements unworthy of only selling a handful worldwide. If you have never heard Lana Lane before then this is the best possible release to get into Lana’s spell. The only setback is that once you’ve heard her sing, she becomes very addictive indeed and with a remarkable CD output already it might look like an expensive experience. However for the time being you get two discs for the price of one. Who can argue with that?

More about Ballad Collection:

Track Listing: Disc One: The 2000 Sessions : Nether Lands / Hands To Heal / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / A Place In Time / Nevermore / A Place In Time Reprise / Ghost Beside My Bed – To The Last Whale / Critical Mass / Wind On The Water / The River Maid / Autumn Leaves / Innocent When You Dream / If Everyone Was Listening

Disc Two: The 1998 Sessions : Avalon / Athena’s Shadow / Stardust / Season’s End / Through The Fire (Acoustic Studio Version) / When Time Stood Still / Clouds (Abc Mix) / Heart Of Dawn (Abc Mix) / Take A Breath (Abc Mix) / Across The Universe / Avalon Reprise

Musicians:
Lana Lane – voice and charisma
Erik Norlander – keyboards, moral support, lover

Guests:

Mark McCrite – guitar, vocals
Neil Citron – guitar
Tony Franklin – bass
Don Schiff – bass
Greg Ellis – drums
Tommy Amato – drums
Gregory Phelps – vocals
Tully Winfield – vocals
Novi Novog – viola

Website: www.lanalane.com

Discography
Love Is An Illusion (1995)
Curious Goods (1996/2002)
Garden Of The Moon (1998/2002)
Echoes from the Garden (1998)
Live in Japan (1998)
Love Is An Illusion 1998 Version (1998)
Ballad Collection (1998)
Acoustic Live in Tokyo (1999) promotional release only
Queen Of The Ocean (1999)
Echoes From The Ocean (1999)
Secrets Of Astrology (2000)
Ballad Collection (2000)