Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

DVD: Erik Norlander ~ The Galactic Collective: Live In Gettysburg


(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: instrumental, prog-rock, hard rock
Label: Think Tank Media
Year: 2012
Home: California

Concert location: Rites Of Spring Festival, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Year Recorded: 2011
Length: 2 hours
Bonus Features: two CDs of the concert, bonus track from 2010 concert

Members: Erik Norlander ~ keyboards/narration
Mark Matthews ~ bass
Nick LePar ~ drums
Freddy DeMarco ~ guitar
Lana Lane, Debriss McKinney ~ vocals

Guest: Michelle Moog-Koussa ~ introduction



I've reviewed keyboardist-composer-pianist EN's vocalist wife Lana Lane, I've reviewed his band Asia Featuring John Payne, I've dropped his name as a favorite litmus test for contemporary prog-rock keyboardists & composers, let alone regularly encouraged the discovery of his growing catalog ... so, it's about time I finally reviewed his own work. The fact that he has two new simultaneously released DVDs, both including two CDs & detailed packaging, not just works for my schedule but is also very exciting. They're based on his earlier CD The Galactic Collective that featured reworked versions of favorite songs from his career. But, now, we get to discover the project a new way via videos of the original studio sessions, extensive interviews, alternative audio versions & a second DVD of the album & a bit more on stage. It's a grand concept of doing everything sans turning the album into a picture book or redoing it with other musicians in a self-tribute format or rearranging it for a Romanian gypsy band! Though, if EN wants to pursue any of the above ... The problem is, both as a fan & a reviewer, I don't know what to say in response either to the project as a whole, or this particular live DVD The Galactic Collective: Live At Gettysburg. What more can be said about EN that hasn't already been said by reviewers? "Keith Emerson was so impressed with EN's Threshold, that he wrote the liner notes" ... let alone handed off his keyboard tech ... "evocative synthesizer technique is reminiscent of the legendary Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson & Jon Lord, while still very unique & forward-moving in its own right" ... "all his recordings are recommended" ... "well thought out & packaged with the fan in mind" ... "EN's star is certainly in the ascendant at the moment" ... "In these days where mediocrity is celebrated & true ability often ignored it is wonderful to see a musical craftsman of EN's stature receiving praise for his many talents." I recently posted in my other blog a brief interview with Erik about the releases, where he discussed their background & his current activities, so I don't wish to repeat that here, but instead let you investigate his own words. So, I'm left with only some general off-the-cuff responses to watching him & his troupe, including wife Lane, in concert during 2011's Rites Of Spring Festival, indeed at the looming battleground. First, though I enjoy his playing I'm not obsessively familiar with it. I don't know what song reinterpreted here appeared on what album or when, nor even how it originally sounds, nor who performed it previously. I have a handful of his albums, some I've listened to & some I haven't found time for yet. For some bands who reinterpret their own catalog, knowledge of the past is part of the experience. You need the comparison to fully comprehend the new creative process & outcome. I'm reminded of the final INXS album where they brought in guests to sing all their old hits, that were reworked in every way but the familiar. Or, for example, it helps knowing Metallica before you can really enjoy Van Canto. To enjoy or not enjoy these new album you really needed to know the roots. While, for an example closer to hom, John Payne of Asia re-recording older Asia songs, before his time in the band, might be decried by some long term fans but the jump isn't so big where you really don't need one to appreciate the other. So, on some level for EN's new work I might be missing out, but I don't feel the loss is that big & I don't think anyone should worry coming to the project. EN has not recrafted the songs to reflect changing bandmates, as The Galactic Collective is a new band assembled for this project with their future unknown, nor to mark a career moment or revival, nor to discover a new style of music. EN is not making a leap from prog pianist to gypsy prog king & needing to demonstrate how the old songs hold in up a new folk context. He's recrafted the songs for his own enjoyment - the end. Though, if you know of a gypsty band he might be interested ... The Galactic Collective also focuses on the instrumentals, which have sometimes gotten lost in between his vocal output. With this new band, based on his narration in the concert as he introduces each song with a little background giving the whole show an intimate feeling, he's given his works a more edgy rock feel than may have been delved into before. Certainly, the show stomps forward & is the more rock end of prog then hypnotic trance-like or drug-like, depending on the decade. It might even stomp a bit too much as, having not heard the original release or seen the companion DVD yet, I was expecting a roller-coaster of emotional contexts. Songs full of soft moments next to cacophonic prog. Extreme variation that was more akin to a greatest hits ride. There's no solo piano moments here, no Wakeman-esque flourished showcase with a spotlight only on EN, & everything is kept within a rock mood creating a sense of cohesiveness & flow. The songs meandor like traditional prog, but they also stay linked into a groove that keeps things focused, courtesy of a masterful powerhouse finger aching bassist & a laidback 60's drummer who never seems to break a breath. Focus & groove is something not often distinguished in the prog vocabulary & show's the modern feel of EN's music. EN rotates his solos with guitar solos keeping things squarely in the format of rhythm section with lead melody lines versus an intertwined rock symphony. He has but two keyboards & a Moog, connected to what he calls a the Wall Of Doom a 6 console control system looming behind him, so there's not even a Rick Emerson look at me moment ... who once had 28 keyboards on stage earning him a Guinness World Record. It's rather modest. While the prog side of me was expecting a bit more variation, at the same time keeping things largely within the same mood means this will be equally enjoyed by the non-prog enthusiast who doesn't want the instrumental spirals & cocophany that the genre is gluttonously famous for. This is not a show that's going to get maudlin. Uplifting is the key word. Vibrant alongside it. Thus, unintentionally, the subtle nature of EN's playing, though still prominent with his trademark heavy use of vibrato, tends to be more a bridge between big moments than a focus. Since most of the songs are instrumentals the focus is undoubtedly on EN who plugs out the melody line. EN fans tend to be divided over if they prefer better his instrumental or vocal works. This is certainly his show, even if some of the songss were written with others in mind. Certainly, with a vocalist he's forced to step back more often than not, while the instrumentals force a lead instrument to come forward. There's a few vocals here with Lana Lane taking the center spotlight & a backing vocalist who often sings sounds over words, something that has a great effect. In the end, its nice seeing both aspects of EN's music in the live venue. As it is, most of us aren't used to a solely instrumental show. As for guitarist Freddy DeMarco, he doesn't overplay, though he does turn in a lot of semi-shredder solos that feel a bit more showy than the music might really need. It would be interesting hearing EN expand his band a bit to including an additional non-rock guitarist, such as a flamenco or classical player, allowing both the rock & non-rock style to sit side by side. Though, for DeMarco's credit he does show a lot of courage by playing the guitar with a violin bow, as made famous by Jimmy Page & barely repeated since, & doesn't show-off or so much solo but actually uses it as a strange new sound. For those wondering, no, this does not sound like Rocket Scientists or Asia Featuring John Payne or a Lana Lane concert. EN's troupe has its own particular feeling. Perhaps, a bit more rock than EN's other efforts. Also to be noted, Michelle Moog-Koussa, the daughter of of the famed inventor introduces the show ... with a bit of an academic style versus lets get rocked. It keeps sets a tone immediately of an intimate show, which really this feels. The only bonus tracks on this DVD is a clip of Lana Lane's "Garden Of The Moon" live in Cleveland, 2010, though sans Lane. A great little song but some odd camera views, going from static balcony to oddly angled onstage shots & a wobbly back of the audience shot that ties to show the full experience of the theater but fails. It's obviously something that wasn't intended as anything but a rough record of the experience, probably never meant for public consumption. It merits inclusion as its the stage debut of this line-up. The real bonus is in the linear notes which includes lots of photos, an extensive essay of the equipment by his keyboard tech who previously worked for Emerson, lyrics to the few non-instrumentals - though there's a bit too much reliance on rhyming Jon Anderson-esque cosmic sounding lyrics that luckily sound far less cliched when Lane sings them - & an essay on the background of the project by EN himself. The two bonus CDs reproduce the entire concert sans the introductions, making it feel like a slightly different experience. Some live concerts require the visual, while others just aren't that interesting visually. Being stuck immobile behind a keyboard may not be the most exciting thing, but watching EN casually work his magic in front of his Wall Of Doom has its treats ... while listening to it with only one's thoughts has its own set of treats.

Track listing: Introduction By Michelle Moog-Koussa
Arrival
Neurosaur
Fanfare For Absent Friends
Sky Full Of Stars
Capture The Sun/Sky Full Of Stars Reprise
Astrology Suite: i. Astrology Prelude/ii. Secrets Of Astrology
Trantor Station
After The Revolution
The Dark Water
Into The Sunset Suite: i. Sunset Prelude/ii. Into the Sunset/iii. Dreamcurrents/iv. Hymn/v. Into the Sunset Reprise/vi. Sunset Postlude
Garden Of The Moon

Bonus CD: Arrival
Neurosaur
Fanfare For Absent Friends
Sky Full Of Stars
Capture The Sun/Sky Full Of Stars Reprise
Astrology Suite: i. Astrology Prelude/ii. Secrets Of Astrology
Trantor Station
After The Revolution
Garden Of The Moon
The Dark Water
Into The Sunset Suite: i. Sunset Prelude/ii. Into the Sunset/iii. Dreamcurrents/iv. Hymn/v. Into the Sunset Reprise/vi. Sunset Postlude





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