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, April 7, 2013

Erik Norlander ~ The Galactic Collective

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: instrumental, prog-rock, hard rock
Label: Think Tank Media
Year: 2010
Home: California

Members: Erik Norlander ~ keyboards/guitars
Mark Matthews ~ bass
Nick LePar ~ drums
Freddy DeMarco ~ guitar

Additional: John Payne ~ guitar/vocals
Mitch Perry, Mark McCrite, Ron Redfield ~ guitars
Lana Lane ~ vocals



I've reviewed the live DVD of this album, but what about the original studio version? Live versions are never an exact replica of their studio counterparts as there's always a difference, whether it be instrumentation or augmented instrumentation, performers, pacing, recording & production quality, mistakes or just the sheer energy of the performer or audience at the gig. Well, take your pick whether you want to enjoy the live concert with narration & a few less guest guitarists or the studio album that inspired the concert ... you're not going to be disappointed with either of these EN releases & you might even want them both ... the DVD comes with a CD too, so you're all set for a long car ride. Both have great production quality, so that's not an issue, plus the same core group of musicians. The other fact is being instrumental music, except for some chorus vocals, with a non-improvised background, keeps the arrangements very similar in both settings. I'm sure there's a difference in the number of keyboards EN uses here versus on stage & there might be some guitar overdubs missing, but I believe only a diehard fan will get particular or anxious over those things ... the rest of us will hear the essence & not the individual tonal changes. So, all that being said, is there is a difference? Yes, this has a more layered feeling so its sounds thicker & fuller at times. Further, while the obvious focus is EN's keyboards, for me the live show with less overdubs gives a bit more prominence to his melody lines, or I should properly say they stand out more, whereas here sometimes they float into the mix & it's just this wave of sound where at times you don't know if you're a hearing a guitar or a keyboard or both. It should be noted the live DVD includes the "Astrology Suite" of "i. Astrology Prelude/ii. Secrets Of Astrology", but here's its only the "Astrology Prelude", while this album includes "Dreamcurrents" but the live concerts features the complete "Into The Sunset Suite" of "i. Sunset Prelude/ii. Into the Sunset/iii. Dreamcurrents/iv. Hymn/v. Into the Sunset Reprise/vi. Sunset Postlude". But, this CD includes "Capture The Sun" which isn't on the live DVD. Now that list might make you want to get the live album over this studio album. For those that like a prog song going into double digits of length, three of the songs here hit the ten minute mark & nothing is less than five minutes ... & never once does a song sound like it drags or needs some scissors, even with the contemplative sounding "Dreamcurrents". The live concert is obviously longer, but I personally like my prog short & to the attack. I'm more likely to listen to something for five minutes that is tight, in your face & leaving you wanting more than ten minutes that leaves me satisfied. So, if what is here or not is an issue for you consider, then do you like your prog to the point & never potentially going on too long or do you like when things are given their full fare & really developed out? As I said, either way will lead to a good buy. I do have to do a special mention of one musician in this line-up. They're all great, though I find it interesting John Payne contributes guitars & not his trademark bass, reminding us he's also quite a proficient guitarist & has played guitar on all the Asia albums. But, I find myself particularly fascinated & engrossed with the driving force & the tonal quality of bassist Mark Matthews who lays down these underlying repeated grooves for EN & the rest of the troop to play off of, but they're unlike anything I've heard. When I think prog bass I think of Chris Squire of Yes, but sadly I've never gotten into his lines as they were cosmic without the groove. This is more akin to Billy Sheehan but without the unnecessary flash. Just a nice deep low-end that keeps the songs grounded. I find myself wanting to pick up my bass to learn what he's playing. For those not familiar with this project, that spurred not just the live DVD/CD but also a DVD/CD of this album being played in the studio with great 'behind-the-scenes' explanations of each song by EN & his different keyboards, no it's not a compilation, even though that's what the word collective brought to my mind until I went through the detailed liner notes ... but, on the other hand, it is a compilation ... just with a different approach. This is a collection of EN's favorite instrumental tracks from his catalog of work including both his solo albums & bands he's been in, including going back to his first solo album Threshold in 1997. But, as is typical, these have not been haphazardly pulled together & given a greatest hits compilation ... but re-imagined & re-recorded. Basically, new versions of songs given anything from new arrangements, to new instrumentation, to a new feeling, to a fusion of the studio original with later live versions ("After The Revolution") & to songs created on the road not recorded in the studio before ("Garden Of The Moon"). All the songs have appeared repeatedly over EN's career usually through different live versions popping up with different band configurations on different albums, though "Neurosaur" & "Fanfair For Absent Friends" have actually been given new studio versions in the past. Though, as I said on review of the live DVD, I've not heard all of the source albums for the included tracks, so I can't say if these are better than the past or, except for a few I have heard, how different they are. I will assume many reading this album might be in the same position, so I'll just say on the whole you won't be disappointed. This is a prog rock album with a bit of an edge. Most prog fans that I've met love EN's work, so if you're new the comeback of the genre or like out of the ordinary rock or instrumental albums, though this is not easy listening, you won't be disappointed with this collection. & it'll be your homework to hunt up the originals & compare. For those not familiar with EN he's in my book one of the best prog-pianists in the scene, right there with Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. His career is long & winding moving beyond his own solo albums with his band Rocket Scientists & work with his wife Lana Lane whose albums I also highly recommend, plus more famously as the keyboardist in Asia Featuring John Payne & a long catalog of session work. He also works with the Moog organization developing their new keyboards ... & even educates through his career about Moog, an instrument I never thought much of beyond a name until getting into EN. A Moogy Ambassador or Ambassador of Moog? Maybe best to forget about titles & just stick with the music ... & the title for that is The Galactic Collective.


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