by Deb Rao
- Senior Columnist –
July 7, 2012 at the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, NV
Fremont Street Experience is bringing back the ’80s this summer featuring some of the greatest acts to top the Billboard Charts during the heyday of rock and metal. One band whose music is still be playing on radio today is ASIA. In 2008, Asia featuring John Payne stormed The U.S. concert market. As you may know just like LA Guns and Great White there are also two Asia’s. Asia featuring John Payne made a special appearance at Fremont Experience on July 7th. Many fans turned out for this special free concert performance.
Asia who revolves around singer John Payne gave an outstanding melodic and at times angelic vocal performance. Opening with “Only Time Will Tell,” the band performed all of the hits and some obscure favorites.
Asia featuring John Payne also featured keyboard player Erik Norlander, drummer Jay Schellen, guitarist Jeff Kollman. and guitarist Moni Scaria. One of the highlights of the concert featured a drum, and keyboard solo from Erik Norlander and drummer Jay Schellen. Their performance at times sounded quite classical and fell perfectly into the set list of hits.
Perhaps one of the most touching moments was when John Payne sang “Military Man” and dedicated that song to all the men and women of our Armed Forces. Other highlights included “Sole Survivor” and encore the “Heat Of The Moment.” This was my second time seeing Asia and they did not disappoint. After the concert John Payne greeted fans and signed autographs. John seemed really impressed with the turnout. Don’t miss Asia featuring John Payne in concert this summer. For more info visit www.theasiaband.com. Also be sure to stop in for dinner at the newly renovated The D at Fremont Street Experience before all the free Fremont Street Experience concerts this summer.
by Joe Mis
Staff Writer –
El Dorado Hotel marks the triumphant return of one of the most captivating voices of modern rock, Lana Lane. After a four-year break from the music scene, Lane has released an incredible album that proves to the world that “the queen of symphonic rock” hasn’t lost a step. El Dorado Hotel mixes elements of jazz, rock and metal, along with a touch of the symphonic to create a sound instantly familiar and comfortable to her fans, yet manages to sound new and fresh at the same time.
As usual, California native Lane worked closely with well-regarded keyboard player (and husband) Erik Norlander, who also produced El Dorado Hotel. The teamwork between the two is superb and flawless, with Norlander’s keys highlighting and complementing Lane’s pure and powerful vocals. With a discography extending back to 1995, Lana Lane has never run out of ideas or fallen short on delivery. Her voice is as strong as ever, and her songwriting skills are finely developed. Lane’s lyrical inspiration comes from many sources – everything from life on the road to mythology – and the song topics on this release are a bit more diverse than on her older albums. Norlander does a wonderful job on the keyboards and production, making the album a true treat for even the most jaded of ears. The pair has also managed to surround themselves with top-notch talent from across the rock world, including Racer X’s Bruce Bouillet on guitars, and Asia’s John Payne (mandolin, backing vocals) and Jay Schellen (drums).
The CD opens with “A Dream Full of Fire,” a beautifully engineered progressive rocker with strong jazz and some near-flamenco overtones. This track shows the effortless vastness of Lane’s dynamic and stylistic range, and proves that she is the talent that so many try to emulate. “Maybe We’ll Meet Again” is a radio-friendly melodic rock piece with reflective lyrics and good performances from all. “El Dorado” has a definite Latin influence and features some smooth keys, excellent acoustic and electric guitars, neat percussion and a soaring, powerful chorus. “Darkness Falls” has definite goth metal influences, but quickly becomes a Celtic folk tinged track with a superb (and spooky) choral vocal line. The continuing swap between light and heavy makes this a memorable song. “Hotels” is a great acoustic piece with fine vocals, well-done pianos and numerous jazz influences, taking potshots at the musician’s life on the road. This is truly a “singer’s song,” almost a vocal standard, and there are few active singers who could pull it off with such grace and sincere passion.
“Believe” is another smooth melodic rocker with a definite progressive rock / Asia feel to it. The one downer here is the totally unneeded “Black Eyed Peas” vocal manipulation of Lane’s voice during some of the verses. This effect comes out of nowhere and startles the listener, distracting – to say the least. “Life of the Party” is almost an 80’s hair-metal rocker, definitely upbeat and kicky. “Gone Are The Days” is another mid-tempo rocker focusing on memories and regrets. The vocal line is extremely smooth and the guitars are raucous and effective, and a simple spoken passage makes this track one of the strongest on the album. “Moon God” has much more “electro-pop” feel to the music with heavy synths and electronic trickery, and again the manipulations of Lane’s voice during a few phrases of the chorus are jarring and unnecessary. It does have a slick guitar solo and some great bass work to make up for things. “In Exile” wraps the album, and can only be described as epic. Soft keyboards, amazing performances from all the players, and wonderful lyrics truly allow Lane’s raw talents to shine. This is quite probably the strongest song she’s ever recorded, and the 11 minute track seems much shorter.
Lana Lane is a pure singer who holds true to her strengths – she doesn’t need to be gothic, operatic, angry, love-struck or angst-filled. She simply sings, and it is magic. Despite the strong symphonic rock overtones, El Dorado Hotel is filled with strong hints of jazz, swing, folk, classical, progressive rock and gothic rock. Fronted by Lane’s ability to shift seamlessly from rock to jazz to folk, the many musical styles on this CD are a never-ending source of aural pleasure. Each and every track is filled with lush rhythms, soaring melodies, and strong harmonies, with nary a stinker in the bunch. The amazing depth of talent and musicianship is neatly tied up by Lane’s superb vocals making this one of the first do-not-miss releases of the year. Very highly recommended!
Genre: Symphonic Rock
Lana Lane (vocals)
Erik Norlander (keyboards/synths, additional guitars, bass)
John Payne (harmony and choral vocals, mandolin)
Mark McCrite (guitars, bass, choral vocals, programming)
Bruce Bouillet (guitars)
Neil Citron (guitars)
Freddy DeMarco (guitars)
Guthrie Govan (guitars)
Don Schiff (NS/Stick)
Mark Matthews (bass)
Jay Schellen (drums)
1. A Dream Full of Fire
2. Maybe We’ll Meet Again
3. El Dorado
4. Darkness Falls
7. Life Of The Party
8. Gone Are The Days
9. Moon God
10. In Exile
Label: Think Tank Media
Hardrock Haven rating: 9.5/10
by John Kindred
Erik Norlander’s latest studio effort titled The Galactic Collective finds the artist returning to the past. With idea of re-imagining previous recordings, Norlander delivers 10 new music arrangements. His inspiration comes from songs that appeared on albums he recorded with the Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane and his own solo releases. For the un- indoctrinated, Norlander has built a career as an instrumental musician who emphases Prog-Rock by utilizing his skills at the keyboard, synthesizer and piano. His musical endeavors are a firm reminder of the ‘70s, when bands like ELP and ELO were making bold musical statements in the Prog-Rock world.
Joining Norlander on his journey are bassist Mark Matthews, drummer Nick LePar and Lana Lane and John Payne handling the vocals. Guest guitarists include: John Payne, Mitch Perry, Mark McCrite, Ron Redfield and Freddy DeMarco. The album was recorded at Magnetic North Studio in Cleveland, with engineer Chris Keffer and executive producer Dena Henry. Norlander made use of vintage analog synthesizers, a Hammond organ and Steinway grand piano.
Musically, there is a firm emphasis that places the synthesizer, keyboard or piano melodies in the front of the sonic landscape. Norlander isn’t afraid to share the spotlight. His inclusion of guitar solos, electric guitar rhythms and the strength of bassist Matthews and drummer LaPar build the music into majestic masterpieces. The Galactic Collective sets forth a mood that takes the listener on a 79-minute energetic, spacey Pink Floyd-ish (kind of way) journey wrapped into a spellbinding musical opus.
Overall, The Galactic Collective is ambitious. The atmosphere created by Norlander is on par with a great movie director, as he invites you into the story you. An once in, you don’t want to leave as you wait for the end, when the credits finally roll. There is a lot to digest musically, but the music warrants your attention. This is an album with which you can sit back, close your eyes and become a part of the experience. The Galactic Collective is certainly one of Norlander’s finer moments.
Genre: Instrumental Progressive Rock
Erik Norlander (k)(s)(p)
Mark Matthews (b)
Nick LePar (d)
Lana Lana (v)
John Payne (g)(v)
Mitch Perry (g)
Mark McCrite (g)
Ron Redfield (g)
Freddy DeMarco (g)
3. Fanfare for Absent Friends
4. Sky Full of Stars
5. Astrology Prelude
6. Trantor Station
7. After The Revolution
8. Garden of the Moon
10. The Dark Water
Label: Think Tank Media
Hardrock Haven rating: 8.5/10
by John Kindred
Are you prepared to get lost in a fantasy adventure story set to the backdrop of some of today’s finest progressive rock and metal musicians? Author Kevin J. Anderson’s latest fantasy novel Terra Incognita: The Edge of the World has become the backdrop to this conceptual story. Expanding on a storyline from within the confines of the novel, the basis for this inspired rock opera has been laid.
Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, also a bestselling author, have penned the lyrics to this musical story. Together, they have called upon keyboard “wizard” and composer Erik Norlander to create the musical arrangements. The band Roswell consists of Anderson, Moesta, Norlander and his wife, Lana Lane, bassist Kurt Barabas (Amaran’s Plight) and executive producer Shawn Gordon.
While Lane handles the female vocal lines, a slew of guest musicians build out the cast of characters. The male vocal parts include James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Michael Sadler (Saga) and John Payne (Asia). Other contributing musical guest include: David Ragsdale (Kansas), Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), Chris Quirarte (Prymary), Chris Brown (Ghost Circus) and Mike Alvarez.
Condensing a 608-page book into a 13-song CD requires an adept pen and a dramatic decrease in words! It’s also one thing to write novels and quite another to be a poet. Taking themes from the book, religion, love, exploration, Anderson and Moesta embark on audio journey that lends a perspective to the novel that is inherently unique.
Michael Sadler handles the role of the hero, Criston. James LaBrie’s character, Soldan-Shah Omra, provides us with the villain of the story. Lana Lane performs as Criston’s love interest, Adrea, and John Payne portrays Captain John Shay.
Musically and lyrically, there is a lot for the listener to digest. Having the “best of the best” to work with can either be hinderance or a God send. And, as you can expect, some performances work magnificently while others just don’t shine as bright.
Far from perfect, Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon is ambitious and majestic. For those fans who enjoy rock operas like Gary Hughes’ Once and Future King or Nikolo Kostchev’s Nostradamus, they will find Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon enjoyable.
Label: ProgRock Records
Erik Norlander (ROCKET SCIENTISTS, LANA LANE, SOLO)
Kurt Barabas (UNDER THE SUN, AMARAN’S PLIGHT)
James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER, FRAMESHIFT)
Michael Sadler (ex-SAGA)
John Payne (ex-ASIA)
David Ragsdale (KANSAS)
Martin Orford (ex-IQ, ex-Jadis)
Gary Wehrkamp (SHADOW GALLERY, AMARAN’S PLIGHT)
Chris Brown (GHOST CIRCUS)
Chris Quirarte (PRYMARY)
2. The Call Of The Sea
3. I Am The Point
4. Letters In A Bottle
7. Here Be Monsters
8. The Sinking Of The Luminara
9. The Winds Of War
10. Swept Away
11. Beyond The Horizon
12. Merciful Tides
13. The Edge Of The World
Hardrock Haven rating: 6.8/10