Feature and HTML © Russell W Elliot 1999-2001
All Images © Think Tank Media 1995-2001
except Lana Lane logo © Mokoto Takahashi 1999
formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
Last updated: 26 December 2001
With a special editions released during 2000 and 2001, various
guest appearances and an all-new album due out in early 2002, it's again
time to review the solo recordings of progressive rock diva Lana Lane.
This feature reviews all of her recordings to date and reflects on the
significant development of her musical style. Through this article you can
learn about her artistic origins, the intertwined relationship with Rocket
Scientists and get a glimpse into the sound that developed over a vast
selection of commercially released recordings.
Hyper-links within this feature will transport your browser through cyberspace to other online resources including producer notes and news releases (click on album covers), audio files and fan pages at the Japanese Echoes From The Illusion website. Lana Lane's official website can be accessed by clicking on the logo or photo above. Be sure to browse the official website of Think Tank Media, where you can order Lana Lane recordings. Special thanks to their president and producer of Lana Lane's recordings, keyboard player Erik Norlander, for his continuing significant cooperation and support in creating this feature.
Progressive rock enthusiasts anxiously watch each year to see who will be presented with the Classic Rock Society's coveted award for the best female vocalist. Although for years the award has been dominated by Renaissance's Annie Haslam, Landmarq's Tracy Hitchings (Quasar, Strangers on A Train, Gandalf) and Iona's Joanne Hogg, Lana Lane's latest albums and emerging contributions to progressive artist recordings are destined to broaden her international recognition and win her new acclaim.
The stunning female vocalist has a highly expressive style with tremendous power and soaring range—she is equally comfortable with song-based progressive music, symphonic orchestral epics, sensitive ballads and hard hitting rock anthems. With her origins on the United States west coast, Los Angeles-based Lana Lane emerged as a solo artist after an extensive foundation singing backing vocals for industry greats as a session singer. Regular Musical Discoveries readers will certainly appreciate the transition—both Miriam Stockley and Mae McKenna emerged as renowned solo artists after establishing firm foundations and learning the industry as session singers. Rocket Scientists' Erik Norlander, Lana's longtime musical and personal partner, has produced all of her recordings.
To date Lane has reinvented her style twice after building an initial framework with her first two solo albums and contributions to Rocket Scientists albums. As a soloist, Lana's initial foundation was set with the hard rock and heavy metal sound in her debut album, Love Is An Illusion and with the symphonic style of her followup, Curious Goods. A softer ballad-like sound first emerged in Rocket Scientists' "Stardust," a bonus track for the Japanese release of their album Brutal Architecture. Lane also sang background vocals on Rocket Scientists' 1993 Earthbound album.
Lana then effectively combined the differing textures of her former recordings into four solo releases transforming her repertoire into a more cohesive progressive style. Rocket Scientists became an essential component of both her recordings and live sound. The Live In Japan album captured a wonderful live performance; with its superb imaging and a warmer overall texture, it was actually her first "greatest hits" compilation. Lana Lane's Ballad Collection further explored her softer side but emphasised a more varied song-based style. The album includes "Avalon" which, along with a live version of "Stardust" sung as a duet with Mark McCrite, also appears on Rocket Scientists' live recording Earth Below And Sky Above.
Lane's next batch of recordings include highly polished epic-length symphonic tracks with complex instrumental arrangements further balancing progressive keyboards and percussion with acoustic and hard hitting electric guitar parts. The Ocean albums also marry the softer texture of her Ballad Collection album with the excitement and power of her earlier recordings and the precise imaging of her live album. The Best Of Lana Lane 1995-1999 album, track contributions to Think Tank Media Sampler Volume One, and both backing vocal and band contributions to Rocket Scientists' Oblivion Days with Ayreon artists, concluded her 1999 activities.
With nine well-received solo recordings released in the first five years of Lana Lane's career, her bright future was again underscored in the new millennium. Lana's first album of the new millennium and tenth solo release is entitled Secrets Of Astrology. With lineup changes including a bevy of exciting guest artists the tracks vary between more symphonically heavy and deeply arranged epics and even more spacious Lana Lane signature ballads. The year also promises to include Lane's lead vocals on a track from Erik Norlander's forthcoming Ritual Symphony album Into The Sunset (May 2000) along with vocalists Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple and Edward Reekers from Kayak.
Fans will also want to listen to contributions to the new album by the Dutch symphonic metal band Ayreon resulting from Lana Lane's and Eric Norlander's developing international musical relationship with the band's members. Indeed Lana Lane's and Erik Norlander's contributions can be heard on Ayreon's The Universal Migrator (2000) set (review) and also on the Ambeon (Arjen Lucassen and Astrid van der Veen) album Fate Of A Dreamer (2001) (review). Lana also did a guest spot singing the lead part on the Ayreon "Temple of the Cat" single and guests singing the harmony part in "Wings Of An Angel" on the Helloïse album Fata Morgana (2001).
Following the runaway success of Secrets of Astrology Think Tank Media and the artist's Japanese label Avalon released three—more or less—special editions of earlier and live performances. Think Tank's Lana Lane Ballad Collection Special Edition is comrised of the artists' new 13-track Ballad Collection II (Avalon, 2000) with a bonus CD of the earlier Ballad Collection (Avalon, 1998) recordings. The label's Love Is An Illusion Special Edition includes the 1998 remixed version plus a bonus CD comprised of the original and previously hard to find 10-track 1995 version. An 8-track limited edition European Tour 2001 Souvenir includes three Lana Lane solo pieces with further contributions to two Erik Norlander tracks. Each of the special and limited editions includes various rarities considered essential by serious enthusiasts.
Stay with us, you can discover a lot more about Lana Lane's music and the development of her style below.
The Foundation: Illusion and Curiosity
Lana Lane was raised near San Francisco, California where she took singing lessons for years from a nearby woman who had also trained a bevy of well known artists including Eric Martin, Eddie Money and even Barbara Streisand. Lana began writing her own material 1987 yet her solo career actually took off with the original recordings she made in 1993, collabrating with Erik Norlander (keyboards, including Hammond organ, Mellotron, Rhodes piano, synthesizers, vocoder and sound effects), Danny Lorenze (drums) and Mark McCrite (lead and rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, backing vocals).
Several adjustments were made as the recordings for Lana's debut album were finalised. Don Schiff (Chapman stick and NS/stick, bass guitar) reworked the bass parts for all tracks except "Fairie Tale State Of Mind" where McCrite's bass part still remains. Tommy Amato reworked most of the drum parts, however Danny's tracks remain on "LIAA Prelude," "Through the Fire" and "Faerie Tale State of Mind." Since Mark McCrite's guitar style was more vintage (Beatles, Moody Blues) and progressive (Pink Floyd, Genesis, Alan Parsons) and the band wanted more of a rock sound, Neil Citron was asked to play the rhythm guitar on "Through the Fire" and a solo on "Faerie Tale State of Mind." With these changes, Lana had now included contributions from every member of Rocket Scientists: Tommy Amato, Mark McCrite, Erik Norlander and Don Schiff. It was to be the beginning of an evolution of artistic relationships that would intertwine through the albums that followed.
Session guitarist Curtis Balmer played additional rock sounding solos and rhythm tracks and also co-wrote the title track "Love is an Illusion" with Erik Norlander. They were both credited on Erik Norlander's "Prelude" and "Postlude" because the chorale section from "Love is an Illusion" they wrote together was reused. Tony Franklin was brought in to play bass on two of Lana's albums, replacing Don Schiff, who was busy with another project at the time, on one and adding to his contribution on another. Danelle Kern (rhythm guitar) and Tully Winfield (backing vocals) also contribute to various Lana Lane recordings.
Lana Lane is credited with vocal contributions on Rocket Scientists' debut album Earthbound (1993). Her picture also appears in the booklet that accompanies the CD. With thirteen song-based symphonic / orchestral progressive rock tracks, the tremendous album provides a thorough introduction to the band's work. Mark McCrite sings lead vocals throughout while Lana provides backing vocals on seven tracks. The first recording of the sensitive ballad entitled "Avalon" is sung by McCrite and is an interesting contrast to Lana Lane's renditions recorded several years later—one on Rocket Scientists' Earth Below and Sky Above (1998) and the other on Lana's Ballad Collection "Avalon" also appears on the Best Of Lana Lane 1995-1999 compilation album.
Lana Lane's first solo album, Love Is An Illusion, was produced on a shoestring budget but was nevertheless well received and all copies from the pressings were quickly scooped up by fans. Fan pressure mounted during her subsequent releases as Lane's popularity grew. A reworked and more polished version of the album was released in 1998 with brand new bonus tracks—only this new version is available today. So begins the tale of the intertwining of Lana Lane and Rocket Scientists, Think Tank Media and their Japanese label, Avalon.
Originally recorded as a completely integrated concept album with instrumental and vocalise "Prelude" and "Postlude" bracketing the main course, Lane's first album, Love Is An Illusion, features tracks with styles ranging from Beatle-esque ("Coloured Life") to anthem ("Through The Rain") and everything in between including the Heart-influenced and stunning "Cold Outside" and the sensitive yet haunting ballad—almost lullaby—"Faerie Tale State Of Mind". The album was characterised later as a hard rock/heavy metal phenomenon. To cater to progressive audiences, an additional instrumental and vocalise number, entitled "LIAA Interlude," was added to the 1998 reissue of her debut album. Erik Norlander's and Frank Rosato's attention to detail during the remixing process impressively increased the dynamic range and imaging in the resulting product.
Soaring yet passionate vocal performances characterise the album while layers of instrumentals add additional colour, depth and warmth to the work. The surreal theme of cover artist Jacek Yerka that would span all of her commercial releases also makes its debut on this album. The 1998 reissue bonus track "A Night in the Garden" is based on the album cover and is the first to feature real cello and contrabass parts in the arrangement. With it's heavy metal electric guitar, thick drum arrangement and vocal harmonies, "Into The Ether" was added as an exclusive bonus track for the Japanese reissue. Technically superb, the 1998 reissue's production quality throughout is top notch and Avalon's attention to well-known high quality packaging that would also follow suit in all of the subsequent releases is also commendable.
The unique sound of Don Schiff's Stick instruments (Chapman Stick and NS/Stick) as well as screaming and lush electric guitar dominate the instrumentals on Lane's earliest albums and compliment her soaring lead vocals. Backing vocal harmonies couple with the instrumentals to complete the musical picture. An extremely notable Emerson-style keyboard solo is evident in "Faerie Tale State Of Mind." A keen fan of Heart and Ann Wilson, Lana's vocal work on the album appears to find inspiration here.
Rocket Scientists released their second album Brutal Architecture in 1995. Although Lana Lane does not contribute to the album, the artists' relationship is mentioned in the press release. Themes from their first album can be heard in their follow-up; a notable example is the similarity between "Calm Before The Storm" and the introduction to "The Fall Of Icarus."
Lane became a principal writer in the development of her second and more experimental album, Curious Goods. Writing using a method well known to Renaissance fans, Lane and guitarist Neil Citron worked like Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford, passing tapes back and forth, adding to each other's ideas. Citron, who had guested on the debut album and influenced by other great guitarists including Jeff Beck, provided the strong musical foundation and progressive style Lane sought in the project.
This time working with a smaller group of instrumentalists, including only Neil Citron and Tony Franklin and Rocket Scientists Tommy Amato and Erik Norlander, the work turned out highly polished exhibiting extraordinary depth, while several of the tracks—for example, "Take A Breath"—actually turned out quite accessible.
The album's prelude, entitled "Curious Goods Part One," built on the debut album's prelude theme. A progressive instrumental written by Erik Norlander, the track demonstrates a fine balance of lead guitar, keyboards, vocal samples and percussion and musically summarises the tracks that follow.
With vocal work that was described "clear, sweet and expressive," "sorrowful," "dramatic" and "angelic," Lane combined her interest in Heart's Ann Wilson with other styles including big bands and jazz to create a more varied vocal style. While the guitar work is very heavily pronounced, vocals are mixed way up, indeed soaring with harmonies way above the instrumentals.
While the most memorable tracks from the album are likely the rocking "Escher's Staircase" and progressive keyboard-laced spacy (listen to it with headphones!) intro "Heart Of Dawn" coupled to the rock anthem "Take A Breath," an allusion to Chrissie Hynde's vocal style evident in the "Symphony Of Angels" with it's dynamic drumming that will leave some enthusiasts breathless.
Lana Lane was asked by the album's producer Erik Norlander to sing lead vocals on Rocket Scientists' song "Stardust" for their album Brutal Architecture. The track also appears on Empire Music's 1996 album Art Rock Collection Volume One and an everso slightly different mix of the song from the same recording session also appears as the bonus track of the European release of Rocket Scientists' Oblivion Days. Norlander worked with Lane to expand this sound in "Clouds," written by Bread's David Gates, chosen by Lane to close Curious Goods. Erik Norlander points out that the song actually had a very similar chord progression to "Stardust."
"Clouds," a heart-felt ballad sung over light instrumentation, is sung sensitively and is the first track to demonstrate a lighter, less dynamic, but equally evocative, vocal style. Here Lane's technically superb delivery is done at mid-volume, a range that has proven difficult for other singers, and provides an initial glimpse into the ballad style that would emerge again four releases later—with "Stardust"—on her Ballad Collection.
First Transformation: Growing and Tending The Garden
With two highly successful albums and an emerging reputation as a progressive rock diva, Lana Lane's third album, Garden Of The Moon, was released in January 1998 and again featured Rocket Scientists—Tommy Amato, Don Schiff, Mark McCrite and Erik Norlander. Neil Citron and Danelle Kern continue to be part of the Lana Lane lineup. A shorter album of previously unreleased tracks and alternate versions was released a month later, prior to Lana's first Japanese tour, entitled Echoes From The Garden.
Intended to take the best of the hard rock/heavy metal style from the debut album and the more symphonic progressive sound from the second, the third album speaks to both camps with lush, symphonic arrangements ("Seasons") and also with powerful, heavy rock anthems ("Evolution Revolution") according to Erik Norlander. This crossover style emerged as a Lana Lane trademark, distinguishing her own work from that of other artists at the beginning of her solo career.
It is clear from the dramatic instrumental and vocalise prelude entitled "River of the Stars," that Garden Of The Moon would be the most ambitious undertaking at this point in the artist's development. Instrumentally complex with the lushest of progressive—electric guitar and keyboard—arrangements to appear to date, the album opens with tremendous power and vocal harmonies in the epic "Destination Roswell."
Similarities to other artists are lost; a unique Lana Lane sound has emerged. Half of the album's songs are longer than 6:00. The album's symphonic title track concludes the album, echoes the opening number and serves as it's matching bookend bracketing the work between the two.
The album contains songs written by Lane with several different partners. For the first time she wrote with Don Schiff; "Eternal Waters" and "Seasons" are a result of this collaboration. Previously Schiff contributed "Cold Outside" and "Take A Breath" both written with Tully Winfield and mentioned earlier in this article. Their contribution to this album is the track "Under the Olive Tree" with its memorable choruses and vocal harmonies.
The stunning keyboard-laced symphonic ballad "Dream Of The Dragonfly" was co-written by Lane with producer Erik Norlander, who also penned "Evolution Revolution," "Destination Roswell" and the album's two instrumentals. "Moongarden" was co-written by Lane with female rock guitarist Danelle Kern, a track that actually contains the lyric that gave rise to the album's title. A live version of "Symphony Of Angels" performed live with Rocket Scientists serves as a wonderful encore to close the album and provides an initial glimpse into the ambiance of live Lana Lane/Rocket Scientists performance. The album Sisyphus Sampler Volume: Music From The Underground released in 1998 also included "Destination Roswell."
Echoes From The Garden includes tracks previously unreleased and alternative mixes created prior to Garden Of The Moon and was pressed to precede Lane's April 1998 Japanese tour. The "Echoes Mix" of "Seasons" is vocally richer while the two new mixes of "Coloured Life" and "Cold Outside" had drum sections redone to generate a different feel to the songs. Vocal passages appear to have been slightly altered in the studio. With outstanding overall production quality, the album has a more symphonic feel with richer keyboards, lusher vocals and a different overall lustre to prior releases.
A harder yet vocally stunning epic version of "Evolution Revolution" with a longer progressive introduction and alternate instrumental arrangements was also produced. One of the new tracks is the slightly bluesy Hammond organ-laced dramatic ballad "Leaving Stardust" sung in a Tracy Hitchings style. The other is a highly memorable cover of the David Bowie, Pat Methany and Lyle Mays tune "This Is Not America" from the motion picture The Falcon And The Snowman. Filled with vocal harmonies, the song is highly accessible and also illustrates Lana Lane's dramatic soaring vocal ability.
Produced with stunning artwork and complete sleeve notes in a tri-gatefold digipak style, the album was well received by enthusiasts and began a trend to put out this type of material in an Echoes-package shortly after a major solo project has been completed.
Lana Lane and Neil Citron toured Japan in April 1998 with Rocket Scientsits—Mark McCrite, Tommy Amato, Don Schiff and Erik Norlander (photos). A multitrack recording of their first show was made at at Club Citta' in Kawasaki, Japan on 18 April 1998 and mixed in California a month later. An audiophile quality album was released only two months after the show.
Packaged with a lovely illustrated booklet also containing photos taken in Japan to commemorate the tour, the precision of the recording is superb with excellent production quality throughout. All tracks included on Live In Japan had been released on Lanes' four former studio albums—a live version of the track "Symphony Of Angels" (recorded in Germany during 1997) initially appeared on the Japanese release of Garden Of The Moon.
The live recordings have a different overall feel, most likely resulting from the ambiance created by the setting, the imaging produced by the mix, and most notably the more obvious vocal harmonies with more evident mixes of the backing vocalists—especially Rocket Scientist Mark McCrite's and Lane-regular Neil Citron's contributions.
The album effectively transposes the greatest Lana Lane songs to a live setting with the typical additional solo instrumental excursions. The instrumental mix is appropriately balanced, but a special effort to achieve precise imaging to capture the live setting is obvious. Although the weight of the guitars is far from lost, the keyboards are more pronounced, perhaps due to the equipment chosen by Erik Norlander for the performance. The vocoder used for the choir parts adds a symphonic edge to the music and could be one of the key differences in the mix.
Lana's vocal performance evolves from the studio albums with the passion of a live delivery and the technical differences of stage and studio microphones. The concert hall environment successfully compliments this technical change quite well. The obvious fan appreciation of Lane's work is frequently demonstrated with the wild applause captured in the recording.
Although the tracks really do resemble a "best of" compilation, the live delivery of a couple of them is especially notable. "Escher's Staircase" balances heavy guitars with symphonic keys and top notch vocals with each performer getting a shot at leading the song. The interplay of the guitar and keys during the instrumental bridge is highly effective. The concert classic "Symphony Of Angels" performed as an encore here includes solos from both guitarists—Neil Citron opening in the right stereo field and Mark McCrite in the left—and Tony Amato's rapidfire drumming. The rationale behind the producer's attention to this detail can only be fully appreciated when seeing the band perform live (or on video). Lana's lead vocal work is especially well and originally delivered, with McCrite's vocal harmonies adding an additional dimension to the overall sound. Erik Norlander's classical string improvisation on keys during the instrumental bridge adds significant symphonic texture to the delivery.
Recorded live at Zippal Hall in Tokyo, Japan on 29 October 1998, accompanied only by Erik Norlander on piano, Lana's three track promotional EP, Acoustic Live In Tokyo is an absolutely stunning live vocal recording. A short intro taken from "Heart Of Dawn" is included within the tremendous rendition of "Take A Breath" featured here. The EP's sensitive acoustic performance and recording of "Stardust" was made only one month following the press release for Ballad Collection featuring the full band arrangement of the song. An earlier recording of the song with Rocket Scientists' instrumental arrangements was released several months earlier on Earth Below and Sky Above. An acoustic version of the classic "Symphony Of Angels" highlighting Lana's expressive vocals completes the EP.
An album of live Rocket Scientists performances at The German Progressive Rock Festival in Bruchsal, Germany (21 September 1997) and 3E in Los Angeles, California (6 September 1996), entitled Earth Below and Sky Above, was also released in 1998. Here live versions of the "Avalon" and "Stardust" ballads are performed by Rocket Scientists with Lana singing lead vocals on the former and a duet with Mark McCrite on the latter, actually preceding the studio versions that would be released on her Ballad Collection. The band's performance at ProgFest was similarly intermingled with Lana Lane's work in May 1999. With the artists' dynamic on-stage performances and a selection from the best of their earlier two albums, the album is an exciting and equally excellent introduction to Rocket Scientists' sound.
Lana Lane's Ballad Collection album further illustrates a softer—acoustically-oriented, less electronic—side completing her first transformation. With the addition of a viola part on two of the albums tracks by Novi Novog, the album features a lineup including Neil Citron and Rocket Scientists Mark McCrite, Tommy Amato, Don Schiff and Erik Norlander, who also produced the recording. Greg Ellis provides additional percussion while Tony Franklin and Tully Winfield return to add bass and backing vocals. Mark McCrite's expanded acoustic guitar parts are evident on several of the album's tracks.
Evolved arrangements of Rocket Scientists' symphonic "Avalon" bracket the album's remaining eight tracks, including a stunning Lana Lane quietly soaring rendition of Rocket Scientists' "Stardust" and the similar feeling 1998 remix of "Clouds." While the opening "Avalon" track includes Lana's lead vocal, the spontaneously recorded closing reprise contains alternating guitar solos and vocalise harmonies by Lana, Mark and Tully.
"Athena's Shadow," a sensitively slow acoustic guitar-based number, written by Lana Lane (alone) makes its debut on this album with wonderful soaring lead vocals and soft vocal and instrumental harmonies. An entirely acoustic version of Lana Lane classic "Through The Fire," recorded after being well received when being performed live in Japan, is considered the definitive Lana Lane audiophile track. Here alternative percussion, acoustic bass and viola join Mellotron to add a unique texture to the song.
While favourites include the 1998 versions of the instrumental "Heart Of Dawn" and its companion symphonic vocal "Take A Breath," the album's two covers are also highly notable. McCrite's acoustic guitars were combined with Erik Norlander's Mellotron flutes to produce an original almost acoustic arrangement of their Electric Light Orchestra favourite "When Time Stood Still" illustrating a similarity to "Stardust." The trilogy of songs—recorded in as many days to ensure the right feeling was captured—includes Beatles' "Across The Universe." With its sensitive vocals, the song's depth is achieved by building light acoustic guitar up with an orchestral arrangement. Simultaneously played acoustic percussion parts of Greg Ellis and Tommy Amato are featured in the beginning while the drumkit does not begin playing until well into the song.
Lana's Ballad Collection album contains the perfect balance of thoughtfully reworked classics and new numbers. These recordings emphasise Lana's singing at mid-volume and, with the expanded use of acoustic instrumentation, contributed essential ingredients to an evoloving symphonic style.
Evolution Revolution: Capturing The Oceans
With the prior year's successful releases spanning various styles from hard metal-edged progressive anthems to the softer mood of her ballads, Lana Lane's fourth album of original material, Queen Of The Ocean, effectively added richer symphonic arrangements to her repetoire and captured the result in a highly polished and fully integrated form.
Although they were under a tight schedule to complete the recording in only six weeks, working intensely in their own studio clearly must have contributed to the tremendous consistency of the finished work.
The two versions of the album—Japanese and European—include a cohesive set of new material while the European version contains additional bonus tracks drawn from 1998's Japanese release successes. Indeed, the album is designed to reach audiences on both sides of two major oceans.
Shortly after the album was released Lana gave some insights into the songs; she said, "On Queen Of The Ocean, the first song, "Nightfalls," was actually written about a dream that I had. "Queen Of The Ocean" was written by Marc and Eric—the lyrics by me. It is really about a guardian angel. I believe in guardian angels since I am living. "Queen Of The Ocean" is about her—my guardian angel."
Lana's comments continued, "The next song, "Let Heaven In," is about allowing yourself opening your heart. "Frankenstein Unbound" was written by Eric. It's really written from a woman's point of view. Everyone was so frightend about the monster—not of the creator. The next song is about my fear of the sea. It scares me. So I wrote about the beautiful city that lies under the sea. We also have a Marillion cover. "Rainbow's End" is just rockin stuff. "Without You" was written by my cousin. It's about losing someone you love." She added, "These are stories that deal with the sea. More or less tragical things."Queen Of The Ocean, with its balance of symphonic and metal sound, features far more pronounced keyboards played by producer Erik Norlander using Mellotron, Minimoog and an original Hammond organ in different parts. Complex orchestral arrangements and longer—almost epic-length—tracks produced an album with a richer overall sound, demonstrating a further evolution in Lana Lane's style. Soaring vocals, wonderful harmonies and improvisation-style instrumental bridges have been captured with superiour production quality surpassing the recording excellence of earlier releases. Erik Norlander writes about the album, Queen Of The Ocean audibly follows an unusual, very demanding concept, in which numerous guitar licks are combined with two or more string instruments, wind instruments or Moog parts. You find contrapuntal passages alongside polyphonic lines."
Besides the impressive lead vocals from Lana herself, the album features band members Neil Citron, Tony Franklin, Danelle Kern and Rocket Scientists Mark McCrite, Tommy Amato and Erik Norlander. Greg Ellis, Tully Winfield and Rocket Scientist Don Schiff guest on the orchestrally rich track "Let Heaven In."
The interaction between guitars and keys is very heavily pronounced in the arrangements, perhaps most notable in "Let Heaven In" and the moving "Souls Of The Mermaids" where scale-like keyboard excursions interplay with multiple intertwining and melodious electric guitar parts. The style is further echoed in "Rainbow's End" yet its thunderous drums certainly harken back to Lane's earlier recordings. The album's ballads draw on Lane's earlier experiences with this style and include the title track, the everso soft "Seasons End" and "Without You." There is a striking similarity between the chorus of "Season's End" and the title track of Gandalf's To Our Children's Children sung by Tracy Hitchings in 1994.
Indeed Queen Of The Ocean captured each of the styles explored in Lana Lane's earlier ablums and integrated it with symphonic keyboard arrangements. Soaring lead vocals and the range of styles included in the tracks resulted in an album of totally awesome proportions.
EchoesFrom The Ocean is the second in the series of Lana Lane's mini-albums following a major studio album release—the 33-minute recording consists of five tracks comprising outtakes and previously unreleased material. Packaged in a tri-gatefold digipack with typical Lane-style Jacek Yerka artwork, the mini-album includes one brand new track, a remix of a Lane classic, two alternate versions of tracks from Queen Of The Ocean and a very early version of another Lane classic.
"Rhapsody," written by Mark McCrite and Erik Norlander, is entirely new. Written in the Queen Of The Oceanstyle, the track is a moving symphonic rocker with luscious keyboards, dynamic guitars, vocal harmonies and Lane's characteristic soaring lead of course. The "1999 Version" of "Escher's Staircase" adds the warmer symphonic Queen Of The Ocean texture and is certainly the best version of the Lana Lane classic to be released to date.
The "Long Echoes Version" of "Frankenstein Unbound" running 8:36 contains new instrumental solos and is extensively laced with Norlander's Emerson-style keyboard arrangements. Besides a change in bass part from the Franklin's fretless to Schiff's NS/Stick, a clearer lead vocal part is evident in the "Early Version" of the ballad "Without You."
The drum, bass and rhythm guitar tracks on the original Love Is An Illusion session tapes were damaged forcing the parts to be re-recorded by Tony Franklin, Tommy Amato and Neil Citron for the 1998 album re-issue. However, when original tracks recorded in 1993 by Danny Lorenze, Don Schiff and Neil Citron were recovered, it was decided that these would be mixed down to create the "1995 Version" of "Through The Fire," a lovely version that concludes this mini-album.
Lana Lana toured Japan again in April 1999. The next month she and Rocket Scientists played together at the International Progressive Music Festival (ProgFest) in San Francisco. In the highly successful and critically acclaimed performance, Rocket Scientists played a set of its own and then accompanied Lana through a set of her material.
Rocket Scientists released their third studio album Oblivion Days in August 1999. The album's eleven progressive tracks have a harder edge than the band's former releases perhaps as a result of their collaboration with Argen Anthony Lucassen (heavy rhythm guitar) (Ayreon). Other guests include Greg Ellis (drums) as well as Lana Lane band members Neil Citron (guitar) and Tony Franklin (fretless bass). Lana Lane provides harmony vocals on the tracks "Aqua Vitae," "Oblivion Days" and "Escape." Rocket Scientists' "Dark Water" series of tracks continue with "Part Three" and "Part Four" appearing on this album.
The Best Of Lana Lane 1995-1999includes recordings from the first five years of the vocalist's career. The album contains eleven of her most classic tracks and a bonus track—an incredible live rendition of the progressive rock track "In the Court of the Crimson King." A wonderful collectors' item for enthusiasts illustrating all dimensions and the development of her style, the album is equally enlightening for newcomers that want to sample her work to date. Each of the tracks included on the compilation is discussed earlier in this feature.
The album begins with the hard rock title track from her debut album and includes the album-oriented "Through The Fire." "Escher's Staircase" and "Symphony of Angels" from her more progressive style second album are also included. Garden Of The Moon classics include the lush "Seasons," melodic "Under the Olive Tree" and rocking "Destination Roswell." Ballads included from her collection include the stunning "Avalon" as well as Lana's cover of ELO's "When Time Stood Still."
Symphonic contributions with highly notable keyboards from her most recent studio album, Queen Of The Ocean, include "Rainbow's End" and a cover of the softer Marillion track "Seasons End".
Lana Lane's version of "In the Court of the Crimson King" was recorded at Club Quattro in Shibuya, near Tokyo. From the producer's notes, "Lana chose to perform this track as a companion to her song "Queen of the Ocean" as a sort of "royal pairing". Extending this "royalty theme," producer and musical director Erik Norlander reworked the middle of classic King Crimson song to include a rock rendition of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King." The Lana Lane cover of the King Crimson classic song has become a favorite among fans, and live performances include a rendition at the 1999 ProgFest in San Francisco.
Thefirst album containing a collection of music from all of their artists is appropriately entitled Think Tank Media Sampler Volume One. Five of Lana Lane's studio tracks and one from the Live In Japan album have been included. Her recordings are intermingled with three Rocket Scientists tracks, a tremendous keyboard track entitled "Critical Mass" from Erik Norlander's Threshold and a final track from Neil Citron's Guitar Dreams. Produced by Erik Norlander for Think Tank Media, again with lovely artwork by Jacek Yerka, this USA release is bargain priced, especially in comparison to the import releases of the individual albums—although all of her tracks appear on earlier albums, no Lana Lane collection would be complete without it.
Certainly worth a journey for Lana Lane fans that want to explore the repertoire of the other artist' individual recordings, the most notable tracks on the album include "Calm Before The Storm" (Live) from Rocket Scientists Earth Below and Sky Above: Live In Europe and America and the title track (and concert classic) from their album Earthbound. Mark McCrite's lead vocals are especially melodic and powerful and the instrumental arrangements are superb. Erik Norlander's "Crticical Mass" is especially fine with it's Emerson / Wakeman style symphonic keyboard work.
Lana's tracks include the title track from her latest studio release Queen Of The Ocean, the Curious Goods version of "Escher's Staircase" and the "Long Version" of "Evolution Revolution" from Echoes From The Garden. In addition to the live version of "Destination Roswell", the tracks "Avalon" from the Ballad Collection and bonus track "A Night In The Garden" from the "1998 (Japanese) Version" of Love Is An Illusion have been included.
A Fresh Lineup
Lana Lane's first release of the new millennium and tenth solo album is a further transformation of the artist's style, and despite a significant change in the lineup, the result continues her development along the path set by her former albums. Contributions from European artists has added expanse and weight to the symphonic arrangements of the progressive epics whilst additional attention and live strings have added space to Lane signature ballads. As in earlier albums, a prelude and postlude bracket the album's body. Produced and primarily written by Erik Norlander, Secrets Of Astrology, includes twelve all new tracks plus a final bonus track of either "Romeo and Juliet" for the Avalon (Japan) pressing and "Rhapsody" (from Echoes Of The Ocean), for the Limb Music Products / Inside Out (Germany) label release. Both versions of the album run just under 74 minutes in length.
Lana Lane's and Erik Norlander's leadership in the lineup remains. One of the major lineup changes is the lead, rhythm, acoustic and bass guitar and bass contributions from Ayreon's Arjen Anthony Lucassen. His style contributes to a significant development of the album's sound. David Victor was brought in to provide a contrasting guitar style in typical Lane fashion. Tony Franklin returned to play fretless bass and made guitar, vocal and percussion contributions as well. Lane and Norlander also brought in rapidfire drummer Ed Warby from the Ayreon stable to play on the album. Strings were provided by Cameron Stone (cello), Novi Novug (viola), Istvan Szeker (violin). Rocket Scientist Mark McCrite contributes acoustic guitar and Mellotron to the track "Guardian Angel." Finally, Robert Soeterboek provides harmony vocals to the album.
Secrets Of Astrology is an album of vast contrasts. Dominated by Lana Lane's soaring evocative vocals, tracks ranging from symphonic epics to sensitive ballads are bracketed between the ripping instrumental prelude and postlude with their immediate evidence of the Ayreon artists' influence to the album's sound. Dedicated listeners will hear vocal allusions to "Court Of The Crimson King" amongst the widely varied instrumental and driving percussion parts.
The title track derives its orchestral prowess from Norlander's keyboards while heavy guitars add to the overall power and a metal edge to the piece building on the sound of Lana's previous album. "Raining" is a moving metal-edged pieces with lots of harmony vocals supporting Lana's lead while driving percussion adds dimension and texture to "Speed of Sound." Lucassen's contribution to "Tarot" along with Norlander's "Asherah" and "Long Winter Dreams" are all driving progressive tracks with stunning symphonic arrangements that balance guitar, keys and percussion to perfectly compliment Lane's soaring lead vocal parts.
The album's ballads are sung sensitively and are mixed perfectly to feature Lane's most sensual vocal style. "Alexandria" is the first example. The attractively arranged strings within "The Bell" perfectly support lead vocals and with the highly accessible "Under the Sun" contribute to the orchestral side of the album.
Reminscent of Rocket Scientists, perhaps due to the contributions of Mark McCrite is "Guardian Angel." Half ballad and half symphonic rocker, it is a moving track with soaring lead vocals and orchestral keys certain to please a wide audience. The bonus track "Romeo and Juliet" is a progressive epic developing instrumental power to support the vocal as the story unfolds.
Lana Lane's first album of the new millennium is a highly polished work with lots of contrast, stunning vocal performances and significant instrumental development.
Essential Rarities: 2000-2001 Special Editions
The Ballad Collection Special Edition is comprised of an all new 13-track compact disc and a repressing of the 1998 Ballad Collection album. Los Angeles artists join Lane and Norlander in the release: Neil Citron (guitar), Mark McCrite (acoustic guitar, harmony vocals), Tony Franklin (fretless bass, electric guitar), Don Schiff (Chapman and N/S Stick), Greg Ellis (percussion) and Lane's brother Greg Phelps (harmony vocals, accordion). The album is comprised over covers and original Lana Lane tracks.
The album's covers include stunning Lana Lane arrangements of Dan Fogelbarg's epic orchestral ballad "Nether Lands," and Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," complete with an Erik Norlander signature synth solo and incredible Stick work of Don Schiff. Lana and her brother Greg deliver lovely vocal harmonies in their tremendous cover of the Crosby/Nash tune "To the Last Whale ..."
Lana also covers Tom Waits "Innocent When You Dream". Erik Norlander remarks, "This track is almost reminiscent of several styles, yet wholly similar to none. It has elements of modern blues, of nightclub jazz, even of Irish drinking songs, but to classify it solely as any of these would be erroneous and certainly incomplete ... A strange and unlikely connection perhaps, but I believe the result is a success and hopefully expands Lana's artistic range a bit." The final cover is Lana's dynamic renditon of the Super tramp number "If Everyone Was Listening" which concludes the album. Norlander's orchestral synth work and Lana's vocal harmonies are especially notable.
Lana's new tracks include "Hands to Heal," written by Tully Winfield and Don Schiff, a team that have brought quite a few Lane classics to her fans. "A Place in Time" is a new medley written during the Secrets of Astrology period but, lightly accompanied and blended from previous themes, they were likely too gentle for that then new recording.
The final new Lana Lane composition is entitled "The River Maid," a lovely ballad with a signature guitar melody perfectly blending with the soaring lead vocal part. "Nevermore" features an equally stunning combination. The almost country-style of "Autumn Leaves" presents a lovely contrast as well. Erik Norlander points out, "An extra special element of this recording is the wonderfully melodic and brilliantly kinetic connoisseur guitar solo of Neil Citron."
Our review of Love Is An Illusion above originally written in 1999 only considers the 1998 remixed version with its bonus tracks. In the latest Think Tank release of Love Is An Illusion Special Edition (TTMD-1027, 2001) the second disc is a 10-track repressing of the original 1995 version, apologised for by the artists years later but everso precious today for the raw instrumental and warm vocal quality achieved at the very beginning of the artist's solo career.
We especially enjoyed the 1995 "Fairie Tale State Of Mind" vocal and instrumental arrangements and sweeping instrumentals of "Can't Find My Way Home" that perfectly suit Lana Lane's soaring vocal lead. Erik Norlander's swirling synths in "Cold Outside" equally contrast Lana's Ann Wilson-style lead. The driving instrumental energy and vocal layers in "Through The Rain" are outstanding in this edition.
Erik Norlander writes, "I have been asked on more than one occasion which edition I prefer. The answer is surprisingly simple: both of them. I enjoy the warmth and overall atmosphere of the Original 1995 Version, but I also am quite pleased with the clarity, precision and consistency of the Remixed 1998 Version." Luckily for those that missed it first time around, clearly the contrasts within the 1995 version make it a must-listen for Lana Lane enthusiasts.
The Lana Lane and Erik Norlander European Tour 2001 Souvenir CD (Think Tank TTMD-1028, 2001) is a limited edition created for Lana and Erik's April / May 2001 European Tour. The compact disc is comprised of just under 74 minutes of live and studio recordings from the artists and is considered essential by serious Rocket Scientists and Lana Lane fans.
Previously unreleased live tracks include Rocket Scientist medlies "Fanfare for the Dragon Isle / Fly" with Lana Lane's stunning and powerful lead vocals and "In the Flesh? / Oblivion Days" recorded at Progfest 2000 with guest drummer Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard). "Rome Is Burning," the definitive track from Erik Norlander's Into The Sunset lush keyboard-influenced album, features Glenn Hughes' lead vocals and Arjen Lucassen's (Ayreon) guitar work. Lana Lane's and Mark McCrite's harmony vocals work well during one of the bridges.
Other Erik Norlander studio tracks include "Alchemy and Astronomy" and "Rome is Burning." Lana's rocking "Astrology Suite," a medley of "Astrology Prelude," "Secrets of Astrology," and "Astrology Postlude," opens the recording. The album also includes the newly remastered live version of Lana's "In the Court of the Crimson King," and a soaring rendition of "Seasons End" accompanied only by Erik Norlander's keyboards, both recorded in Tokyo during 1999. The album also includes Don Schiff's amazing Chapman Stick solo piece "Inspirations on Life" which is considered a high point of the artists' live set. David Schiff's sax parts perfectly compliment Arjen Lucassen's guitar and Erik's keyboard solos in during the epic instrumental introduction to "Alchemy and Astronomy" that closes the album.
This story of Lana Lane and Rocket Scientists spans a significant number of evolving recordings spanning two oceans. While Rocket Scientists' sound began more orchestral and Lane's began with a heavier metal edged style, their sounds have now effectively crossed over, merged and are again beginning to diverge. Lana's sound evolved into an orchestral one and is now integrated with her formerly heavy style. Rocket Scientists' original symphonic roots are becoming heavier through their involvement with Ayreon's Argen Anthony Lucassen and cross contributions to each others' new recordings. The evolution continues.
Music enthusiasts will likely come to Lana Lane's and Rocket Scientists' music from several directions. Heart fans will initially be drawn to Lana's vocals as will others that simply adore stunning female vocal talent. Those that dwell on the keyboard-based symphonic textures of Yes, ELP and Clive Nolan's bands (Arena, Pendragon and Strangers On A Train) will be attracted to Rocket Scientists' releases. But progressive rock gourmets of this entire collection of artists will be most impressed with Lana Lane and Rocket Scientists. With an extensive catalog to select from, it's certainly time to begin devouring their work.
Return to website contents