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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Lana Lane

Return to Japan

Review by Gary Hill

This, the first live album from Lana Lane is a very good two disc set. It features a lot of material from various albums recorded on various tours. Also included here are several cuts that have never before been released by Lane. These include the band's covers of King Crimson's "In The Court of the Crimson King", Aerosmith's "Dream On" and Rainbow's "Long Live Rock N Roll". These covers alone are worth the price of admission here. They also serve to show where the band's influences are. Indeed, they also cover Marillion's "Seasons End" here, and these songs, along with the original material presented on the album show this band to be what they are - a progressive rock outfit with strong hard rock influences. They are amongst the best in that genre, too.

In fact, all of the recordings here are quite strong, the band playing impeccably. The only real complaint I have is that a lot of the mellower material is lumped together on the second disc. It seems that this is a trend in a lot of prog these days, and I am not sure I like it. Really, putting a mellow song directly before a hard rocking one serves to provide a contrast which generates interest and keeps the music from all feeling the same. Admittedly, though, the approach is more understandable here than it is on many other albums. The reason is that the first disc is composed entirely of full band renditions, while most of the second CD are recordings of just Lane and husband/keyboardist Erik Norlander performing as a duo. I still think, though, that interspersing some of those cuts amongst the collection might have made for a stronger release.

If you are a Lana Lane fan, you have probably been waiting for this disc for a long time. If you are not, you probably will still like the first live album from this band that tries very hard to put the rock back in progressive rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 - Lana Lane Band
Introductory Medley

Dark Water Part III
Keyboard textures start this, feeling a lot like Pink Floyd. Then they turn more towards the neo-classical, mixed with Celtic Textures. This solo leads directly into the next explosive track.
Fanfare for the Dragon Isle
The keyboards burst out and a harder edged, militaristic mode moves the cut forward, the other instruments playing along with the keys. This, too is another short piece that essentially serves as intro to the next number.
Garden of the Moon
Crunchy jamming coming straight out of the previous cut thatkes the sende. Alas, though, cool as it is it is only another continuation of the segment, and short lived.
In the Hall of the Ocean Queen
Feeling more like a fuller arrangement on the previous themes, this one moves the band toward the song proper.
Escher's Staircase
Metallic prog fury makes up the basis for this cut, a solid rocker. Lane and band all sound quite strong here. They drop it back a bit after a time, moving into a bridge that has a lot of energy, but is more delicate in some ways. It moves on into a slower jam that features David Gilmourish guitar work. Then an all-new keyboard dominated instrumental segment leads to a smoking guitar break. They keys move the band back to the central melody.
Disc 2 - Acoustic Live and Special Events
Take A Breath
A very nice piano solo, then modulating to synthesizer, makes up the intro. Lane's vocals here are quite strong, as is the song.
Stardust
This is a pretty ballad that works well live.
Symphony of Angels
Pretty keys make up the early parts of this and make a beautifully potent backdrop for the vocals.
Dream On
Dramatic keys begin this one, and Lane and Norlander truly turn this into a great prog rocker. This has always been one of my favorite songs, and this version certainly does it justice. The only accompaniment on this one is the potent keys, taking all the melody lines otherwise provided be Aerosmith's instrumentation.
Alexandria
Keys also begin this one, gradually building upwards. Lane's vocals are especially emotional and fitting the powerful lyrics.
Autumn Leaves
This is another powerful ballad.
Let Heaven In
Militaristic drums start this, and as the other instruments enter, the mode is more balladic, but that percussion remains for quite some time.
Dreamcurrents
This short instrumental starts with bluesy piano that leads to an old time movie theater sound. It serves as an intro to the next number.
Avalon
This is another dramatic ballad.
Seasons End
A cover of the exceptionally powerful Marillion song, this is just Lane and Norlander.
In The Court of the Crimson King
This cover of the Crimson classic comes in quirky and potent, just as it should. The band plays it straight, Lane's voice doing nice work on this cut that was originally sung by Greg Lake. The band removes a lot of the ambient section on their arrangement, which I feel is a good change. It worked fairly well for KC, but might come across as a bit tedious these days. The make some intriguing updates to the later verse, adding a bit of modern hard-edged prog texture and some intriguing percussion. They even through in a little of "Hall of the Mountain King" later in the piece. What a cool jam this becomes. They manage to pull it all back together for the closing segment. Again on this last verse they intersperse more modern rhythmic segments.
Long Live Rock and Roll
After that smoking cover, Lane and the band tear into the classic Rainbow (after hinting at the sound from time to time) title track, Lane's voice doing a fine job in place of Ronnie James Dio's. This one is a killer, and they definitely do it up proud. They add in a killer jam section, running at times parallel to the original, and at others moving into new territory. This is a great way to end the disc.
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