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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Lana Lane

Secrets of Astrology

Review by G. W. Hill

Lana Lane has a spectacular voice. Honestly, any review of a CD of hers, could at least start with, if not consist almost entirely of that statement. However, that really does not paint the full picture. On this CD Lane has surrounded herself with some incredible musicians, and the music here is powerful and all over the spectrum as far as musical style. You will find songs on this disc that are quite definitely prog metal, but the majority of the disc is hard-edged prog. That said, there are softer songs that are just plain prog, minus the hard edge. The lyrical content to this CD is emotional and comes across as very honest. The vocals and music both add to those perceptions. The other interesting thing to point out is this - although much of the disc is influenced primarily by the harder edged prog bands and prog metal outfits, there are moments of the album that come across as a harder version of progressive rock heroes Renaissance. In looking at all of these facts, it is obvious to see that this disc is a well rounded and dynamic progressive rock release with both stunning vocal work and musical performances. Lane’s central contributor to the CD is Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists). She is also joined by Arjen Anthony Lucassen, David Victor, Tony Franklin, Ed Warby, Cameron Stone, Novi Novog, Istvan Szeker, Mark McCrite and Robert Soeterboek.

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

Track by Track Review
Astrology Prelude
Nocturnal nature sounds start the track, and a keyboard pattern continues it. The rest of the instruments join and the music thunders in in a mode that is prog fury. This builds to a crescendo. Next a staccato segment with keyboard overlaid in a killer tone takes the piece. As the song builds on this mode, triumphant sounds take over and it gets a bit neo-classical in texture. The non-lyrical vocal segment that ensues feels a lot like a harder edged take on Renaissance. A guitar solo breaks this format, but it immediately returns. As the cut continues, an acoustic guitar driven section takes it and the earlier themes return to signal the end of this aural roller coaster ride.
Secrets of Astrology
Hard edged metallic prog is the order of business on this composition, leaning heavily towards the metal end of the spectrum. Lane’s vocals are clear and strong. Most of the prog nature of this one are contained in the overlaying layers, but this is a very strong piece. The cut drops to a sedate interlude, then begins building slowly back up from there. This is a very evocative segment and Lane’s vocals really shine on it. As the cut comes out of this section, it screams in hard-edged and frantic prog modes that leave the listener catching his breath. The tune then switches back to the central verse and chorus section to end.
Alexandria
A pretty and delicate keyboard section accompanied by emotional vocals makes up the main movement of this cut. As it continues, the drama and energy gradually build. This one gets heavier as it carries on, but maintains the emotional urgency that began it. Lyrically, the song is about coping with lost love. “I just read your letter and fell down to my knees, My tears stain the paper and inside I found your keys, You’re leaving for somewhere to find yourself again, You hope I forget you like an echo in the wind, ‘What now’ my heart cried, How do I survive?”
Raining
A keyboard section begins this one, then a metallic crunch segment moves it forward. The cut then switches to more melodic music and begins to move from there. This is a very strong and powerful prog piece. It leans heavily towards prog metal, but seems to fall just on the progressive rock side. A mellower segment takes the composition for a time, and as it emerges from that, it is into a fast paced prog jam that really cooks.
The Bell
A light classical string section arrangement serves as the intro on this one. The verses begin over the top of this musical setting and the tune builds from there, the intensity and musical complexity growing along with the power of the piece. The string section that began this cut returns to end it as well. This is an exceptionally strong composition.
Speed of Sound
Jumping in with a sharp metallic contrast to the gentle tones of the last track, this one rips with metallic prog energy and speed. Featuring some great neo-classically tinged hard-edged guitar work, this particular cut is definitely prog metal. It includes a great instrumental break with one killer solo after another alternating between keyboard and guitar showcases. The outro is very virtuosic.
Under the Sun
Piano serves as the back drop for Lane’s incredible vocal performance in this balladic format. The cut begins to add instruments, but still builds on this foundation. This one has a very emotional texture. The lyrical message here is a positive one. “Under the sun - leave all your yesterdays, Light up tomorrow’s sky - wash the tears away, I’ve a sudden premonition, Underneath a velvet sky, Yesterday is superstition, Don’t let tomorrow pass you by.”
Tarot
Medieval acoustic guitar stylings begin this one. The cut builds naturally on that basis for a short time. Then suddenly a very heavy progression takes over for a time, and as the other instruments find their voice, it is in a heavy prog style along the lines of Dream Theater.
Asherah
Crunchy and powerful, this one is closer to prog metal than prog through much of its length. It has a wonderful texture to the verses and the vocals are particularly strong. The cut drops to a great break that has a very nice lush and dramatic sound. Then an instrumental break in a fast prog manner brings this one back into the progressive rock vein. The soloing on this section is very impressive. The tune features a great fade out.
Guardian Angel
Starting with a dark and heavy riff, this one drops to a rather mysterious sounding acoustically dominated segment. As it gets heavier again, some awesome textures emerge. The song gets into some killer instrumental passages, then drops to a wonderfully bluesy mellower segment. It comes back up into the harder segment to end and the keyboards over top really make the section.
Long Winter Dreams
This one also definitely begins in a major metal tone, but as the verse enters it transforms to more crunchy prog. The metal modes return, and when the instrumental break hits, the back drop is metal, but the soloing is all prog.
Astrology Postlude
Keys give way to a crunchy and intriguing riff driven mode. The cut speeds up, and the style takes on that of the classically dominated heavy guitar styles. Then it drops back to a very tasty slower section. The next change is to a great more melodic prog jam. This instrumental kicks. It ends with the same cricket sounds that began the album.
Romeo and Juliet (Bonus Track)
Percussion with textural keys create the motif for the beginnings of this number. The song builds for a while mainly by adding to the complexity of the percussion. Then a fairly crunchy segment takes the piece. This is another section that seems to make one think of a hard rocking Renaissance. The tune drops back to the earlier mode, but with the intensity and complexity pushed up a couple notches. Then it turns back to the Renaissanceish segment. The composition then breaks into a fast paced guitar solo movement that is quite tasty.  

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