After the release of Music Machine in 2003, I asked keyboard player Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists, John Payneís Asia) if he ever would record an album with pure progressive rock. He told me that recording an album with only Genesis or Yes-influences isnít progressive at all. For Erik Norlander progressive means a blend of different musical styles. However, if you listen to The Galactive Collective, his latest album, you might think that it was recorded in the seventies when progressive rock ruled the world. Keith Emerson (ELP, The Nice), Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Tony Banks (Genesis) were considered to be heroes behind their stack of keyboards. The albums made by them included the old vintage instruments that we didnít call vintage in those days, of course. Instruments like the Mellotron, the Steinway grand piano, the MiniMoog, the ARP-synthesizer, the Hammond-organ and the Fender Rhodes electric piano were commonly used. If you read the inlay of The Galactive Collective you will see that Norlander used all of the above-mentioned keyboards. However, the music on this new album doesnít contain hints of Genesis, Yes or ELP at all, but by using those instruments the spirits of Wakeman and Emerson are clearly present.
The Galactic Collective is an album that lasts for almost eighty minutes. It consists principally of instrumental music performed on keyboards. The compositions are not new, however. The ten tracks already appeared in different versions on previous albums released by Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists and on Erikís solo albums. Some people might say that itís time that Erik Norlander should release a solo album with new material. I agree, I would love that too, but that doesnít mean that this is a bad album! Itís a great joy to hear these ten wonderful compositions again, but in a different version. For example, the combination of the male Mellotron-choir and John Payneís choral voice in Neurosaur is just awesome to listen to. That also applies for the two Lana Lane-songs that differ a lot without Lanaís voice, although she can be heard on one track as well. She did some fantastic choral vocals on the Rocket Scientists piece After The Revolution. I always liked Lanaís Astrology Prelude/Secrets Of Astrology from the Secrets Of Astrology-album the best. Maybe itís Erikís favourite too, since he recorded an excellent version of this song for this album.
The way Erik aggregated all the Dark Water- parts into one piece of twenty minutes is excellent too. All parts were once released on several Rocket Scientists-albums. The Hammond-organ, several synthesizer solos and the fantastic drum sound of Nick LePar make this piece outstanding. Nick sometimes gives the song a real African feel. Besides, he does a great job on the entire album. Together with Mark Matthews (basses) and Freddy DeMarco (guitars) he forms a solid ground on which Erik can weave his solos.
Maybe you think that the entire album showcases Erikís talents on keyboards, but thatís only partly the case. On some of the original versions we can enjoy electric guitar solos and fine riffs! Good examples on which Mr. Norlander gave the guitar a leading role are Sky Full Of Stars and After The Revolution. Erik used four additional guitar players for the recordings to make this album an outstanding sounding product: Mitch Perry, Ron Redfield, Mark McCrite and John Payne. Itís just a pity that the DVD that was planned to be released simultaneously with this album was put on hold. I already saw several videos from this DVD on YouTube and these images were a real treat. It was amazing to see Erik and the other musicians perform the music from this wonderful album. Actually the DVD has been delayed until autumn this year, because Erik and co-producer Dena Henry wanted to add additional footage from The Galactic Collective-live concert in Cleveland, Ohio in March 2010. As far as I know the DVD will contain some footage of live concerts, studio fragments and an interview segment too. So thatís certainly something to look out for. This DVD could become the cream on the musical cake. Letís hope the cream will not turn sour in the meantimeÖ
The Galactic Collective is above all an album that will be enjoyed by everyone who likes progressive rock played on a lot of keyboards. Fans of the keyboard wizards mentioned above can buy this album without hesitation. Despite the fact that this album contains no new songs, Erik Norlander made it a very special release, indeed.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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