Label : Think Tank Media
Review by Tony Cannella
Ever since her excellent debut, “Love Is An Illusion” was released in 1995, the queen of progressive rock Lana Lane has enjoyed a stellar career and has released albums at a prolific pace, rarely going more than a year between releases. Her last release was 2007’s “Red Planet Boulevard”, which was followed by almost five years of…, nothing (recorded material wise). Now, Lana returns from her hiatus with her new album “El Dorado Hotel”, and man I have to say, it is great to hear that voice once again. One thing that has always been constant is the fact that Lana Lane has surrounded herself with some top musicians and collaborators. In addition to her husband, keyboardist, producer, co-writer Erik Norlander, some other big names are on board, artists like John Payne of Asia, ex-Racer X guitarist Bruce Bouillet lend their massive talents along with longtime Lana Lane collaborators Mark McCrite, Neil Citron and Don Schiff and it’s a virtual who’s who of some great talent. The 8 ½ minute opener “A Dream Full of Fire” is pure Lana Lane and a great return to form, it is also the song that sets the tempo for the album. “Maybe We’ll Meet Again” has got a nice accessible mid-tempo quality to it, similar to “Let Heaven In” from the excellent “Queen of the Ocean”. Lana continues to be able to straddle the line between accessible AOR type music and intricate progressive rock passages effortlessly. “El Dorado” features a slower, more melodic tempo. Other highlights include: “Darkness Falls”, “Hotels”, “Believe” and “Moon God”. The whole thing is brought to its conclusion by the almost 12-minute epic “In Exile”. “El Dorado Hotel” is Lana Lane at her majestic, melodic and progressive best and is a solid addition to her ever expanding catalogue. Quietly and somewhat under the mainstream radar, Lana has put together a career based on consistency and when you look at her body of work you realize just how consistently good her music has been throughout the years and “El Dorado Hotel” is no different. It is hard to believe that it has been 17 years since her debut (where has the time gone?) but “El Dorado Hotel” just goes to show that Lana Lane has not only progressed but gotten better over the years. “El Dorado Hotel” brought a huge smile to my face and is one of those albums that you’ll want to hear again and again.
Rating – 95/100
- A Dream Full of Fire
- Maybe We’ll Meet Again
- El Dorado
- Darkness Falls
- Life of the Party
- Gone Are the Days
- Moon God
- In Exile
- Lana Lane – Vocals
- 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
- Erik Norlander – Keyboards, additional guitars, bass and programming
- Don Schiff – NS/Stick
- Mark Matthews – Bass
- Jay Schellen – Drums
Interview by Tony Cannella
Lana Lane has long been known as the Queen of Symphonic Rock. Looking at and listening to her expansive musical catalog, it is a title that is well deserved. With her new album “El Dorado Hotel” (her first in five years), Lana returns with perhaps her strongest album yet. Recently she was kind enough to answer some questions, and here is what she had to say.
Hi Lana. I really love the new album “El Dorado Hotel”. How would you describe the material on the album?
First of all, thank you for the kind words. It’s nice to hear that you are enjoying the music . I would describe the album as a musical journey through the eyes of a tired and lonely musician, but with an optimistic view of life, love and creating your own destiny.
It has been five years since your last album. Do you consider this a comeback?
Not really. Even though I haven’t released a Lana Lane album in 4 years, I have still stayed busy touring and appearing on other artists productions during that time. So I never “went away”, I just took some well earned “time off” from my “Lana Lane” duties
Why the gap between albums?
Well, as an artist you hope that you have something new to say with each new recording. This became harder and harder to do, especially when during some years, there were two or more new Lana Lane records released. I only want to release top-quality, sincerely crafted albums rather than release an album just to release “something”. After nearly 15 years of working non-stop, it was time for a little sabbatical. I wanted a break from the pressure and time to gather some perspective on my craft. And on top of that, my father was very ill and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with him. And I am very happy that I did, because he passed away in December of 2010.
Do you feel that the time in-between albums helped you sort of re-charge your batteries?
I think so. I also went through some very personal things during the “time in-between” albums which gave me a new perspective on life in general. My father had recently died; I was coming up on a milestone birthday and feeling my own mortality. All those feelings and emotions help the creative process of writing songs and give lyrics more weight.
Are there any songs on “El Dorado Hotel” that stand out for you?
Yes. “El Dorado” was the first song I wrote after my father died, so it holds quite a lot of meaning for me. This song is the one that encompasses all the feelings and emotions that are found throughout the album.
Lyrically, what inspired you on “El Dorado Hotel”?
The inspiration comes from the many years of touring and struggling that Erik and I have done for our music. We wouldn’t change our choices for the world, but that doesn’t mean that following our dreams hasn’t come at a cost. The life of a musician is not nearly as glamorous as people perceive. It’s like any other professional career — it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and even then you may never achieve your goals.
Erik Norlander has produced and played on every one of your albums. What do you like about him as a producer and musician?
Yes, Erik has been my producer since the beginning – 17 years! I think the most important thing to me is the trust that we have in each other and in each other’s choices. As a producer, he immerses himself completely into the project that he is working on and develops a vision that is uniquely for that project. As a keyboard player/musician, he allows the songs to dictate the mood and enhances the vibe with his wonderful sounds and musical ability.
You have always been surrounded by some of the best musicians in rock. Who are some of the musicians that appeared on “El Dorado Hotel”, and how do you feel about their contributions?
I met Freddy DeMarco and Mark Matthews during the recording of Erik‘s solo project “The Galactic Collective”. I then had the opportunity to play with them both during some live shows in 2011 when I sang with the band. After having played with the guys and getting to know them, I knew that they should be a part of this project as well. Then for John Payne, Erik has been playing with John for about 5 years now and they tour together with Jay Schellen and Bruce Bouillet as Asia Featuring John Payne. During the years of touring, John and Jay have become dear friends of ours and now that Bruce Bouillet is the guitarist, he has become a friend as well. Guthrie Govan has also been a guitarist in Asia Featuring John Payne and I feel very honored that his unbelievable talent is featured on this record. And finally for Mark McCrite, Neil Citron and Don Schiff, all three of them have been on so many Lana Lane albums going all the way back to 1995. They are lifelong friends and it has been great to work with them through all these years. I believe that the contributions that these generous, talented and willing musicians made gave each song on “El Dorado Hotel” a unique sound and feeling that would not be present otherwise.
There are always so many musicians performing on your albums. Was this new album easy or difficult to assemble?
Erik is a very organized and focused producer and does a lot of prep work for albums. I don’t recall him having much difficulty assembling everyone as they were all very gracious with their time. Technology is also a wonderful thing — if someone was out of the town, or the country in Guthrie‘s case, the tracks were recorded elsewhere and sent to us. This makes the recording logistics MUCH easier
When can we expect to see you on tour?
No solid plans yet for a tour — but I NEVER say never. In the music business, anything is possible and can happen in the blink of an eye.
It is hard to believe that it has been 17-years since your debut “Love Is An Illusion”. What has been your biggest highlight so far?
I think my biggest highlight would have to be my first big tour in Japan and performing the song “Love Is An Illusion”. All the fans were singing along with me. It was such a rush to experience that! I was honored and humbled by the beautiful country of Japan and the wonderful fans — it is a time of my life I will never forget.
Looking back, what is your opinion of that debut today?
“Love Is An Illusion” is one of my favorite albums. I find that the body of work has a charm to it that I love — it was also my first release, which holds a special place in my heart.
Which one musician has most inspired you and why?
The musician that has inspired me most is Ann Wilson from Heart. She (and Nancy) blazed a trail for women fronted rock bands in a male dominated business. We’ve come a long way, and I feel that Ann and Nancy endured the growing pains for all of us. The music business is still dominated by men, but we have a much bigger voice now…no pun intended
You’ve released two great DVDs, “Storybook” and “10th anniversary”. Are there any plans to do another one in the future?
Erik and I have been talking about it, but no firm plans have been made yet.
Your music has been put in many different genres (symphonic rock, prog, etc.). Where do you think your music best fits?
I consider my music to be “Symphonic Rock” and I feel that this body of work sits squarely in that category. I’m proud to be known as the “Queen of Symphonic Rock”
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions Lana. Congratulations on a fantastic new album. Is there anything you would like to add to conclude this interview? The final words are yours.
Many thanks to you Tony, and to the fans for all their support over the last 17 years — it has been a FANTASTIC ride and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you! Recording and releasing records is a very vulnerable thing — and sometimes it’s hard to sit back and enjoy what you’ve created. But “El Dorado Hotel” has been an absolute joy for Erik and I from the writing stage all the way through the recording stage. I hope the listeners will find the music inspiring and that they will take the musical journey with open minds and hearts — they may be surprised at what they find out about themselves
Label: Napalm Records
Review By Tony Cannella
Swiss symphonic metal band Lunatica have already released three very good albums. Their last one “The Edge of Infinity” (released in 2006) was arguably their best recorded work to date and their future looked very bright indeed. Now, 3-years later the band return with a new album (“New Shores”), a new label (Napalm Records) but the same desire to bring their brand of classy metal to the masses. The band is fronted by Andrea Dätwyler. She is joined by Marc Torretti (guitars), Sandro D’Incau (guitars), Emilio Barrantes (bass), Alex Seiberl (keys) and Ronnie Wolf (drums). With their previous three releases the band has shown an ability to progress from album to album and it is the listener who benefits from this. The lead off track “New Shores” is a testament to the growing maturity of the band. It is a strong way to start things and from there it only gets better. The next track “Two Dreamers” is among my favorites and would be a great choice as a single if the band opted to put one out. The chorus so so infectious and catchy and the vocals of Andrea Dätwyler are stronger than ever. The band has really risen to a whole new level. “How Did It Come to This?” is a moody, haunting ballad that is another song that really stands out with it’s haunting melody and fantastic vocal work once again by Andrea. “The Incredibles” with it’s socially conscience lyrics and “My Hardest Walk” keep things movie along smoothly and continues with the high quality material. “My Hardest Walk” in particular is one of the heavier tracks offered up here and it has a truly monstrous guitar riff in the beginning and it also features some cool tempo changes giving it a progressive feel, this is another absolute highlight. The next track really stands out, mainly because it features a duet with Andrea and Asia frontman John Payne. The two styles come together very well to create a memorable ballad with a big choir on the chorus. “The Chosen Ones” (another heavy one with a huge guitar riff) and “Heart of a Lion” are next and two more excellent tracks. “Into The Dissonance” is next and was written by legendary metal producer Sascha Paeth – who also incidentally mixed and mastered this CD. The final two tracks “Winds of Heaven” and “The Day the Falcon Dies” wrap things up nicely. The majority of the music was written by Alex Seiberl and most of the lyrics were written by Andrea and she obviously put a lot of thought into her words because the lyrics are really quite good actually. Lunatica continues to progress and mature from album to album and that trend continues on “New Shores”. It features some solid song writing and musicianship and is just an all around entertaining listen. This album should please their old fans, whilst gaining the band new ones. Quite simply on this – their fourth album – Lunatica have released their best work yet.
Rating – 80/100
- New Shores
- Two Dreamers
- How Did It Come to This?
- The Incredibles
- My Hardest Walk
- Farewell My Love (with John Payne)
- The Chosen Ones
- Heart of a Lion
- Into the Dissonance
- Winds of Heaven
- The Day the Falcon Dies
- Andrea Dätwyler – Vocals
- Sandro D’Incau – Guitars
- Marc Torretti – Guitars
- Alex Seiberl – Keyboards
- Emilio MG Barrantes – Bass
- Ronny Wolf – Drums
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