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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Erik Norlander

Surreal

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always loved Erik Norlander’s music. His sonic style lands in modern prog territory in some ways, but more than anything it’s rooted in the classic progressive rock of the 1970s. This album is a particularly strong helping of that. Other than one song (the title track featuring his wife Lana Lane), this is an instrumental album. It has quite a range of sounds and is a particularly well constructed release. If you’ve ever enjoyed Norlander’s music, you’ll want to get this as soon as you can. If you haven’t heard him, this is a great introduction.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Party's Overture

The sounds of the sea open this. Mellower, rather spacey music rises up from there. Eventually it builds out to some really rocking prog with a majestic and powerful tone. That takes it for a time before it drops to a keyboard heavy segment. The cut takes on an almost neo-classical element as the guitar returns to the forefront. This continues to shift and evolve. This instrumental is quite a classy one. At almost eight minutes in length, it’s the second shortest piece here. There are parts of this that almost convey a space music take on fusion. There is a bit of a Latin vibe to some of the percussion, too.

 

 

The Galaxy Collectors

Keyboards bring this one in from the last cut. This builds out into another smoking hot prog jam. This one has a bit more of a rocking groove. In some ways it reminds me of Yes. In other ways it calls to mind ELP. Still, there are some Deep Purple meets Kansas moments, too. All in all, though, it’s original, unique and a real killer instrumental. If anything, I like this one better than the opener. It’s a strong tune for sure.

Suitcase and Umbrella
At just over seven minutes in length, this is the shortest cut of the set. It’s a mellower instrumental that has a great spacey element to it. There is a bit of a Spanish thing going on at the same time. Comparisons to Vangelis wouldn’t be out of the question on this number. It’s the most constant of the set. It’s quite compelling, too.
Unearthly
There is a cool psychedelic vibe at the start of this. After that works through for a bit the cut gets more of a jazz element at play with a cool rhythmic structure. There are some Middle-Eastern elements in the synthesizer lines that come over the top of it. By around the two minute mark it gets a bit of a crunchy element added to the mix. This works through some particularly intriguing changes. There are fusion sections, spacier movements and returns of old friends. This is one of my favorite pieces here. It’s just so evocative and powerful.
Surreal (featuring Lana Lane)
I love the piano that starts this piece. Other keyboards join as it moves forward. It drops to a balladic motif for the first vocals and works forward from there. It works as a powered up balladic number to around the five minute mark when it works out to a cool instrumental jam. It takes on a bit more of a rocking tone, but not to the point of full hard edged rock tune. I love the organ soloing on that section. It drops to extremely mellow atmosphere past the seven and a half minute mark. Then we get a return to the balladic part for the return of the vocals. There is another cool instrumental movement beyond that segment.
El Gran Final
At just over eleven minutes long, this is the most extensive piece here. This instrumental is more of a straight-line jam than some of the rest are. It’s also harder rocking. It’s more of an AOR prog thing. It has some killer instrumental work. The changes on this are not drastic, but they are particularly effective. This is really a great piece of music. There is a cool percussion based interlude mid-track. When it comes back to the more powered stuff, it seems renewed and revitalized. As this turns atmospheric at the end, the ocean sounds that started the album return, creating a great begin at the end effect to the whole release.
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