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Rocket Scientists - Earth Below And Sky Above CD (album) cover

EARTH BELOW AND SKY ABOVE

Rocket Scientists

 

Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 8 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars "This will be our finest hour"

I have recently become a fan of Erik Norlander; beginning with his heterogeneous solo albums, and then on to the many great albums of his wife Lana Lane's eponymous band (in which Norlander plays a major role as keyboard player, producer, and song writer). I had been vaguely aware of Norlander's earlier band Rocket Scientists for some time, but they had not really impressed me much in the past. But checking this band out more carefully became a natural next step for me after having reviewed Norlander's solo discography. Hearing the outstanding live version of Mariner (originally from Rocket Scientists' Brutal Architecture album) on Norlander's excellent solo live album Stars Rain Down provided a further motive to seek out more by this band.

The history of Rocket Scientists goes back to the late 80's and they released their first album (Earthbound) in 1993. The present live album was recorded after the band's second studio album (the aforementioned Brutal Architecture) and features generally improved versions of some of the best songs from these first two studio albums - including one (Stardust) that was originally only released as bonus track on the Japanese CD-version of Brutal Architecture. We also get a couple of pieces from Norlander's first solo album Threshold that was released around the same time. The fantastic Lana Lane appears on lead vocals on two of the tracks.

I have since figured out why I generally prefer both Norlander's and Lana Lane's respective albums over those of Rocket Scientists. One reason has to do with the Pop/Psychedelic side of the latter, highly influenced by the likes of The Beatles, The Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd that simply agrees less with me compared to the Symphonic Prog and Symphonic Rock/Metal influences of the former. Another reason is the vocals of Mark McCrite that is less to my liking (though he sounds good here on those tracks on which he sings).

But this live album caught my interest with a strong set list and powerful performances. There is a very good balance between instrumentals and vocal material as well as between energetic and more serene moments. There is another good version of the aforementioned symphonic ballad Mariner (is it Norlander himself on lead vocals here?); the Norlander signature tune Neurosaur; a "Prog Medley" consisting of instrumental pieces from Earthbound and Brutal Architecture; a great version of The Fall Of Icarus with a brilliant Keith Emerson-like piano solo in the middle section. All this together with the welcome presence of Lana Lane's voice makes this live album a better release than any of the band's four studio albums.

A very good introduction to Rocket Scientists and also a nice companion to Norlander's excellent Stars Rain Down.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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