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


Rocket Scientists

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars This is a live album from ROCKET SCIENTISTS recorded September 1997. The amazing keyboard player Erik NORLANDER and the guitarist Mark McCrite are the brightest shining stars in the band. They are also responsible for the songwriting of all the songs in this live set. I'm also happy to hear that Lana Lane is singing on two of the albums eleven tracks, "Avalon" and "Stardust". Her singing is, as always, very good, and so are Mark McCrite's vocals. The main part of ROCKET SCIENTISTS is playing on Lana Lane's albums, so they're trading favors with each other. They are also label mates, and Erik NORLANDER is responsible for a big part of the songwriting on Lana's albums. The album contains many memorable songs: - "Wake Me Up" with a great Moog solo - the outstanding and most progressive track: "Prog Medley" - the sad and beautiful "Mariner" with great Mellotron strings - Next up is the wet dream for every lover of keyboard based progressive rock la EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER and Rick WAKEMAN: "Threshold Medley, i. Neurosaur, ii. Critical Mass" - Halfway through the next track, "The Fall Of Icarus", the virtuous Erik NORLANDER is once again showing his skills, when he's galloping away on the keys in an amazingly tempo. - The Queen of Symphonic Rock, Lana Lane, is showing up for the next track, which is "Avalon". Lana's voice is sending shivers down your spines on this track, as well as in the next track "Stardust". - The last track "Calm Before The Storm" with its thunderous Hammond solo. The complex music of ROCKET SCIENTISTS is a mix between The BEATLES, EMERSON LAKE & PALMER, GENESIS, KING CRIMSON, MOODY BLUES, PINK FLOYD, UK and YES. AOR combined with symphonic and neo-progressive rock with good memorable melodies. As summary you get a lot for the money. This is 74 minutes of high quality progressive rock. I only wished that I were there. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Report this review (#6352)
Posted Saturday, February 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Southern California prog group, the Rocket Scientists, attended the German Progressive Rock Festival in 1997. This disc is the record of that concert. The production value for a live disc is very high. The drums sound crisp. The Chapman Stick work plows through the undergrowth, loud and clear with presence you can feel. Don Schiff lays down some pretty complex stick figures all over the place. The Stick is a wonderfully diverse instrument and I'm happy to hear it in this context. The vocals are mixed well, though not the best voice in the business. McCrite's lead playing cuts cleanly into the limelight. The keyboards are front and center throughout. If you like keybaords, the Rocket Scientists' Erik Norlander MUST be on the list. He is phenomenal.

The disc covers selections from the first two RS releases, a touch of some Norlander solo material and two tracks featuring Norlanders wife, Lana Lane. In this setting Lane sounds a bit like Heart's Ann Wilson. Fine moments. She has a very melodic voice and blends well with McCrite's harmony lines on Stardust. I remember them covering this tune at the '04 Cal-Prog concert during Norlander's performance. All the instrumental pieces shine brightly. Norlander has a great sense of melody and cranks 'em out with finnesse. McCrite's voice actually sounds better live, a little sharper and with a bit more power then on the studio releases. His live guitar has a bit of the Fripp distortion and sustain. He does not play like Fripp however, much more reserved, without any pyrotechnics. Simply competent. The Fall of Icarus is the highlight of McCrite's contribution vocally. I love the lyrics and their message, the dangers of overstepping your limits. Both fantasy and reality interspersed. The instrumental passage shines. I'm glad I found this tune, it has jumped into my favorites block.

Drummer Tommy Amato is a solid musician, handling the changes effortlessly, never overplaying and keeping the pocket locked in. Don Schiff would get more space if I were mixing. Just hearing the stick fills here and there perks up my attention. I find that instrument so totally fascinating and under-represented. Millenium 3 gives Schiff a chance to step out front and give Tony Levin a run for his money.

This is a quality modern prog band that should be heard. I would recommend them to any fans of classic prog, Spock's Beard, Glass Hammer, IZZ, Kansas... Solid 3 stars.

Report this review (#6353)
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have just recently gotten into Rocket Scientists, a very underrated band from California (not the first place that pops into my head as a good prog haven). And normally, I don't hold much for live albums. But ''Earth Below'' has just made its way into my most favorite live album list (which only consists of 3 albnms).

Most of this album was recorded at the German Progressive Rock Festival in Bruschal in September 1997, and a few tracks at a local LA club earlier that month, so most of the tracks covered here are from ''Brutal Architecture'' and ''Earthbound''. Here, the songs take on a new vitality, more energy than their studio counterparts. This is especially true for the two medleys (the ''Prog Medley'' which is made up of the instrumentals ''Pythagoras'', ''Copernicus'', and the title track from ''Brutal Architecure''. This song blew me away, as did the ''Threshold Medley'' (ooooooohhhh boy!), which started out with ''Neurosaur'' before suddenly switching to ''Critical Mass''. Mark McCrite and Tommy Amato add their unique touches to Erik Norlander's electronic masterpiece. Nice!) and ''Dark Water Part One'' which shows McCrite adding his own guitar atmospherics before segueing into the wonderful ''Earthbound''.

Norlander's wife and symphonic rock icon Lana Lane makes an appearance on two songs. Her voice is absolutely stunning.

All in all, Rocket Scientists are a wonderful live band, who adds innvoation and new energy to their songs live. Not to be missed!

Report this review (#181978)
Posted Sunday, September 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#768848)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

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