Lane, Lana - Return To Japan

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Think Tank Music
Catalog Number: TTMD-1036
Format: CD
Total Time: 133:47:00

I remember very well how Deep Purple's Made In Japan live album opened the door for many rock fans to fully explore great rock 'n' roll. With a price that was a little higher than that of a single album, plenty of people got hold of those four wonderful sides of vinyl so they could enjoy the live feel of the Purple classics. A similar feel was had with Uriah Heep's Live January '73 but the moment CDs started to replace good old vinyl releases, very few great live albums were released. When listening to the recently released Return To Japan album by Lana Lane I can easily say that that great feel has once again emerged. Although obviously Lana Lane is not performing at the famous Budokan Hall, the sound on this album is exactly what I like a live album to sound like. Especially the sound of the drums is very dry, which, in combination with the fierce guitars, deliver a great foundation for the powerful voice of Lana. This double album, which is kind of the CD companion to the brand new Lana Lane DVD Storybook, is in fact divided in two separate parts. On the first disc you hear the Lana Lane Band whereas the second disc contains Lana's acoustic approach together with what is described here as being "special events."

Being husband and wife, both Erik Norlander and Lana Lane know exactly which buttons to push in order to create that unique sound, which has now intrigued us for several years. I still don't get it why Lana Lane is not a household name for lovers of good honest rock music as she certainly delivers very accessible tunes. Accompanied by several friends from his own band the Rocket Scientists, Norlander makes sure the focus very much lies on the guitarwork to give the whole more of that authentic rock feel. Just listen to the rhythm of "Evolution Revolution," which gets very close to Purple's "Speed King." Whether hard rocking songs or softer, intimate passages, the instrumental sections are ace, as the wonderful guitar solo during "Queen Of The Ocean" proves! Norlander, a long-time Rick Wakeman admirer, often approaches his synths in the same manner as your Yes hero, as one can witness during "Frankenstein Unbound." Another superb composition has to be the instrumental "Astrology Prelude," where synths and organ prevail backed by some outstanding musicians. Think Planet X mixed with Ryo Okumoto here!

The second disc literally places Lana's voice to the very front. At times she delivers the kind of voice one would easily associate with musicals, as it's very melodic whilst the prononciation is very clear. However when stripped from extensive arrangements sometimes the voice has difficulty reaching the high notes, which makes it sound forced. I'm referring to Aerosmith's "Dream On," to name but one, although I'm convinced even Steven Tyler won't be able to sing this one the way he used to when it was written and conceived in 1976. At times the acoustic approach on the second disc makes me think of Richard and Karen Carpenter, with the main exception that Karen Carpenter would sing it all with much more ease. Again certain passages in "Autumn Leaves" don't sound at all perfect. Sorry about this Lana, I think you have a terrific voice but in these almost "unplugged" situations it becomes very dangerous to tackle those very difficult parts. With a very "naked" arrangement such as the remake of Marillion's "Season's End" you can clearly imagine how husband and wife spend their times at home: Erik relaxed behind his piano and Lana delivering her soothing vocals. The two final tracks on this second disc once again contain the full band. It concerns two cover versions, the first being the prog anthem "In The Court Of The Crimson King," which even incorporates "Morning" as well as "Hall Of The Mountain King" by Grieg; the latter piece also pops up on Rick Wakeman's Journey? album! Lana Lane's Return To Japan album closes with the Rainbow classic "Long Live Rock 'n Roll," although played at a slower pace than the original and, contrary to what the album's title makes you think, was recorded in Canada!

With a selection from various live recordings Return To Japan contains two different faces of Lana Lane, but as with Deep Purple's Made In Japan album all those years ago, I would have loved to see both discs based on the same band principle whilst the acoustic disc should have been released as a separate disc. Nevertheless I'm sure that for people who still don't own any Lana Lane releases, this live set might just be the right buy.

Disc One: Introductory Medley : Dark Water Part III (1:59) - Fanfare For The Dragon Isle (0:43) - Garden Of The Moon (1:18) - In The Hall Of The Ocean Queen (0:40) / Escher:s Staircase (6:09) / The Beast Within You (5:41) / Rainbow's End (7:06) / Queen Of The Ocean (7:54) / Project Shangri-La (5:37) / Evolution Revolution (8:29) / Frankenstein Unbound (6:16) / Athena:s Shadow (4:55) / Night Falls (7:42) / Astrology Prelude (3:31) / Redemption Part II (1:12) / Secrets Of Astrology (5:43)

Disc Two: Take A Breath (4:25) / Stardust (4:56) / Symphony Of Angels (5:20) / Dream On (4:02) / Alexandria (5:15) / Autumn Leaves (4:03) / Let Heaven In (6:51) / Dreamcurrents (0:29) / Avalon (4:22) / Seasons End (4:50) / In The Court Of The Crimson King (9:09) / Long Live Rock:n Roll (4:53)

Lana Lane ? vocals
Erik Norlander - keyboards
Neil Citron - guitar, vocals
Mark McCrite - guitar, vocals
Don Schiff - NS/stick
Peer Verschuren - guitar
Tommy Amato - drums
Vinnie Appice - drums

Love Is An Illusion (1995)
Curious Goods (1996/2002)
Garden Of The Moon (1998/2002)
Echoes From The Garden (1998)
Live In Japan (1998)
Love Is An Illusion 1998 Version (1998)
Ballad Collection (1998)
Acoustic Live in Tokyo (1999) (promotional release only)
Queen Of The Ocean (1999/2005)
Echoes From The Ocean (1999)
Secrets Of Astrology (2000/2005)
Ballad Collection (2000)
Project Shangra-La (2002)
Covers Collection (2002/2003)
Lana Lane and Erik Norlander - European Tour 2003 Souvenir CD (2003)
Winter Sessions (2003)
Return To Japan (2004)
Lady Macbeth (2005)
Gemini (2006)
Red Planet Boulevard (2007)
The Best Of Lana Lane 2000-2008 (2008)

Storybook - Tales From Europe And Japan (2004) (DVD)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 23rd 2004
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 990
Language: english


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