Rocket Scientists - Looking Backward
Year of Release: 2007
Label: Think Tank Media
Catalog Number: TTMV-1005
Total Time: 00:00:00
Rocket Scientists is not a band to release an album every year. In fact, their last studio album was released almost 8 years after the previous one! But their latest release took far less time to reach us. And it is not just some new release! It is an entire box set, containing no fewer than 4 studio CDs and 1 DVD! So, are we in for a treat or are these guys trying to get some easy money?
In in the case of a box set, you can imagine it does not come that cheap. So in this time of decreasing CD sales and increasing downloading, is it wise to release such a lavish boxset? Ok, this is not to start a discussion, but let us take a look at this box set and see why this one is so special...
There have been a few reasons to release this box set. The debut album of Rocket Scientists, Earthbound, has been out of print for years. And due to various record companies closing, both Brutal Architecture and Oblivion Days were reaching that moment fast. So the decision was made to do something about that ... something special.
So, here I hold in my hands a box the size of an old-fashioned VHS box, with a great cover and inside 5 discs and a rather large book.
Disc 1 - Earthbound
This is what started it all ... the first album. I was particularly curious as I kinda discovered Rocket Scientists backwards: first Oblivion Days and then back to the older albums, but this one was missing. Now that I have it, I can say I really love it. It has some great songs, like the title song "Earthbound," which is nothing but a classic prog song. This already showed the talent of these young guys. We also find the original version of the Lana Lane (cover) song "Avalon." And to my surprise Rocket Scientists also included a cover: "Welcome To The Machine" from pink Floyd, which is actually a very nice version.
When they were preparing the re-release of this album, Mark [McCrite] found an old demo that was thought to be lost: "To The Edge Of The World," a nice addition to this already very interesting album. Although the sound borders on pop at times, it clearly has that progressive sound that Rocket Scientists would work out in the years to follow. And in the booklet are some photos of Mark, Erik [Norlander], Don [Schiff] and Lana in those years, which is fun to see.
Disc 2 - Brutal Architecture
The second album, Brutal Architecture is the least interesting disc in the set. Not because it is a bad album, but it does not differ so much from the version many will have. Only one track is added, "Stardust," a song we also know from Lana Lane. Other than that, the album offers improved sound.
This album shows quite a step forward for Rocket Scientists in their progressive sound. The keyboard arrangements are more lush and also the Stick by Don Schiff plays a more prominent role. By the way, did anyone ever know Erik Norlander sang "Mariner"?
Disc 3 - Oblivion Days
The heaviest release of Rocket Scientists. Here their sound at times borders on prog metal with some heavy rhythm guitars. I am very fond of this album, it was the first RS album I got and I love the start of "Aqua Vitae," with the synth bass and then those great vocals by Mark McCrite.
Ok, granted, this version also does not offer much more. It has one bonus track that appeared only on the Japanese pressing: "Compass Variation," which is a very beautiful instrumental track, showcasing the talents of Erik and Mark on respectively keyboards and guitar. But this disc has also one huge improvement: On the European release there was a 10 minute silence between "Dark Water Part Four - Heavy Water" and "Wake Me Up (Live in Tokyo)" and on this version it is gone! I hated that part, and now I can finally enjoy the entire album without this long 10 minute pause you can't just skip...
Disc 4 - The 2007 Sessions
Next to Earthbound, this is the most interesting disc in the set! It contains 10 newly recorded tracks from the Earthbound album. And not just replaying those 'old' songs...oh no, they really made an effort and even enhanced some songs, like "Pythagoras (Unbound)," which in 1993 lasted 57 seconds and now clocks 3:54! And wow, they sound simply super.
You can hear the difference between the 1993 version and the 2007 version quite well. Of course Erik did not have his Alesis Andromeda A6 synthesizer back then. Greg Ellis, who also played on Oblivion Days, is behind the drum kit and together with Mark and Don, they give their present day interpretation of those 14 year old songs... and it was good.
The two remix versions from Oblivion Days are nice, but the last remaining song is very precious: "Mariner" with Kelly Keeling on vocals. Man, his version will send goosebumps and shivers and whatever down your spine! What a voice! I think this is probably the most beautiful version of this song there is!
Disc 5 - Looking Backward DVD
When Rocket Scientist were in the studio to record the new version of the Earthbound songs, they invited a camera crew in as well and recorded the sessions in High Definition. They added a very good 5.1 sound mix to it and voila... a very tasty look in the kitchen of Rocket Scientists.
Every musician is in the picture and shows how well they handle their instrument. I love to see Don Schiff play his N/S Stick, that is such an amazing instrument and it is a delight to watch him play it. Or see him playing the E-bow, another very interesting and funny looking instrument, but what a great sound... The vintage keyboards from Erik are a sight for sore eyes... and ears... really cool stuff. And what about Greg Ellis? They positioned the camera above and behind him, so you can see how well he plays. And now you can see the passion that Mark McCrite puts in his vocals. To me he only establishes that he is a great singer, as well as songwriter.
The DVD offers several ways to view it: the whole feature, just the songs or just the interviews. In the interviews they explain the conditions under which they started and how they recorded Earthbound. You see some old footage from the beginning and it is just hilarious to see these guys at such a younger age... but already being these great musicians. In the special features they offer a very interesting part hosted by Don about the Stick. Here he talks to Emmet Chapman, the inventor of the Chapman Stick. They go back to the history of the instrument and how Don got to play it. You get a demonstration by Mr. Chapman on how to play the Stick and later on Don joins in on the N/S Stick.
And last but not least, the DVD offers a candid montage of the history of Rocket Scientists, seeing them evolve from their early years in 1993 until 2007, when they recorded the new interpretations of Earthbound.
As said in the beginning: the package has the size of an old-fashioned VHS cassette box. And it is an ingenious box, as it houses all the 5 discs and a huge 64 page book. And this book is quite something! Full color, laced with photos and comments on the songs. All in all very impressive.
So as it shows, Mark, Erik and Don really put a lot of effort into this box set. They did this to create something special. Not to make some money, but to offer people a very special collection of albums. Even if you already own Brutal Architecture and Oblivion Days (like I do), this box set is still worth every penny.
In my opinion Rocket Scientists are a very underappreciated band, for reasons I don't know and probably can't understand. This box set shows their evolution from a band that carefully explores progressive rock and over the years grows to be one of the better prog bands around. Looking Backward is not just a box set, but also a piece of history. And although in school I never cared much for history, I wouldn't want to miss out on this one!
Disc 1: Earthbound: Earthbound (4:57) / Down Trodden (3:30) / Picture Show (4:59) / No More Lies (4:28) / Killing Joke (3:46) / Avalon (4:05) / Welcome To The Machine (4:48) / Minstrel Saviour (6:09) / When Sorrow Falls (3:46) / Calm Before The Storm (4:27) / Pythagoras (0:57) / Temple Of Pain (3:58) / Carry Me Home (4:12) / To The Edge Of The World (1993 demo) (3:42) ? total time: 57:46
Disc 2: Brutal Architecture: Dark Water Part One (4:12) / Wake Me Up (5:44) / Copernicus (2:53) / Brutal Architecture (6:20) / Nether (4:04) / Dark Water Part Two (1:39) / The Fall Of Icarus (6:30) / Resolution (7:31) / Rainy Days & Pastel Grays (7:13) / Millenium 3 (7:16) / Mariner (11:31) / Stardust (4:57) (1996 Japanese edition bonus track) - total time: 69:50
Disc 3: Oblivion Days: Dark Water Part Three: Neptune's Son (1:46)/ Aqua Vitae (6:28) / Oblivion Days (7:07) / Archimedes (5:38) / Banquo's Ghost (6:00) / Space 1999 (4:38) / Escape (10:02) / Compass Variation (3:59) (1999 Japanese edition bonus track) / Break The Silence (6:01) / Dark Water Part Four: Heavy Water (4:44) / Wake Me Up (Live in Tokyo 1999) (6:22) (1999 edition bonus track) / Stardust - MM96 Mix (4:55) (1999 European edition bonus track) - total time: 67:43
Disc 4: The 2007 Sessions: Dark Water Part One (4:32) / Earthbound (6:12) / Picture Show (8:46) / Pythagoras (Unbound) (3:54) / Minstrel Saviour (7:28) / When Sorrow Falls (5:13) / Carry Me Home (5:18) / Escape (10:01) (2007 remix, previously unreleased) / Break The Silence (6:01) (2007 remix) / Mariner (7:31) (2003 version feat. Kelly Keeling) / Earthbound Reprise (2:16) (new 2000 / 2007 recording) / Dark Water Part Five (6:36) / Dark Water Part Six (2:12) - total time: 76:23
Disc 5: Looking Backward DVD: Dark Water Part One/Main Titles / Earthbound / interview segment / Picture Show / interview segment / Pythagoras (Unbound) / interview segment / Minstrel Saviour / interview segment / When Sorrow Falls / interview segment / Dark Water Part Five / Dark Water Part Six/End Titles // DVD Special Features: An Afternoon with Emmet Chapman (25:00) / A Brief History of Rocket Scientists (Candid Studio Footage 1993-2007 (21:00) - total time: approx 108:00
Erik Norlander - keyboards, vocals
Mark McCrite - vocals, guitars
Don Schiff - N/S Stick, Chapman Stick
Greg Ellis - drums and percussion
Tommy Amato - drums
Lana Lane - vocals
With many other guest musicians
Brutal Architecture (1995)
Earth Below And Sky Above - Live In Europe And America (1997)
Oblivion Days (1999)
Revolution Road (2006)
Looking Backward (box set) (2007)
Genre: Progressive Rock
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