Erik Norlander's "Galactic Collective" serves as a wonderful sampler of his past catalogue. More importantly, his re-workings of these past instrumentals ( -complete with newly honed solos and extended bits ), add a new sheen to these seminal favorites. Whether you're a newbie to Erik's music or a progrock veteran, you'll find lots to like in his "Galactic Collective: Definitive Edition".
Combining two music CD's and an "in-studio" recorded DVD of the album's tracks, "Galactic Collective" is a progrock "tour-de-force"! Beyond merely being a terrific value, the package's DVD gives you Erik's insights into each song ( -edited between each cut ) and in- cludes a fun "Behind the Wall of Doom" feature ( -sure to be of interest to hard core synth fanatics ).
Having stumbled across Erik Norlander's music ( -via Ayreon's "Universal Migrator" album, where he's credited with some of the album's keyboard wizardry ), I decided to check out more of Erik's work. I found his "Galactic Collective: Definitive Edition" on Amazon and decided to order it. I'm really glad I did too! This ( 2 CD + DVD ) package not only rocks -it's a real steal for the price! If you're into old-school analog synth-oriented progrock ( -played by consummate musicians ), this A/V multimedia masterpiece has your name written all over it!
Virtuoso level synth and keyboard work combined with except-ionally competent guitar, bass and drum work ( -courtesy of Erik's stable of highly skilled band mates ), make for a stunning multimedia experience. With tons of "extras", a lavish color booklet and alternate 5.1 surround mix ( -included on the dual layer DVD ), it's obvious Erik invested a whole lot of time and effort into this project. And it definitely shows!
I won't bore you with a long winded "track-by-track" critique of each song ( -it's more fun to discover each on your own! ), I'll simply mention what I consider to be the album's stand-out cuts. For me, these were "A Sky Full of Stars" and "Trantor Station". The first: "Sky" is a moody, mid-tempo piece with a poignant Moog lead ( -that gets a few solo re-treatments throughout ). It's mournfully sweet lead will embed itself into your brain and have you humming the ditty throughout the day. Prime ear candy/ "ear-worm" territory here! Equally notable is Freddy DeMarco's incredibly emotive, pitch-bending Strat solo near the mid-point. I think even David Gilmour would've been proud to have pulled off this memorable solo! Notable as well, is Mark Matthew's tasty bass guitar slides ( -again, reminiscent of "the Floyd" -around their "Wall" era ). Definitely nice stuff!
Complete with 8-page full-color booklet forwarded by Michelle Moog Koussa, and containing background notes on each of the album's cuts ( -both in the booklet AND in interview form -wedged between each of the DVD's songs ), Erik has spared no cost in putting out a truly lavish, first-rate production with "Galactic: Def. Ed." He even went to the extra trouble of personally mixing an alternative Dolby 5.1 Surround audio mix ( -for this "dual layer" DVD ). Played through the dinky four inch stereo speakers of my ancient Sony Trinitron TV set, even the Standard Dolby stereo mix sounds epic. Nice job!
"Trantor Station's" evolving sample-and-hold pattern ( -courtesy of Erik's mammoth Moog Modular ) and evocative "Eloyesque" Voyager lead make for another memorable track. Nick LePar's thrilling drum runs, comp- etently backed by Freddy DeMarco's thick reinforcing chord washes -combined with Mark Matthew's confident bass underpinning, make for another stellar track you won't easily forget. The DVD video of this cut is made all the more dynamic by the quick paced "cut-to-audio" edits ( -which tie video cuts to the song's fast pace ). The viewer can't help but be yanked into the kinetic energy of this song.
A friend of mine and longtime fan of the German rock group Eloy ( -Hi Mike! ), was impressed enough after seeing this song -to order "Galactic Collective" even though he, like me, had little to no previous experience with Erik's music. So, in summing up, let me just say -if you're into prog or spacerock ( -or simply have a penchant for beefy-sounding vintage analog synths ) and haven't yet checked out Erik's music -you owe it to yourself to do so! His "Galactic Collective: Definitve Edition" ( 2 CD + DVD ) "best of sampler" is a great way to do it. Veterans of Erik's music may even prefer these re-worked and enhanced song versions to the original songs on his past albums. Give it a whirl and see what you think!
Pictured: Erik Norlander with wife Lana Lane ( -who adds vocals to a few of "Galactic Collective's" cuts ). The pair can also be heard on Arjen Anthony Lucassen's ( two CD ) "Universal Migrator" concept album ( -another "must have" masterpiece! ). Be sure to check out Lana's incredible vocal "Dragon on the Sea" on this Ayreon "Universal Migrator" release.
As mentioned above, Lana Lane fans will be treated to two cuts ( -"After the Revolution" and the piano and vocal version of "Sky Full of Stars" on the second "Echoes from the Collective" CD's bonus tracks ). The divided screen shots of Lana adding successive multitracked vocals ( -to build up the "choral" in "After the Revolution" ) are both interesting and entertaining. Novice and "wannabee" vocalists are sure to enjoy these scenes on the included "in-studio" recorded DVD.
And lastly, for you synth nerd/ keyboard duffers out there ( -guilty on both counts ), let me forewarn you: there really should be a disclaimer ( "Entering drool-bucket territory" ) shown prior to the beginning of the "Behind the Wall of Doom" featurette ( -in which Erik gives a loving "module-by-module" description of his huge Moog Modular and associated vintage keyboard rig ). It's actually pretty cruel that Erik would tease the rest of us like this!
But seriously, aside from being irresistible "eye-candy" for the synthetically incorrigible ( -guilty again ), this twenty two minute feature is a pretty decent tutorial on general synthesis and signal flow ( i.e: explaining what oscillators, filters, LFOs are and do ). Cool stuff!
Pictured: Erik gloating ( -er, um ) "explaining" the ins and outs of his massive Moog Modular. A tough job but someone has to do it! This 22-minute bonus feature is one of the neat "hidden gems" you'll find in Erik's "Galactic Collective: Definitive Edition". Erik's stories and insights into each cut's instrumentation, struc-ture and background, add a whole new level of enjoyment to the package.
So, bottom line: Erik Norlander's "Galactic Collective: Definitive Edition" is one of those rare musical masterpieces we can heartily recommend. Snag one for yourself. You won't be sorry!
*NOTE: If Erik's "Galactic Collective" appeals to you, it's a safe bet that "Ayreon's" ( -Arjen Anthony Lucassen's concept project moniker ) "Universal Migrator" release will also be of interest. As I mentioned above, both Erik and his wife Lana, provide inspiring keyboard and vocal work on this album. I consider it to be another "musical masterpiece" ( -ranking right up there with Pink Floyd's "Darkside of the Moon" ). Coincidentally, you'll find a considerable "Floydish" influence infused throughout this double CD "concept album". I'm planning to do a full review of Ayreon's "Universal Migrator" in an upcoming installment of CTN -and hope to ask Arjen Anthony Luccasen for an interview. So stay tuned!