“Hommage Symphonique” by Erik Norlander

Artist: Erik Norlander
Title: “Hommage Symphonique”
Label: Think Tank Media
Release Date: 1/30/2007
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 4/5

It was during the course of 2007 that we found a number of popular artists releasing cover albums or as some fans would refer – “re-interpretations of previously established themes”. Erik Norlander, a noted Progressive Rock keyboard virtuoso, would toss his own hat into the mix before many of the year’s offerings would be released so the idea was still rather fresh when it came down to it. Fortunately for those who had followed his level of Prog-Rock genius this project would be a decidedly different undertaking and present people with a unique look at the motivations that led to it. For “Hommage Symphonique” he would present music that was already on a grand scale and up the ante just a little bit more by blending in more of the symphonic elements that he is an apparent master of. The musician is well-qualified to do this as one can hear with the work done on his wife Lana Lane’s albums along with that of the Rocket Scientists. Norlander seems to be able to approach the tasks with ease based on his not only being a musician/composer, but also based on his talents at recording engineering and production. The song selections stand at eight and if you think you are being cheated or that this is a short album you are quite wrong since featured is music by bands like King Crimson, Yes, and Emerson Lake and Palmer to name a few. Progressive fans know very well just how long some of these groups’ compositions can be so it was clear that Norlander had his work cut out for him. The journey begins with Procol Harum’s “Conquistador” and I liked it, but admit to never really following the band outside of the hit songs that I grew up knowing. Next up is a Rick Wakeman classic entitled “Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight” and he really knocks you out with his rendition in a fashion that I feel would even impress Wakeman. The battle that is portrayed on the keyboards and synthesizers is quite dramatic and makes this one of the better songs on the album. Joining Erik for the recording is singer Kelly Keeling, drummer Greg Bissonette and Don Schiff who plays NS/Stick, bowed guitar and contrabass. It should also be noted that a number of wind, horn and string instruments are present on the album and additional guitar comes at the hands of Rocket Scientist’s Mark McCrite.

After listening to this album I am pretty convinced about the talents of Kelly Keeling who transforms himself into both Jon Anderson and Greg Lake for the sake of the recording. It’s true – he is so dead on during the vocal parts that you would think the original singers stopped by the studio to contribute to the recording. Norlander does keep the original themes of the tunes intact however and doesn’t seem to deviate from how they sounded in the first place outside of adding in that symphonic vibe. Fans will be pleasantly surprised to hear an early song from ELO but perhaps the most raised eyebrows will come from the inclusion of jazz great Chuck Mangione. His “Children Of The Sanchez Overture” is surely not what anyone was expecting on such a release. The song was a refreshing addition even though I wondered how he would have done on the widely popular “Feels So Good”. I think it would have been cool to hear all the horns as done with keyboards and synthesizers. Perhaps for volume two should that ever be on the planning table. The release comes with booklet that offers up a couple of photos and some personal comments from Erik himself. I think that this one should appease the fans of the bands that are featured in the compositions. It’s also good because it is loaded with songs that are not the run of the mill expectations that can often be associated with such a release. Make sure to follow Erik’s work on his other projects as well since he has some great stuff.

Track Listing:
1. Conquistador (Procol Harum)
2. Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight (Rick Wakeman)
3. Turn Of The Century (Yes)
4. Pirates (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
5. Clasp (Jethro Tull)
6. Ocean Breakup/King Of The Universe (Electric Light Orchestra)
7. Children Of The Sanchez Overture (Chuck Mangione)
8. Starless (King Crimson)

Official Website: www.eriknorlander.com
Official Website: www.thetank.com

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