Stars Rain Down: Live in Europe 2001​-​2003

by Erik Norlander

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about

From the original 2004 liner notes:

This album was recorded in Europe on tours spanning a period of three years. The highway to here has been long, sometimes arduous, but always full of wonder and fascination. Even in the most stressful moments, I never forget that I have the best job in the world. I have been lucky enough to travel the world playing rock 'n' roll, first in 1997 with Rocket Scientists, then in 1998-1999 with Lana Lane, and most recently since 2001 with the lengthily monikered live project, "Lana Lane and Erik Norlander", a joint effort with my wife where we play music that spans our complete recorded catalogs.

What started off as a simple vehicle to go out and deliver live performances of the songs from both Lana and myself utilizing a single versatile backing band of international musicians has grown into an annual touring tradition and one I look forward to each year. As I write these liner notes, I am on the eve of a series of solo U.S. summer dates followed immediately by a fall 2004 European Tour of "Lana Lane and Erik Norlander". I am truly anticipating these dates like a kid wishes for Christmas.

Not only is it a joy to travel while playing the music I love, it is a further privilege to work with this exceptional group of musicians that are kind enough to share both the stage and their talents with me:

The name Lana Lane is familiar to just about anyone who knows progressive and symphonic rock, and she is without a doubt the world's leading female rock vocalist. It was music that brought us together way back in 1987, and it is our good fortune to have kept on making beautiful music together in all the years since. On this album, Lana delivers powerful live renditions of her Into the Sunset tracks, the kinetic rocker "Fly" and the sultry bridge of "Rome is Burning". In addition, we have the delight of hearing Lana's interpretations of "Lost Highway" from the Music Machine album and "Oblivion Days" from the Rocket Scientists album of the same name. And let me not forget Lana's haunting harmonies on "Beware the Vampires" that are executed so transparently you hardly notice that this is a different voice than the lead which sung by Kelly Keeling.

And speaking of Kelly Keeling, I must quote Kelly's words about our collaboration, "We were meant to be on the same planet." I had done some sessions with Kelly in recent years, but it was bassist Tony Franklin that urged me to consider Kelly for the role of the narrator on my 2003 rock opera, Music Machine. From the moment Kelly sang the first line of the title track, "Music Machine", I was hooked. I knew I had found the "voice" of Erik Norlander. The Music Machine sessions were a huge success, and so I naturally wanted to hear Kelly sing some of my other music. I brought him in to record a version of my Rocket Scientists song, "Mariner", a track that I sang myself back in 1995 on our Brutal Architecture album. Kelly's interpretation was stunning, to say the least, and that was the catharsis for bringing Kelly to Europe for the 2003 "Lana Lane and Erik Norlander" tour. As you will hear on this disc, Kelly delivered "Mariner" with his own astounding interpretation along with powerful performances of the Music Machine songs, "Beware the Vampires", "One of the Machines" and "Heavy Metal Symphony", and the Into the Sunset track, "Rome is Burning". That last one is not a vocal mission to approached casually. Not only did Kelly survive it, he conquered it.

Hey, have you ever seen anyone play a bass and a guitar at the same time? That sentence has become a running joke with Don Schiff, my favorite Stick figure, but that's really a great way to describe what he does with these very unique and creative instruments. Don was the first musician to record and tour with the NS/Stick, and it that original instrument that appears here on this CD. While the Chapman Stick is predominantly a tapping instrument, the NS/Stick allows Don to utilize numerous techniques from traditional bass playing (check on Don here on the Threshold album favorite, "Neurosaur", originally played on Rickenbacker 4 -string bass) to right hand chordal voicings ("One of the Machines") to his own very recognizable "Slide Stick" invention as evidenced by his beautiful solo in the first breakdown of the Music Machine opus, "Sky Full of Stars". Don has toured and recorded much with me over the years in many band configurations including Rocket Scientists and Lana Lane as well as solo outings, and he is always inventive, ever visionary and of course a general joy to be around.

Another general joy to be around is guitar wunderkind Peer Verschuren. Okay, maybe he's not a "kind" anymore, but he is definitely a "wunder". I have played with an awful lot of guitarists in my career (happily not a lot of awful guitarists), and I have found that most them lock into one particular style better than another. One particular recurring issue seems to be the inherent musical conflict between metal music and progressive music. There are those that play metal well. There are those that play prog well. There are those that are masters of the subtle and sublime, and then there are those that are louder than an airport runway during the holidays. Seldom is there a meeting of two. But meet Peer Verschuren. He does it! From the sensitive chordal rhythm accompaniment of "Lost Highway" to the amp-on-11 blazing solo of "Heavy Metal Symphony", Peer gets it. Here's a musician full of sound and fury signifying MUCH.

I have also been lucky enough to play with two drummers who are truly virtuosos. And both of them from Holland! How such a small country grows these monster drummers is beyond me. Must be something in the water. (Did you notice how I didn't mention anything about cheese or dikes? That's willpower.) Ernst Van Ee had the unenviable job on the last tour of playing a collection of songs that we had previously recorded with no less than six other drummers. My instructions to the drummer are always "Play the parts, but play them like YOU, not like the guy who played them before you." Ernst rose to this challenge like the star that he is, and you can hear him deliver a range of material from the Into the Sunset metal anthem "Rome is Burning" to the Music Machine space ballad "Sky Full of Stars" to the Brutal Architecture vintage prog epic "Mariner". Another Dutch master is Ed Warby whose double bass technique is more solid and consistent than a fine Rolex watch. Check out the drums on "Fly" and you'll see what I mean. Ed also traverses some serious prog-fusion peaks and valleys in the aerobic "Neurosaur" and then bashes away with maximum heavy metal intensity on the martial "Oblivion Days".

These fine musicians have helped me capture a very wide range of music taken from five fairly different studio albums. When you wonder about the oceans of difference between a song like "Rome is Burning" and one like "Neurosaur", well that's just me. In my view, that's what prog is all about. We're not just going to go out and play Yes songs. Yes does those very well, and they don't need my help. So I'm trying something different out here on the lost highway. May you savor the journey, and keep a close watch on the sky as Stars Rain Down!

Erik Norlander
Los Angeles, June, 2004

credits

released July 5, 2004

Erik Norlander: keyboards
Kelly Keeling: vocals on 1-4, 9
Lana Lane: vocals on 1,2,6,11,12
Peer Verschuren: guitars (all tracks)
Don Schiff: NS/Stick (all tracks)
Ernst Van Ee: drums on 1-6, 9, 10, 13
Ed Warby: drums on 8, 12

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Erik Norlander California

ERIK NORLANDER is a progressive rock keyboardist, composer, producer and active live performer based in Northern California. In addition to his many solo albums, Erik works with vocalist Lana Lane (his wife), his band, Rocket Scientists, and The Bob Moog Foundation. Erik has worked extensively with ASIA Featuring John Payne, Last in Line, Big Noize (with Joe Lynn Turner) and many other artists. ... more

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Track Name: Rome is Burning - live 2003
Caesar saw it in a dream
All those many years ago
Great is the fall
With rocks and stones they built it up
Towering castles in the sky
Imperial walls

Shaking the stones from the earth

Rome is burning
The whole world is turning
Don’t know if I will survive
Rome is burning
History is learning
What goes up won’t come down alive

Nero played on as it burned
Like a million fireflies
Lighting the night
A minuet before the fall
Underneath an ashen sky
In crimson twilight

Shaking the stones from the earth

Rome is burning
The whole world is turning
Don’t know if I will survive
Rome is burning
History is learning
What goes up won’t come down alive

Don’t turn around
Keep your eyes upon the road
Hear the deafening sound
Where the river meets the sea
One more down
All the castles turn to sand
Never to be found

A thousand years have come and gone
Aged as the time gone by
Remember it all
It echoes in the ocean still
Memories of better times
Before the fall

Shaking the stones from the earth

Rome is burning ...
Track Name: Beware the Vampires - live 2003
I let evil
Into my house
I let evil
Turn me to stone
Ancient evil
Talking backwards
Ancient evil
Should’ve been left alone

Came from nowhere
Out of shadow
Came from nowhere
Time cannot tell
Trapped in darkness
Blood of angels
Prince of darkness
No soul to sell

They seem so glamorous
Beautiful and vain
But once they have your trust
They’ll leave you out in the rain

Beware the Vampires
They feed on the power of the good that you do
Beware the Vampires
They darken the light of the life within you

Nether regions
Is its homeworld
Nether regions
Sun never shines
Neverending
Star of darkness
Out of Eden
Serpent on the vine

They rise out of the dust
Driven by the vein
Beware the succubus
Doesn’t feel the pain

Beware the Vampires
They feed on the power of the good that you do
Beware the Vampires
They darken the light of the life within you
Beware the Vampires
They feed on the blood of the good that’s in you
Beware the Vampires
Their evil is greater than we ever knew

They seem so glamorous
Beautiful and vain
But once they have your trust
They’ll leave you out in the rain

Beware the Vampires
They feed on the power of the good that you do
Beware the Vampires
They darken the light of the life within you
Beware the Vampires
They feed on the blood of the good that’s in you
Beware the Vampires
Their evil is greater than we ever knew
Track Name: One of the Machines - live 2003
I couldn’t wait for it to be
Finally over
They’re gonna turn me back to stone
It doesn’t mean that much to me
It’s an illusion
I’ll be on board the train for home

I can tell you what it means to be
Just one of the machines
But I can’t tell you what it means to me
I’m just one of the machines

This is the new theology
The building of empires
It’s gonna turn your heart to stone
They brought me to the factory
The silicon bonfire
So out of date this flesh and bone

I can tell you what it means to be
Just one of the machines
But I can’t tell you what it means to me
I’m just one of the machines

Oh I can tell you what it means to be
Just one of the machines
But I can’t tell you what it means to me
I’m just one of the machines
Track Name: Mariner - live 2003
I travel deep blue oceans
Far from fields of green
I long for lack of motion
I dream for a change of scene

Dark are the days
Cold are the nights
Deep are the oceans below
But strong are the winds
That carry me home
I sing you the mariner’s song

I leave from ports familiar
Set sail to points unknown
To pierce the heart of darkness
Where the seeds of nightmares are sown

Dark are the days
Cold are the nights
Deep are the oceans below
But strong are the winds
That carry me home
I sing you the mariner’s song

Dark are the days
Cold are the nights
Deep are the oceans below
But strong are the winds
That carry me home
I sing you the mariner’s song
Track Name: Lost Highway - live 2003
It was windy and warm
And I’d had my fill of the summertime
Think I’ll stop off for a glass of wine
And sit it out ‘til the fall

Too long out on the road
I needed a change of scenery
Looking for some kind of greenery
In the west Texas sun

But over the blue horizon
A song of yesterday
Out on the lost highway

I was headed back home
Movin’ out west through New Mexico
Me and my old sense of vertigo
Draggin’ the chains of the past

But into the heart of midnight
A song of yesterday
Out on the lost highway

It was just after dawn
Comin’ up fast on oblivion
In a haze of delirium
Highway 10 stretches on

But out of the misty morning
A song of yesterday
Out on the lost highway

Nothing much to speak of
Since my love has gone
Guess I’ll be movin’ on
Track Name: Heavy Metal Symphony - 2003 live
I couldn’t believe it
The sights I been shown
My head explodes with ancient mysteries
Seems like yesterday
But in my heart I know
We sailed across a thousand centuries

I tried to take it slow
But it roars in my mind like thunder

Heavy metal symphony
Stars rain down on the deep blue sea
I gave you my will, and you set me free
Heavy metal rain down on me

We started in Berlin
And made our way out west
Played every hall ‘cross the seven seas
We hit all the hot spots
And broke down many walls
Defied the laws of gravity

I tried to see the signs
But it roars in my mind like thunder

Heavy metal symphony
Stars rain down on the deep blue sea
I gave you my will, and you set me free
Heavy metal rain down on me

I tried to brave the storm
But it roars in my mind like thunder

Heavy metal symphony
Stars rain down on the deep blue sea
I gave you my will, and you set me free
Heavy metal rain down on me
Track Name: Fly - live 2001
There is a place where you program the sunshine
And listen to rain as it falls from above
Where silently I paint a private utopia
Where lion and lamb lie with eagle and dove

I think of old times when I look in your eyes
Remember the days we walked hand in hand
Now you live your life like a sole survivor
A madman wandering the desert sand

I will fly like the wind ‘cross the sea to be near you
And my doubts, like the sun, they will fade through the night
Fly like the wind, vowing love in the shadows
Under moons crystal white and the waters midnight blue

Wondering back to the summer of madness
Flying away through the sheltering sky
Wishing that somehow we could remain ageless
But days get shorter as years roll by

I will fly like the wind ‘cross the sea to be near you
And my doubts, like the sun, they will fade through the night
Fly like the wind, vowing love in the shadows
Under moons crystal white and the waters midnight blue

I follow three stars in the hovering darkness
For it is well known there’s no map of this land
The forest is deep and the journey is endless
I’m finding my way however I can

I will fly like the wind ‘cross the sea to be near you
And my doubts, like the sun, they will fade through the night
Fly like the wind, vowing love in the shadows
Under moons crystal white and the waters midnight blue

Fly back to you
Fly back to you
Track Name: Oblivion Days - live 2001
This time next year we’ll be looking at our yesterdays
See how far we’ve come from here
All of our fears are the history of future days

Climb the mountain, touch the skyline

If you know that change is constant
You’ll find it’s nothing new
Don’t be surprised when you realize it’s happened to you
There’s a storm on the horizon
It’s coming here to stay
It’s a one way ride through the silicon sky
Oblivion days

The road is clear down the neverending motorway
From the brink of fleeting time
Along the banks of the river turning night to day

Climb the mountain, touch the skyline

If you know that change is constant
You’ll find it’s nothing new
Don’t be surprised when you realize it’s happened to you
There’s a storm on the horizon
It’s coming here to stay
It’s a suicide dive through the hurricane’s eye
Oblivion days

This time next year we’ll be looking at our yesterdays
See how far we’ve come from here
The sound you’ll hear ‘cross the ocean land of far away

Climb the mountain, touch the skyline

When you know that change is constant
You’ll find it’s nothing new
Don’t be surprised when the compromise is all about you
You can read it in the headlines
It’s close in every way
When the holes in the sky just multiply
Oblivion days
When you’re standing at the crossroads
So far from hallowed ground
The high road ends just ‘round the bend in a flash of sight and sound
There’s a storm on the horizon
It’s coming here to stay
It’s a one way ride through the silicon sky
Oblivion days