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Rocket Scientists: Looking Backward (4 CD/1 DVD box)

Wow!

We've looked forward to Looking Backward since we first heard about it, many months ago - and when it finally arrived it exceeded expectations in every respect. Here's what you get:

  • A slipcase over the VHS-sized container
  • 3 (count 'em - three) excellent re-masters/re-recordings with a sound quality that will knock your socks off
  • A fourth CD with previously-unreleased recordings
  • A DVD containing more than 2 hours of material
  • An excellent and informative 64 (count 'em - sixty four) page glossy booklet
  • A total of more than 6 hours (count 'em - six) of modern third-wave symphonic progressive rock

    No effort has been spared, and this is doubtlessly the most professional, classy package we've seen.

    Then slip in the first CD and ... Wow! That synthesizer hits you like a sledgehammer cloaked in velvet - it's "Dark Water Part I", a synthesizer-led instrumental that shows off the most powerful characteristics of that instrument - rich, deep tones played over bass pedals, and half way through the drums and a strummed acoustic guitar help it builds into a full-strength instrumental with its deliberate melody burning its way into your conscience to become the earworm you will hear for days afterward ... before fading into soft ocean winds, and moving seamlessly into the introduction of "Earthbound".

    As you've gathered - Looking Backward is a retrospective compilation of 14 years of the Rocket Scientists' releases (excluding their recent Revolution Road) Through all those years Erik Norlander has championed the classic keyboard instruments that defined early progressive music and many of these songs feature Moogs, Hammonds and 'Trons (oh my). Don Schiff is a talented all-rounder who appears on bass (fretted and fretless), as well as various Stick instruments. In fact he was instrumental in the development of the new NS/Stick (Ned Steinberg, he of the Steinberg guitar, who co-developed it with Emmett Chapman). He produces a fascinating sound which is best appreciated on the DVD - where you see Don's Stick effortlessly representing a solid bass and a wailing lead guitar - at the same time.

    There are 6 parts to the "Dark Water" song, spread across three of the CDs. Just for fun - program your iPod to play all six of them back to back. You'll get a 21-minute all-instrumental epic with themes that are (occasionally) reprised and developed, tempos shift and turn, and all of them are serious, strong pieces with an emphasis on moody, often spacey themes presented by well produced, richly layered keyboards. Only two of them actually flow into each other, but it's good listen to a piece of music the artists probably had no intention of you hearing. Another recurring item across all Rocket Scientist CDs is a song named for a historical scientist. There was "Pythagoras" on the Earthbound album, "Copernicus" on Brutal Architecture, "Archimedes" on Oblivion Days, and "Ptolomey" on Revolution Road (not included in this package). Again - drag and drop all of those tracks into your MP3 player and you have 15 minutes of solid progressive music without that much in common - besides some staccato themes that recur from time to time. Fun, anyway.

    The DVD starts with same 2 songs as The 2007 Sessions, then has interspersed vocal sections with band members describing the genesis and many of the musical specifics of each upcoming song. And as you watch the band recording the pieces "live in the studio", the DVD showcases the artists' musicianship more clearly than the CDs can - and particularly, highlights Schiff's clever fretboard work on his stick, and Greg Ellis's excellent display of how a brilliant drummer can add life to his music. Singer/guitarist Mark McCrite's contributions are also most easily appreciated on the DVD, and you have to love the way his forays into Howe-esque guitar work - listen to "Minstrel Savior" - add to Norlander's classic prog moods.

    Individually, the CDs that have been re-mastered here would earn ratings varying from 4 to 5 stars. But considering the quality of the whole package and the tremendous amount you'll get with it - this is clearly a 5-star product. The press release says it's a must-have for Rocket Scientist fans. It's wrong. It's a must-have for any progressive rock fan.

    Track Listing:

    Disc One: Looking Backward - The 2007 Sessions (2007):
    1. Dark Water Part One [4:32] - new 2007 recording
    2. Earthbound [6:12] - new 2007 recording
    3. Picture Show [8:46] - new 2007 recording
    4. Pythagoras (Unbound) [3:54] - new 2007 recording
    5. Minstrel Saviour [7:28] - new 2007 recording
    6. When Sorrow Falls [5:13] - new 2007 recording
    7. Carry Me Home [5:18] - new 2007 recording
    8. Escape [10:01] - 2007 remix, previously unreleased
    9. Break the Silence [6:01] - 2007 remix
    10. Mariner [7:31] - Kelly Keeling vocal version from 2003
    11. Earthbound Reprise [2:16] - new 2000 / 2007 recording
    12. Dark Water Part Five [6:36] - new 2007 recording
    13. Dark Water Part Six [2:12] - new 2007 recording

    Disc Two: Oblivion Days (1999, remastered in 2007):
    1. Dark Water Part Three: Neptune's Sun [1:46]
    2. Aqua Vitae [6:28]
    3. Oblivion Days [7:07]
    4. Archimedes [5:38]
    5. Banquo's Ghost [6:00]
    6. Space 1999 [4:38]
    7. Escape [10:02]
    8. Compass Variation [3:59] - 1999 Japanese edition bonus track
    9. Break the Silence [6:01]
    10. Dark Water Part Four: Heavy Water [4:44]
    11. Wake Me Up - Live in Tokyo 1999 [6:22] - 1999 edition bonus track
    12. Stardust - MM96 Mix [4:55] - 1999 European edition bonus track

    Disc Three: Brutal Architecture (1995, remastered in 2007):
    1. Dark Water Part One [4:12]
    2. Wake Me Up [5:44]
    3. Copernicus [2:53]
    4. Brutal Architecture [6:20]
    5. Nether [4:04]
    6. Dark Water Part Two [1:39]
    7. The Fall of Icarus [6:30]
    8. Resolution [7:31]
    9. Rainy Days & Pastel Grays [7:13]
    10. Millennium 3 [7:16]
    11. Mariner [11:31]
    12. Stardust [4:57] - 1996 Japanese edition bonus track

    Disc Four: Earthbound (1993, remastered in 2007):
    1. Earthbound [4:57]
    2. Down Trodden [3:30]
    3. Picture Show [4:59]
    4. No More Lies [4:28]
    5. Killing Joke [3:46]
    6. Avalon [4:05]
    7. Welcome to the Machine [4:48]
    8. Minstrel Saviour [6:09]
    9. When Sorrow Falls [3:46]
    10. Calm Before the Storm [4:27]
    11. Pythagoras [0:57]
    12. Temple of Pain [3:58]
    13. Carry Me Home [4:12]
    14. To the Edge of the World - 1993 Demo [3:42] - previously unreleased bonus track

    DVD (NTSC Region Free): Looking Backward (2007):
    "LOOKING BACKWARD" Feature [102 min.]
    1. Dark Water Part One / Main Titles
    2. Earthbound
    3. Interview segment
    4. Picture Show
    5. Interview segment
    6. Pythagoras (Unbound)
    7. Interview segment
    8. Minstrel Saviour
    9. Interview segment
    10. When Sorrow Falls
    11. Interview segment
    12. Dark Water Part Five
    13. Dark Water Part Six / End Titles

    DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • AN AFTERNOON WITH EMMETT CHAPMAN Featurette [25 min.]
  • A BRIEF HISTORY OF ROCKET SCIENCE
  • Candid Studio Footage 1993-2007 [21 min.]

  • Added: February 2nd 2008
    Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
    Score:
    Related Link: The Artist's Website
    Hits: 3420
    Language: english

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    » SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

    Rocket Scientists: Looking Backward (4 CD/1 DVD box)
    Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-02-02 09:03:48
    My Score:

    It's not hard to feel the love that no doubt went into putting Looking Backward together. This is an enormous package, a wonderful retrospective of the early career of Rocket Scientists. First of all, the booklet that comes in this set is one of the best you will ever see, jam packed with information on all the three remastered albums, photos, and commentary from the musicians. The DVD is a fascinating watch, filled with interview segments and in-studio footage, as you get up close and person with Erik Norlander, Mark McCrite, Don Schiff, and crew. If that's not enough, the inclusion of brilliantly remastered versions of Earthbound, Brutal Architecture, and Oblivion Days, is the icing on the cake. From the first note of each of these CD's, it's instantly apparent just how much better these albums now sound. Crystal clear, sonically gorgeous, from Norlander's many keyboard textures, to McCrite's melodic guitar work and emotional vocals, it's all here and better than ever. Speaking of McCrite's vocals, he's always been considered an excellent singer, but for some reason his vocal parts take on new life here, even more so on the 2007 Sessions CD that is also included in this set, where he shows no signs of the many years that have gone by since these albums were originally recorded. The band went back into the studio and re-recorded a selection of songs from these three albums, and the results are simply marvelous marvelous once again. If you haven't listened to these older Rocket Scientists albums in many years (which, I'm guilty of myself), it will be a joy to once again sing out loud to such poppy prog classics as "Picture Show", "Carry Me Home", "Killing Joke", and the majestic "Minstrel Saviour", or rock out to symphonic gems like "Aqua Vitae", "Oblivion Days", "Mariner", "Earthbound", and "Brutal Architecture".

    Great vocals, stupendous keyboard work, tasty guitar lines, solid rhythms, and catchy songwriting. All of these characteristics and more make up the discography of Rocket Scientists. If you are new to the band, make sure to pick this set up, and if you have all the old CD's, it's now time to replace them with what's included here.

    Bravo guys!



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