I tell ya, the world is desperately in need of a 'rock diva' these days, especially one who can back up her good looks with music that is both powerful and meaningful, and not just fodder for TMZ, MTV, the Super Bowl, and E-Online. No disrespect to the Lady GaGa's, Madonna's, Beyonce's, and Katy Perry's of the world, but the 'Queen of Symphonic Rock' Lana Lane has been churning out wonderful examples of melodic, anthemic, sometimes very metallic, and often times very progressive albums for many years now, and found a successful niche for herself around the globe, yet here in the US she's still relatively unknown. That's a damn shame, as Lana, along with husband & keyboard player extraordinaire Erik Norlander, have another winner here in El Dorado Hotel that deserves to be heard and loved by a much wider audience than it probably will when all is said and done.
Though it's been four years since her last release, the time away has obviously been well spent crafting these songs with Norlander and assembling a top notch cast of musicians to help carry their vision out. Appearing on El Dorado Hotel are guitarist Freddy DeMarco & bassist Mark Matthews (both recently worked on Norlander's solo project The Galactic Collective), vocalist John Payne , guitarists Guthrie Gowan & Bruce Bouillet, and drummer Jay Schellen (all from John Payne's Asia), plus longtime collaborators Mark McCrite (guitar, bass, vocals), Neil Citron (guitars), and Don Schiff (NS/Stick). The album features 10 songs written by Norlander and Lane, with some help from McCrite on a couple, and run the gamut from dramatic symphonic rock, to lush pop/prog, classic rock, AOR, and melodic metal.
Opener "A Dream Full of Fire" sets the stage for the rest of the CD, and is actually one of the real highlights, as heavy riffs from Bouillet complement Norlander's wide arsenal of classic sounding keyboards and Lane's soaring vocals. The chorus is instantly catchy, the guitar solos from Norlander (yes, he plays some guitar throughout the album) & Bouillet tasty, and the overall vibe is like some majestic combination of Yes, Heart, Rainbow, and Deep Purple. "Maybe We'll Meet Again" is a grandiose symphonic rocker, with emotional lyrics that Lana drives home with a potent delivery and sizzling solos from Bouillet & DeMarco, while the title track is a lush prog-rock number featuring Lane's gorgeous vocals over Norlander's layers of keyboards. On "Darkness Falls" the band combines melodic pop themes with crushing metal, and the end result works quite well, with a nice surprise being Lane's & McCrite's backing choral vocals adding a stirring edge to the chorus. "Hotels" is a lush ballad as only Lana Lane can deliver, supported by keyboards, acoustic guitar, and mandolin, while "Believe" is a stunning melodic rock song that has radio play written all over it, though I could have done without the vocal effects used in a few spots.
"Life of the Party" is a searing rocker chock full of Citron's meaty, wah-wah licks and Norlander's tasty keyboard textures, and Lane's vocals are majestic, charming, and totally on the money. More solid & catchy melodic rock can be heard on the hook laden "Gone Are the Days", and on "Moon God" Lane, Norlander, and McCrite seem to be going for Pop Diva territory, with the reappearance of the vocal effects from "Believe". The closing near 12-minute epic "In Exile" is pure Lana Lane majesty, filled with alluring melodies, atmosphere, dramatic textures, as well as bombast. Imagine a mix of early Heart and vintage Rainbow and perhaps Yes, and you get a feel for what is happening on this one.
The production by Norlander is amazing here, so expect to be bowled over by the majestic & powerful sounds that will come out of your speakers or through your headphones when you pop this CD in. Musically speaking, this is also top notch from the entire cast, and of course Lana sounds incredible as always. To get back to my original point at the top of this review, it's stuff like El Dorado Hotel that SHOULD be the talk of the music world, and Lana Lane christened the 'Diva of Rock'. However, if that never happens, she'll still always be our 'Queen of Symphonic Rock', and long may she reign!
1. A Dream Full of Fire
2. Maybe We'll Meet Again
3. El Dorado
4. Darkness Falls
7. Life of the Party
8. Gone are the Days
9. Moon God
10. In Exile