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Rocket Scientists: Revolution Road

So ... Rocket Scientists, one of American prog's most overlooked bands, disappears for seven years and then emerges in late 2006 with the strongest album a double CD, no less of its career? You better believe it. Revolution Road also contains some of the finest 101 minutes of progressive music you've heard this year. After the band's third album, 1999's Oblivion Days, keyboardist Erik Norlander, guitarist and vocalist Mark McCrite and NS/Stick man Don Schiff turned their attention to solo projects, as well as tours and studio sessions backing Norlander's wife, symphonic-rock siren Lana Lane. But Rocket Scientists also quietly worked on new material, ending up with two CDs worth of music that would each make a great album on their own.

The journey along Revolution Road began for Rocket Scientists in 2002, when McCrite handed Norlander a CDR labeled "Unfinished Business," containing song ideas he'd developed after the release of Oblivion Days. The first song the band completed was "Better View," a beautiful acoustic piece. Ever the savvy studio wizards, these guys include here a middle section from that song recorded live in 2002 at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, Calif., featuring Norlander's vintage modular Moog and a click track provided by the late drummer Shaun Guerin, who had become a fourth member of the Rocket Scientists before he passed away in 2003. "Better View," with its fittingly hopeful lyrics about the afterlife, is the only song on Revolution Road to feature Guerin. Gregg Bissonette laid down drums on the album's 17 other tracks.

Elsewhere, guest vocalist David McBee adds grit to the band's smooth sound, and it's no coincidence that the songs he sings are among Revolution Road's heaviest. "Sky Is Falling" kicks off disc one with epic majesty after a brief yet anxious synth solo, "Dream In Red" begins humbly enough but turns into a pure progressive-metal monster (think Saga meets Dream Theater) and "Pay Your Dues" proves that Rocket Scientists shouldn't turn away from a heavier direction in the future. McBee is scattered throughout both discs, making his appearances welcome and unexpected contrasts to McCrite's more earthbound vocals. "Forever Nights" features a bit of a jazz swing with a Flower Kings vibe, for example, and "Castles Fall" darkens the mood a shade or two. But McCrite's standout performance comes on the Pink Floyd-influenced "Enjoy the Weather," when his guitar and voice work in tandem to evoke David Gilmour at his most eloquent.

Lyrically, Rocket Scientists paint vivid images of other worlds and better worlds. Just trying listening to "Savor Every Moment" without resolving to make a change in your own world. This isn't sci-fi or fantasy, and there's no discernible concept to Revolution Road. Just solid music, abstract but universal ideas, and a cover of the Moody Blues' illustrative "Gypsy (Of A Strange and Distant Time)" near the end of disc one that fits in perfectly with everything else. Far-reaching instrumentals show off the core trio's superb playing abilities: "After the Revolution," particularly, identifies McCrite as one of prog's hidden gems of a guitarist, "Ptolemy" highlights Norlander's manic workout and "Hold That Thought" is a Schiff showcase.

It's all wrapped in a shiny single jewel case with beautiful mind-bending artwork and a colorful 28-page booklet featuring detailed liner notes penned by Norlander, who also produced Revolution Road. What's more, the title is among the first of Think Tank Media's releases now being nationally distributed by the burgeoning ProgRock Records label. Note that awarding five stars to any release is not something I do without a great deal of thought. That said, a great deal of thought also went into this set, allowing Rocket Scientists to preserve its roots and stretch its boundaries at the same time.

Track Listing
Disc One:
1) Look Up
2) Sky Is Falling
3) Dream In Red
4) Better View
5) Outside the Painted Walls
6) Revolution Road
7) Forever Nights
8) Ptolemy
9) Gypsy (Of A Strange and Distant Time)
10) Savor Every Moment

Disc Two:
1) Castles Fall
2) UFO S.H.A.D.O. Theme
3) Enjoy the Weather
4) Pay Your Dues
5) Eden Burn
6) Hold That Thought
7) House of Cards
8) After the Revolution

Added: March 13th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Rocket Scientists on MySpace
Hits: 21381
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Rocket Scientists: Revolution Road
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-03-12 22:45:38
My Score:

Revolution Road has far more in common with Erik Norlander's solo project Music Machine than with any prior Rocket Scientists releases. Nothing wrong with that - it's just an observation.

You'll hear big sections of vintage keyboards here, played properly - in the vein of a Banks or a Wakeman. You'll hear two excellent vocalists delivering huge, anthemic melodies, and you'll hear some wonderful guitar work. And you'll quickly understand why Revolution Road. found its way onto many of the Sea Of Tranquility writers' top-of-2006 lists. It's the best work the Rocket Scientists have produced to date.

The music is generally 1970s oriented - but think '70s at the intersection of hard rock and third-wave progressive rock, with a nod - just a nod - in the direction of metal. There's lots of NS/Stick, Moog, Hammond, 'Tron here - in fact, you'd better like analog synths because you're getting tons of them on this CD. The vocals are particularly good - partly because there are two singers, and partly because of the contrast between David McBee's very powerful delivery and Mark McCrite's more laid back singing.

The title track comes over as pure hard-rock and, similarly, "Dream In Red" has a huge, catchy vocal line and a solid rock attitude that would be at home in any arena. "Forever Nights" is a catchy ballad, wonderfully sung, with unusual lyrics - Don't you ask me how I feel - 'cause I don't feel fine and Don't you ask if I'm alright - I'm not alright ... and so on. The song isn't as negative as those lyrics make it sound - and it's very catchy. "Castles Fall" would be at home on a Neal Morse album, and closing track "After The Revolution" is possibly the highlight of the record - an all-instrumental, head-nodding piece that revolves in large measure around a simple, elegant piano line. It introduces long sections of emotive guitar work, Mellotron choirs, and an enormous amount of vintage synth. Elegant in its simplicity, and a wonderful listen.

And "Better View" features tracks laid down by Shawn Guerin before his death in 2003. Seems that many years ago Guerin performed that song with the Rocket Scientists - and in a touching tribute, the band managed to use the drum track from that recording in this studio piece.

There's good variety from song to song, and only one thing common to all tracks: They have huge melodic hooks - earworms that will stay with you for a long time.

So the Rocket Scientists disappear for seven years before producing their fourth album - and it's a double-CD. Since it isn't a concept piece, you have to wonder why they didn't release it as two separate CDs, a year or so apart. Either way - Revolution Road is 101 minutes of excellent music.

Get it.

Rocket Scientists: Revolution Road
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-11-05 15:47:46
My Score:

With the opening synth notes of "Look Up" an obvious nod to King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", it is quickly apparent that Rocket Scientists, after their long absense, are back with a return to glorious prog rock. Well, as you keep listening to this wonderful 2CD set Revolution Road, that is indeed the case. With the trio of Erik Norlander (keyboards), Mark McCrite (vocals/guitars), and Don Schiff (NS/Stick) being joined by drummers Greg Bissonette, Simon Phillips, and the late Shaun Guerin, as well as singer David McBee, accordion player Greg Phelps, this is a very well rounded affair, complete with elements of full-blown prog rock, some hard rock, and pop.

McBee is a real find, as his husky, powerful vocals seem ready made for the symphonic, heavier material, as he has a singing style not too far removed from Symphony X's Russell Allen. His soaring vocals enrich the already stellar pieces like "Dream in Red" and "Sky is Falling", letting it be know that there is a new player on the scene. I'm sure we shall hear and see much more from this talent in the months and years to come.

Mark McCrite really gets to show the well rounded talents that we all knew he had on this release. With no other guitarist in sight, McCrite embellishes these songs with both lush acoustic majesty and crunchy electric bombast. While not so much a "shredder", McCrite drops in plenty of tasty and melodic lead work throughout the album that is sure to impress fans of concise, restained guitar work. As for Mr. Norlander, well, expect his trademark "hit you from all angles" style, as he drops in all sorts of vintage and modern sounds (Moog, Hammond, Mellotron, etc) that give this album the "majesty". Check out tunes like "Outside the Painted Walls", where his ominous Mellotron strains and amazing Moog flights do battle with Schiff's jangly wah-wah leads, or his funky fusion patterns as well as gorgeous piano on the upbeat "Ptolemy". Schiff holds it all together with his impressive Stick work, and as anyone knows who has followed the work of Rocket Scientists, Erik Norlander's solo work, or Schiffs own recent solo work Peering Over Clouds, this guy can hold down a solid rhythm as well as rip into gymnastic, melodic leads.

Hearing the band cover the classic Moody Blues song "Gypsy" is sure to tug at your nostalgia buttons, as McCrite pulls off a spectacular vocal alongside Norlander's tasty and vintage keyboard arsenal. It's a small peek at the early days of prog, which, despite Revolution Road being a bona-fide modern prog album, gives plenty of nods to the early days of the genre. As with every release that Norlander is involved with, expect a jam packed booklet filled with commentary, lyrics, and photos.

A superb release, and well worth the wait!

» Reader Comments:

Rocket Scientists: Revolution Road
Posted by Player1 (serbia) on 2007-01-01 02:22:10
My Score:

This album is better then I expected... I enjoy it very much.

Rocket Scientists: Revolution Road
Posted by David Scott McBee on 2006-11-03 17:41:56
My Score:

WOW !!! Thanks That's all I can say.

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