LANA LANE – Return To Japan

LANA LANE - Return To Japan


Frontiers Records
Release date: June 10, 2004

Production: B+
Vocals: A
Guitar: C
Bass: C
Drums: B
Keyboards: A
Bottom Line: B+

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When considering the name “Lana Lane,” a smile certainly will be brought to the faces of fans of the Superman comics and the Smallville TV series. Lana’s name represents a schizophrenic combination of the names of two of Clark Kent’s love interests, namely “Lana Lang” and “Lois Lane.” That being said, Lana Lane’s Return to Japan is a double-live CD release that suffers from a case of schizophrenia itself. The first CD is sixteen tracks of live recordings of the entire band, while the second CD contains twelve tracks, of which ten tracks are more of an “unplugged” Lana and Erik Norlander (keyboardist and Lana’s hubby) show.

The first CD is a collection of shows from 1999 and 2002 from both the Club Citta and Club Quattro arenas, both in Kawasaki. This collection of performances includes live material culled mostly from Lana’s Queen of the Ocean and Project Shangri-La releases. The CD opens with an “Introductory Medley” which consists of instrumental snippets from four Lana tracks. Also on hand, are strong performances of “Escher’s Staircase” (Curious Goods), and “Evolution Revolution” (Garden Of The Moon). Throughout the CD, Lana shows incredible range and performs extremely well by hitting all the notes, especially on demanding songs like “The Beast Within You,” which along with “Project Shangri-La,” “Frankenstein Unbound,” and “Night Falls” are the CD’s rockin’ standout cuts. Also worth mentioning, is the melodic tenderness she delivers during the “Athena’s Shadow” track.

The production (handled by Erik) is clean, flawless, and seamless, which ironically might be the CD’s biggest flaw. The vocals and keyboards are never lost in the mix, as all instruments seem to have been given even representation. The quality remains consistent from song to song, which is an amazing feat as some of these recordings are over 5 years old. Missing though are any flaws, e.g., guitar feedback, extra bass pedal pumps between songs, thumb twangs, active conversation with the audience, etc. All of these missing “flaws,” or subtleties, sometimes end up giving the CD more of an “airy,” live-in-the-studio feel. To add insult to injury, the 2002 guitar tracks (which account for slightly over half the CD) had to be redone in the studio by Peer Verschuren. Reading this in the liner notes brought back flashes of Judas Priest’s “Unleashed In The Studio” release.

The second CD is penned as a “Acoustic Live and Special Events” CD, even though there’s very little “acoustic” present … the majority of the disc is Lana on vocals accompanied by Erik on synthesizers. In fact, Erik mentions this in the release’s enclosed 20-page liner notes insert, which Erik himself wrote. Performances are taken from 1998, 1999, and 2002. Once again, the production is flawless and seamless making it feel like the set list was all culled from one show.

The first ten tracks are presented essentially as duets with Lana on voice and Erik on keyboards. Lana shows off her vocal prowess by turning in moving and stirring vocal performances on all tracks. Covering “Dream On” by Aerosmith seemed a bit out of place as this is the one spot that Lana comes off sounding a bit strained. This rendition just seemed out of place with the other tracks on the CD that contained more tenderness and melody. The last two tracks are billed as “Remastered Bonus Tracks” of the full band playing two cover songs; “In The Court Of The Crimson King,” by King Crimson, and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll,” by Rainbow. Both are above average renditions with Lana’s vocal performance able to keep one’s attention.

All in all, a very nice package containing outstanding performances by Lana, clean production, a nice 20-page booklet of liner notes with photos, and a combined total running time of over 2 hours of music. In the end, the softness of the second, “unplugged” disc will only appeal to hard core Lana fans, while the majority of us will appreciate, and find great pleasure, in the live, Progressive Castle Rock captured on disc one.


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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