They play the whole concept album in its entirety (with some improvisation) and cast extras join the band to do the voiceovers of the characters.
They are very precise in their playing, but they also leave room for jamming and improvisation, which is something a lot of acts don’t do. Go watch a Metallica or Iron Maiden concert and you don’t get a lot of improvisation during the songs. The songs are more or less played the same way they are recorded. But if you watch Dream Theater, you will get a lot of jamming.
Some of Petrucci’s best solo moments are from live recordings. Like the solo on “Hollow Years” from the “Live In Budokan” release. He takes the normal solo with a bit of improvisation and then they extend it, to go into a hard rock “guitar hero” solo for about two minutes as part of the song. If you like guitar playing at its finest, then you will need to check this moment out.
On this album, his improvised solo on “Through Her Eyes” is exceptional.
James LaBrie cops a lot of hate for his vocals.
One thing about live performances and when I say live, I mean live, (not a live album sold as a live album with the instruments and vocals recut in a studio) is that it is really difficult to be consistent vocally.
A vocalist will always be pitchy live due to the volumes and how the noise of the other instruments and the crowd bleed into the ear pieces, making it hard to hear if they are hitting the right pitch all the time.
There are a few “what the” moments here.
One that comes it mind is when Mike Portnoy screams out “who wants to cum” at the climax of some love making samples which segues into the solo section of “Home”.
“The Dance Of Eternity” is seen as the definitive Dream Theater instrumental. It has all the trademarks of what makes Dream Theater unique and that whole “swinging 20’s show tunes” section from 2.30 minutes shows growth and diversity. Hearing it back today, it amazes me how effortlessly they just fused different eras and genres.
A highlight for me is the ballad “The Spirit Carries On”. The solo on the recording was a “Guitar Hero” moment and Petrucci delivers a masterclass here.
“Finally Free” is more or less a forgotten track when it comes to Dream Theater lore, but musically it is one of their best. Most of it is in 4/4 timing and very easy to digest. Plus it has an ending where Portnoy unleashes some unique and technical fills in the studio recording. Hearing him do that live and also improvising a little bit, without missing the beat is what live music is all about. And at 9.30, they go into a familiar section that wasn’t part of the studio recording, but is part of the live show at this point in time. Again, this is what live music is all about.
After the “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory” album is played, they begin the other songs.
And is starts with “Metropolis – Part 1: The Miracle And The Sleeper”. The audience knows it and they cheer it. The guitars from Petrucci sound so much more heavier than the studio recording of a decade before. Rudess was not even part of the band then, but the keyboard parts sound like they are his. The Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir” first verse is still my favourite part of the song.
They go into “The Mirror” and I am a fan of how Petrucci employs the 7 string here, more Tool like in its rhythms. “Just Let Me Breathe” is my least favourite from the “Falling Into Infinity” album so I don’t really care for it here. “Acid Rain” from The Liquid Tension Experiment appears. This is from the side project that Portnoy put together after the “Falling Into Infinity” album, which involved, Petrucci, Rudess and Tony Levin on bass. From this side project, Rudess ended up joining Dream Theater.
While Petrucci and Portnoy did “LTE”, bassist John Myung did Platypus with ex Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian and guitarist Ty Tabor of King’s X (who also sang lead vocals) and drummer Rod Morgenstein of Dixie Dregs/Winger fame.
Singer James Labrie also did Mullmuzzler. The record company would not allow LaBrie to use his own name, so he created the name of MullMuzzler and defined it as: “to gag or silence an individual’s thought before it can be expressed in any manner”. Joining Labrie in this project was future Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini, guitarist Mike Keneally who did time with Frank Zappa, Dweezil Zappa and Steve Vai. Bryan Beller was on bass and his background includes Dweezil Zappa. Matt Guillory played the keys and wrote a lot of the songs with Labrie.
“Caught In A New Millennium”, “Another Day” and a 6 minute Jordan Rudess keyboard solo (which the show didn’t really need) closes out disc 2. “Another Day” is such a good song and it should have been a massive hit. They probably should have shopped the song around to other artists to redo. For the live version, they even bring out a saxophone player.
Disc 3 is like the encore of the show.
It begins with “Erotomania”, “Voices” and “The Silent Man”. This trilogy of songs is known as the “A Mind Beside Itself” a three-part song cycle first released on their 1994 album “Awake”. When the separate songs are combined, the Trilogy clocks in at 22 minutes.
“Erotomania” is an instrumental. There is a section in the song which was originally written for “Pull Me Under” but removed before recording took place. So it got added to this instrumental. It’s a guitar hero moment with a lot of string skipping and fast alternate picking. Petrucci has no issue doing this live. Another masterclass.
The lead break in “Voices” is so bluesy in origin and of course Petrucci spices it up with some fast alternate picked runs between soulful bends.
“The Silent Man” starts off a bit different and I like it. If you want to hear Dream Theater Unplugged then press play on this. The solo section is extended and the whole band is in. It moves between ragtime and country leads.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is why I go to the live show.
“Learning To Live” which clocks in at 14 minutes is next. It’s my favourite track from the “Images And Words” album. The song originally is about 11 minutes long, so they improvise for an additional 3 minutes. There is a reggae like section in the solo section that is added. And the outro is extended. You should actually press play on this outro. Myung lays down the groove on the bass and the rest of the band builds on that, decorating it to a crescendo.
Their encore so far, is at 36 minutes.
They close the show with “A Change Of Seasons”, which at that point in time was their longest song at 24 minutes. Bringing the total encore to 60 minutes. A lot of metal and rock bands just do a 90 minute show (80 minutes and a 10 minute encore), or a 120 minute show (100 minutes and a 20 minute encore). Dream Theater delivered a 180 minute show.
In a case of Nostradamus clairvoyance, the original album cover had the Dream Theater logo over a burning New York skyline with the World Trade Towers on fire. It was all printed and packaged for its release date of September 11, 2001.
From disillusionment with the “Falling Into Infinity” saga, Mike Portnoy got an opportunity via Mike Varney’s “Magna Carta Records” to assemble a supergroup of progressive rock musicians in 1997. The Liquid Tension Experiment was born, consisting of Portnoy on drums, John Petrucci on guitar, Tony Levin on bass, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, who had finished his commitments with the Dixie Dregs.
Portnoy and Petrucci used this little get together to keep on convincing Rudess to join Dream Theater. If you remember, Rudess was asked to replace Kevin Moore, however he declined that offer and Derek Sherinian was brought in. But in 1999, he accepted the offer to become the third full-time Dream Theater keyboardist, replacing Sherinian.
With Dream Theater assembled, the band would enter the studios with complete creative control for the first time.
They assembled an inspiration corner in the studio, made up of concept albums from The Who (“Tommy”), Genesis (“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”), Roger Waters (“Amused to Death”), Radiohead (“OK Computer”) , Queensryche (“Operation: Mindcrime”), The Beatles (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), Marillion (“Misplaced Childhood”) and Pink Floyd (“The Wall” and “The Final Cut”).
The band began by revisiting a song called “Metropolis – Part II”, which had been partially written during the “Falling into Infinity” sessions but not completed or used on that album.
At 21 minutes in length as a demo, they decided to expand the song into a complete concept album.
The album was originally mixed by David Bottrill, but only a few of his mixes made it on the final album. After playing the mixed album to Kevin Shirley, Petrucci kept asking Shirley for his opinion. Shirley kept telling Petrucci that the mixes are fine, however Petrucci did not believe him. Eventually Shirley said that the mixes could be better and suddenly Shirley had a job to remix the album. This of course was of a concern to Elektra who felt that the band was just throwing money away.
The album is seen as a sequel to the song”Metropolis—Part I: ‘The Miracle and the Sleeper'”, but the “Part I” was added by Petrucci as a joke and there was no intention to make a “Part II”.
But in 1999, “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” was released on Elektra Records. While it didn’t set the Billboard Charts on fire, it is seen as the bands masterpiece and it did exceed the sales target that Elektra had for it.
The story follows a character called Nicholas, who has recurring dreams, so he visits a hypnotherapist. During the sessions, he discovers that he is the reincarnation of Victoria Page, who was murdered in the 1920’s. The story takes place in the 1920’s and the 1990’s as all the characters are still in each other lives. For example, the person who killed Victoria is called Edward and in his reincarnation, he is the Hypnotherapist treating Nicholas.
Scene One: Regression
A ticking metronomic clock.
“Close your eyes and begin to relax” are the first words you hear. The voice of the Hypnotherapist is Terry Brown (yes that Rush producer Terry Brown) although he is uncredited.
“Take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Concentrate on your breathing. With each breath you become more relaxed.”
There is a story here as well. Terry recorded his voice as a rough guide. Instead the band put it on the album, didn’t give him credit and then used it in the live setting. This didn’t impress Terry, so he lawyered up and set em a bill for using his voice. The band paid the bill and then had to get a new Hypnotherapist voice for the tour.
As the Hypnotherapist counts down, the acoustic guitar of John Petrucci starts up and gets louder as the countdown gets lower.
Then James LaBrie comes in with the vocal melody.
Safe in the light that surrounds me / Free of the fear and the pain / My subconscious mind / Starts spinning through time / To rejoin the past once again
Scene Two: I. Overture 1928
An instrumental, with a lot of cool riffs and some nuggets from the first Metropolis song.
I like the way it starts off but the best part is the George Lynch influenced tritone riff that cames straight after.
Check out the small lead section at 2.32.
Scene Two: II. Strange Deja Vu
“Overture” segues into “Strange Déjà Vu”.
“In her eyes – I sense a story never told / Behind the disguise – There`s something tearing at her soul”.
Nicholas learns that Victoria was murdered, and that he was actually Victoria in a past life. He believes that he needs to solve her murder.
Check out the “Carry On My Wayward Son” influences at 2.40.
Scene Three: I. Through My Words
The piano riff is haunting and I like it.
“We’re sharing one eternity / Living in two minds”
Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy
“This fatal tragedy was talked about for years” / Victoria`s gone forever / Only memories remain / She passed away / She was so young”
The last 40 seconds of the song has this cool open string harmony solo section which I like.
And it ends with the voice of the Hypnotherapist;
“Now it’s time to see how you died. Remember that death is not the end but only a transition.”
Scene Four: Beyond This Life
The opening riff is wicked. Heavy almost grungy in sound yet progressive. And the fast downstroke picking gives way to a single note variation.
“Murder, young girl killed. Desperate shooting at Echoes Hill. Dreadful ending, killer died. Evidently suicide”
The lyrics are written like a newspaper article.
Vocally it feels like a Tool/Maynard vocal melody in the verses. Really focused on the correct syllables.
Scene Five: Through Her Eyes
I’m learning all about my life By looking through her eyes
Petrucci knows how to construct an emotive song and to nail an emotive lead.
Almost countryish in its acoustic strum and Portnoy’s restraint drumming, its Petrucci and LaBrie that shine here.
This is the part of the story where Nicholas realises that he is unable to get on with his life until he solves the murder of his past life.
Scene Six: Home
My favourite song on the album because its Dream Theater taking something contemporary like Tool and making it their own. If you want to press play on a track, this is the one.
The city – it calls to me Decadent scenes from my memory Sorrow – eternity My demons are coming to drown me
From a story point of view, Julian is giving in to his cocaine and gambling addictions, which drives Victoria away from him. Edward feels guilty about deceiving his brother, but decides that his love for Victoria is greater than his guilt, and he seduces her when she is vulnerable following her breakup.
Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity
It’s an instrumental, seen as their best.
Scene Seven: II. One Last Time
Are these her memories Awakened through my eyes
A ballad with lyrics by James LaBrie.
Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
I used to be frightened of dying I used to think death was the end But that was before I`m not scared anymore I know that my soul will transcend
The guitar solo on here is excellent and the gospel choir afterwards (orchestrated by Rudess) gives me goose bumps.
Scene Nine: Finally Free
It begins with the voice of the Hypnotherapist.
“You are once again surrounded by a brilliant white light. Allow the light to lead you away from your past and into this lifetime.”
The narrative moves between different perspectives, revealing that Edward wished his romance with Victoria was more than a simple affair. As Victoria begins to reconcile with Julian, Edward confronts the two of them, murders them, then stages the scene and assumes the role of the witness for the newspaper column. The flashback includes Edward telling Victoria to “open [her] eyes” before killing her, echoing the same choice of words the hypnotherapist used to wake Nicholas from his hypnotic trance.
In the present, Nicholas arrives home, followed by the Hypnotherapist. Nicholas is startled by another request to “open [his] eyes”, before the album cuts to (and concludes on) phonographic static. You don’t hear the killing, but the hypnotherapist is Edward’s reincarnation, and he has killed Nicholas to complete the cycle yet again.
The drumming of Mike Portnoy on the last three minutes of this song is essential listening for any drummer on how to add texture and technicality and still sound accessible.
The World Tour to promote the album was their biggest. The whole album was played in its entirety along with actual footage on the big screen.
A show was filmed and released as a DVD in 2002. Even Kevin Moore was invited to participate in this show, to perform “Space Dye Vest” and “Learning To Live”. But he declined the offer and every other Dream Theater offer since his departure.
This would start a trend with Dream Theater that after each studio album, a live album would follow from the tour. Kevin Shirley was on hand to produce and record it. But Shirley was stressed as he only had two days to mix and fix it. In the book “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, Shirley mentioned that on this live album there were a lot of fixes.
The show was recorded at the Bataclan Theater in Paris however the tour began September 1997 in Brazil. And before it even started, they had to get new management. Remember the manager who won the battle to remain manager, well he left. He wasn’t feeling it anymore. The management team that came in proved so much worse. The band was lost and needed direction. These new guys didn’t provide it, but they had no problem spending money. And when the band fired them the managers sued em.
Furthermore, Petrucci and Portnoy were at loggerheads. Portnoy still had a chip on his shoulder over Petrucci choosing to go with Shirley’s ideas and the disagreements they had over which manager would get the gig. During the tour, Portnoy even fired Petrucci’s guitar tech, which didn’t go down well with Petrucci.
Portnoy also announced to the band that he is quitting once the tour is finished. So in retrospect this live album could have been the last official release.
The album cover, one of two designed by Storm Thorgerson for the band, shows an overhead view of the ancient Roman theatre in Orange, France set into a head of a monk. Like “Falling into Infinity” it does not feature the band’s word mark due to Storm’s demand who sees logos as ugly.
This would also be the last album to feature Derek Sherinian on keyboards as his short tenure in the band would come to an end.
A Change of Seasons I: The Crimson Sunrise
So from a concert perspective, they split “A Change Of Seasons” into its separate parts and scattered them throughout the concert.
The acoustic intro gets the crowd singing along, ala Maiden like. Trust the Europeans (and the South Americans) to give a concert a football (soccer) like atmosphere. As soon as the band kicks in, its heavy and precise.
A Change of Seasons II: Innocence
They move into part 2 effortlessly. LaBrie is strained but does a great job. He’s a professional. Sometimes singers have 10 from 10 performances and some days they have 7 from 10. It’s still a good performance.
Puppies on Acid
Is basically “The Mirror” and a bit of “Lie” from the “Awake” album combined to serve as a segue into “Just Let Me Breathe”. Strange choice.
Just Let Me Breathe
From the “Falling To Infinity” album.
The song is great musically. I’m not a super fan of the vocal melodies, but I do like how they had the balls to try melodies like that.
One of my favourite tracks from the “Awake” album.
Press play to hear the intro, the way the Chorus crashes in musically and the excellent Petrucci solo. If anything, Petrucci’s playing live is even better than the studio recordings. He’s so precise, yet he still creates room for some improvisation. And that my friends is the meaning of a great musician.
LaBrie unfortunately is difficult to listen to, especially the high notes.
Take The Time
The first track from their biggest album so far, “Images and Words”.
Check out the funky first verses. You will feel like you are in the 70’s. It’s the beauty of the band, to be so diverse musically.
The ending contains the solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and the main riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”. This is the kind of improvisation I like.
Derek Sherinian Piano Solo
I hate individual solo spotlights without any backing music to it.
For the purists, the brief solo does contain portions of “Platt Opus” which would be released on the debut Platypus album, (a progressive rock supergroup to which Sherinian and John Myung were members of, and they released their first album a year after this album).
However Sherinian tries to make his solo spotlight tie in with “Lines In The Sand”.
Lines In The Sand
From the “Falling into Infinity” album.
This song works live and LaBrie doesn’t need to strain his voice here as this song is more in the lower registers.
Petrucci again delivers a killer a guitar solo. All the emotion he committed to tape is here, live. The bends, the vibrato and the fast legato lines. Even Labrie at the end, mentioned, “John Petrucci on guitar people”.
The solo segues into my favourite part of the song. A groove is established and LaBrie is in his Pete Gabriel element here. Petrucci decorates like Alex Lifeson on the guitar. Then at 9.36, Petrucci starts to build it up, taking parts of the intro, and adding a lot of grease and blues. Then his Lifeson decorating with power chords and ringing open strings is back. Portnoy gets busier and the band cranks into the main riff of the song.
From the “Awake” album.
Ballsy move to play another epic track straight after an epic track, but then again, Dream Theater didn’t get to this stage, playing by the rules.
A Change of Seasons IV: The Darkest of Winters
And this is a perfect example of not playing by the rules. When they go into the instrumental section of “A Change Of Seasons”
And after 3 minutes of “The Darkest Of Winters”, they go into their instrumental masterpiece from “When Dream and Day Unite”, the “Majesty” spelt backwards “Ytse Jam”. And as soon as the intro riff kicks in, the crowd is chanting along with them.
This kind of set list is preaching to the converted.
Mike Portnoy Drum Solo
A 5 minute drum solo and the last 2 minutes is the ending of “Ytse Jam”.
But it’s a next for me.
Trial of Tears
From the “Falling into Infinity” album. The first two minutes has Petrucci playing “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, with Portnoy channelling Neal Peart from Rush.
From the “Falling Into Infinity” album.
The “Live At Budokan” version is the definitive version for me. The flamenco Al DiMeola like noodling at the start which is present on the “Budokan” version is here as well, just a bit more embryonic. And the solo sticks to script here, it doesn’t have the long shred solo from “Budokan”.
LaBrie doesn’t need to strain much here, and vocally he’s bringing it.
Take Away My Pain
From the “Falling into Infinity” album. I didn’t think it would end up in a set list as it’s not one of the stronger songs from the album.
Caught in a Web
From the “Awake” album. The tempo is sped up just a little bit and it works perfectly. You can feel the energy hit you from the speakers.
From the “Awake” album. Like “Caught In A Web” before it, the tempo is sped up a little bit and its perfect for the song. It sounds more energetic and powerful.
From the “Falling into Infinity” album and the band definitely shows which songs influenced the song as they go into portions of “Have a Cigar” from Pink Floyd and “Enter Sandman” from Metallica. Press play to hear it.
John Petrucci Guitar Solo
An 8 minute guitar solo which contains a portion of a song that would become “Paradigm Shift” from a side project called “Liquid Tension Experiment”, which Portnoy and Petrucci would form after this period with future Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess and bassist Tony Levin.
The ending of the album begins with “Pull Me Under”, “Metropolis” and “Learning To Live”. My three favourite songs from “Images And Words”. And they finish it off how they started, with the final chapter of “A Change Of Seasons”.
For a live album, it is the least favourite live album in the “Dream Theater” catalogue. I don’t go back to it much, however as the title states, it’s a capture of a time, a period. So enjoy it for what it is, a band on the verge of breaking up but keeping it all together for their love of music.
And a DVD release came out as well. But that review is for another day.
The “A Change of Seasons” EP from 1995, closed a chapter for Dream Theater that went back to those dark days without a deal.
After a short tour to promote the EP, they started writing songs in early 1996 for the follow up album to “Awake”. Derek Sherinian was a full-fledged member and was an extra addition to the song writing team.
Their label East West Records had folded into Elektra. Sylvia Rhone was now the President. Her interest in hard rock music was minimal. Nikki Sixx was also very anti-Sylvia, calling her from the stage on her mobile during Motley Crue concerts and getting the fans to scream “F U Sylvia Rhone.”
As written in the book, “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, Rhone wanted to drop Dream Theater or to transfer the contract to Warner International, however their success in Europe and Japan was bringing enough dollars to the label, so Elektra decided to keep them. However, they had to come up with more shorter tracks that radio could get behind.
Little did they know, that they would be in development hell for almost a year. Most of the songs they submitted to the label for approval, were met with the request to write more songs. Progressive songs like “Lines In The Sand” and “Trial Of Tears” got a muted response from the label, while songs like “Hollow Years” and “You Not Me” got the label excited.
On top of this was the dissolution of their management team, which had the band divided. Petrucci picked one manager and Portnoy picked the other. Eventually, Petrucci’s choice Rob Shore was selected as the manager and Portnoy’s choice Jim Pitulski went to court to recoup some of his losses.
Further to this, their friend in label hell, A&R Rep Derek Oliver left and his replacement, Josh Deutsch was already fed up with the band. As far as he was concerned, the band was selling enough to not be a liability to the label, so as long as he could get the new record out, they would make numbers.
12 plus months passed before Deutsch gave the go-ahead to record the new album, in March 1997. The list of producers the band submitted was ignored and Kevin Shirley who just did Aerosmith’s “Nine Lives” was hired. Shirley also recommended that the band work with Desmond Child to re-write “You or Me”, resulting in Petrucci being flown down to Florida to work on the song with Child. Following the sessions, the song became “You Not Me”. This infuriated Mike Portnoy as he didn’t like how Desmond Child would re-write one of the songs with just one band member.
Originally, Petrucci and Portnoy wanted to call it “Stream of Consciousness”, but the rest of the band rejected the name although the phrase “Stream of Consciousness” is found in the song “Lines in the Sand” and would later become the title of an instrumental song on “Train of Thought”. Its eventual title was proposed by Petrucci, and its cover art was designed by Storm Thorgerson.
When you write for that long, there is enough material for a double album, but Elektra said the approved budget is for a single album.
As a side note, Portnoy released the double album, when he did the Ytse Jam Records Demo series for the “Falling Into Infinity” demos release. It also got a re-release with Dream Theater’s “Lost Not Forgotten” Archives releases.
If you are a fan of the band, the demo releases are must haves, as you get to hear songs like “Raise the Knife”, “Where are You Now”, “Cover My Eyes”, “Speak to Me”, “The Way It Used to Be”, and “Metropolis Pt. 2”, which was later expanded into its own album and the rest being included on the 1999 fan club CD “Cleaning Out the Closet”.
As soon as the King Crimson inspired intro kicks in with the keys and guitars in harmony, I was hooked. John Myung comes in with a bass riff which is very Tool like and I like the way John Petrucci decorates, very Adam Jones/Tool like.
Mike Portnoy is the lyrical writer here, as he looks at the music industry.
Press play for the Verse Riff. Its heavy, its melodic and its influenced by the times, but it doesn’t sound dated as there is funk and there is groove.
James Labrie cops a lot of flak from fans and I am one of them, but he shows his versatility moving between Peter Gabriel like vocals, to Maynard James Keenan vocals, to Bluesy Paul Rodgers style vocals and yet he makes it all sound hard rock in his own LaBrie way.
Derek Sherinian on the keys is more like Kevin Moore in style.
For an opening track it got my attention.
You Not Me
Musically it’s written by Dream Theater and lyrically it’s done by John Petrucci with small additions from Desmond Child. After hearing the demo of this song, I think Child’s additions are more like Holly Knight’s addition to change the title of “Rag Time” to “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith. The original demo is called “You Or Me”. After Child was involved, it changed to “You Not Me”. The vocal melodies are there on the demo.
The riff is nu-metal before nu-metal was even a thing.
And I like its big Chorus and simple Verse/Chorus structure. I am a hard rock fan first who likes progressive music, so this song is right up my alley.
When they play this song live they go into “Enter Sandman” from Metallica as there a bits in the song that sound like they came from “Sandman”. If you get a chance to check out one of their live performances of this song, do it
Lyrics are written by John Petrucci. He is trying to tell an abuse story of person called Vanessa.
Musically, it’s got the dreamy arpeggios of Pink Floyd, with the metal crunch of Metallica. It’s a potent mix. And I like it.
The “Live At Budokan” version is “the” version to listen to. This is where the solo is extended to include some shredding from Petrucci and the outro is also extended. One thing that is guaranteed when you watch DT live, is you don’t just get the studio version of the song. Which is a good thing. It irks me when bands play the studio version of a song live. There are no musical conversations happening on stage. For some bands it works, like Metallica and Iron Maiden, as their song structures are very rigid.
It was released as a single and you can tell why. It moves between flamenco-classical style acoustic guitars to a melodic soft rock Chorus. Petrucci wrote the lyrics to the song.
Burning My Soul
Mike Portnoy’s lyrics were inspired by his frustration at their A&R man, Derek Oliver. Once seen as a supporter who got them signed was now seen as a roadblock, a gear in the label machine pushing the label “sign em and drop em” agenda.
Overall, it’s a great song. It’s metallic, with a lot of groove. Metallica wasn’t this heavy during this time.
It also marks the beginning of an excellent middle section of the album, that involves “Burning My Soul”, “Hell’s Kitchen”, and “Lines in the Sand”.
Producer Kevin Shirley made the decision to take out the middle section from “Burning My Soul” and turn it into a separate instrumental track.
Which I thank him for as “Hell’s Kitchen” is a 3 minute rollercoaster of emotions. Press play to hear John Petrucci at his melodic best.
Lines in the Sand
Lyrics are written by John Petrucci and press play to hear his guitar lead along with the verse/bridge section after the solo break.
King’s X’s Doug Pinnick also appears but James LaBrie stars here, twisting and morphing his voice across many different musical styles and genres.
At 12 minutes long, it didn’t feel boring at all.
Take Away My Pain
This is Dream Theater doing U2 while U2 was doing electro-techno rock.
Lyrically, John Petrucci writes about the death of his father and he decorates the song like “The Edge”.
And for people who said they sold out by writing a song like this, well they seem to forget that “Another Day”, “To Live Forever” and “Lifting Shadows Of A Dream” are very similar to this. So it was nothing new for Dream Theater to have songs like this on the album.
Just Let Me Breathe
Portnoy is throwing missiles at the music industry with his lyrics here. It deals with the media and how they purely exist to over report and sensationalise tragedy, like the deaths of Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain.
The drum and bass intro segues into the guitar riff kicking in. It’s heavy and groovy. Very “Liquid Tension Experiment” like which would come after this album.
Derek Sherinian solos here with Petrucci kicking in some harmonies. Then they trade off each other. Overall, I like the song musically but the vocal melodies didn’t resonate with me, although I do like how Portnoy wanted to try something different with the melodies.
James LaBrie has a lyrical contribution to a Dream Theater album. The song is a ballad, with a nice piano riff as its centrepiece but it wasn’t a favourite back then nor is it a favourite write now.
Petrucci does deliver a nice solo.
Trial of Tears
I wrote a whole blog post on this song. You can read it here. It’s in three sections but played as one complete 13 minute song. Bassist John Myung is the lyrical writer.
Section I is called “It’s Raining”, Section II is called “Deep in Heaven” and Section III is called “The Wasteland”.
James LaBrie again steals the show with the various vocal styles he exhibits here. And Petrucci is on hand to deliver some nice emotive lead breaks.
As mentioned in the book, “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, the album was considered a commercial failure, failing to break any new ground for Dream Theater or increase their sales despite its more commercial direction. As a result of the creative and personal tensions experienced during the album’s production phase, it has been described as the band’s “most difficult album”, and eventually led to their demanding to be free from record label interference for all future albums.
Regardless of commercial expectations, I go back to this album on a regular basis. Crank it.
Mike Portnoy was not happy when the song “A Change of Seasons” was pulled from being recorded in the studio for the “Images And Words” album.
So Portnoy kept asking Derek Oliver to provide funding so the band could record it. Portnoy tried to include it with the “Awake” album and again, Oliver said “no”.
And that’s when the fans stepped in. Dream Theater fans started to connect online via the Ytsejam Mailing List and suddenly, a petition was created to convince the label to give the go ahead for the band to record the song.
Yep, Dream Theater was one of those bands to have a direct to fan connection via their fan club and message boards in the early days of the Internet. Mike Portnoy was key here, as a fan of Marillion, who was also another band which kept engaging with their fans via their fan clubs and much later, Marillion were one of the earlier bands to get fans to fund an album before it became a thing.
At 23 minutes, it was their longest song at that point in time, but the way it is written and constructed, the seven parts of the song, can be listened to individually as separate tracks, if you wanted to splice the track. Lyrics are written by Mike Portnoy.
If the band wanted to record this track in the studio, Derek Oliver said the track must be produced by Dave Prater. As described in the book “Lifting Shadows” by Rich Wilson, Oliver believed that Prater really understood what Dream Theater was about and when Prater zeroed in to the bands weakness, the band couldn’t hack it, hence the animosity. Prater was the producer for the “I&W” album and he was having serious run ins with Mike Portnoy over triggered drum sounds and with Kevin Moore over his reluctance to do anything that the Producer asked.
While the band disagreed with the Prater suggestion, they relented. as the only way to get funding was to do it the label way. Since Prater was told to not use triggers on the drums, it meant Portnoy wouldn’t be an adversary anymore and his main adversary during “I&W”, Kevin Moore was not in the band anymore. But Prater and James LaBrie didn’t connect this time around and they started to argue. But, in the end, LaBrie’s vocal performance on the track is excellent, so all the pushing and yelling, ended up in a fantastic vocal take.
The EP was released on September 19, 1995, through East West Records.
Apart from the title track, it has a collection of live cover songs performed at a fan club concert on January 31, 1995 at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, England. It’s also their first recording with Derek Sherinian on keyboards.
I know what most people are thinking,
23 minutes of a million notes a minute over complex time signatures. If you are thinking that, you are mistaken. The sections are all songs within a song and one thing that producer Dave Prater has going for him was his questioning of why they want to overplay certain parts.
Like when he said to John Petrucci (as mentioned in the book “Lifting Shadows”), “why are you trying to impress Steve Vai” with those fast technical licks as your first improvised take of the lead was way better than the stuff you worked out days later.
I. The Crimson Sunrise (instrumental)
The song begins and ends with an acoustic guitar. A seven string acoustic guitar with the low B and while I am critical of the 7-strings on fast picked stuff, I really like em on groove orientated stuff, and this is what this song is. A Groove Heavy Rock beast with progressive elements.
As soon as I heard the first notes of the intro acoustic riff I was hooked.
Did they try and recreate “Pull Me Under” with this whole intro piece?
Because there is melody, power and aggression here in the acoustics and when the distortion kicks in, you definitely feel it in your bones.
The first 3 minutes is essential listening. All instrumental but never boring.
It begins at the 3.50 mark.
And how good is that arena rock chorus, that begins with “Innocence caressing me / I never felt so young before / There was much life in me / Still I longed to search for more” and when it repeats the second time, it’s worded a bit different. “Ignorance surrounding me / I’ve never been so filled with fear / All my life’s been drained from me / The end is drawing near.
III. Carpe Diem
It begins at the 6.54 mark with the start of the acoustic guitar arpeggios, almost classical. Portnoy is now referencing the last moments he had with his mother before she left to catch a plane which crashed.
The last few lyrical lines, “preparing for her flight / I held with all my might / fearing my deepest fright / she walked into the night / she turned for one last look / she looked me in the eye / I said “I love you, / goodbye”.
IV. The Darkest of Winters (instrumental)
I’m pretty sure this section kicks in at the 9.47 mark. It’s got metal and a jazz fusion like lead from Petrucci. There are a lot of elements from “I&W” here especially from the songs “Metropolis” and “Take The Time”. The riff at 11.50 would have been a foundation for a song for any other band. But from Dream Theater, it’s just a riff in a 23 minute song.
At 12.54, Petrucci starts the melodic lead that leads into “Another World”.
V. Another World
It kicks in at 13.03. It’s the big power ballad part of the song with LaBrie delivering one of his best vocals and Petrucci on the lead at 15.39 is perfect with his phrasing, delivering big bends and vibrato lines with short bursts of alternate picking.
VI. The Inevitable Summer (instrumental)
It starts at the 16.58 mark. Myung plays this bass groove which allows Petrucci to bring out the Lydian and Mixolydian scales. This section reminds me of the solo section in “Under A Glass Moon” from “I&W”. Even Sherinian gets a solo moment.
VII. The Crimson Sunset
The final section. It starts at the 20.12 section with a melodic lead that should have been harmonised, Maiden style.
“I’m much wiser now a lifetime of memories run through my head”.
Then there is a complete tempo and feel change for the final verse and the intro acoustic guitar riff appears to bookend a masterpiece.
And while everyone purchased this EP for the original song, the live recordings also deserve a mention.
“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” (Elton John cover)
I didn’t know about this songs until I heard them here. Written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John. At 10:46, the song was originally recorded by Elton John as the opener on the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album from 1973, which I then purchased after hearing this version.
And it’s even longer on the Elton John version at 11.09, which came as a surprise to me, as Elton John’s 80’s hits are all within the 4 minute range of commercial radio. I can definitely hear how this song influenced Jim Steinman and “Bat Out Of Hell”.
Who said that cover songs take away from the original?
“Perfect Strangers” (Deep Purple cover)
Written by Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover. It’s the title track from their 80’s comeback album in 1984. This version is very faithful to the original version, and guess what, I went out and purchased this Deep Purple album based on this cover.
“The Rover” / “Achilles Last Stand” / “The Song Remains the Same” (Led Zeppelin cover)
The songs used here for the medley are written by Robert Plan and Jimmy Page. Dream Theater took the best bits of these songs and made a 7.30 minute track that is worthy.
“The Rover” is a song from the “Physical Graffiti” album, with a good bluesy groove which is played to lead into “Achilles Last Stand” which is from the “Presence” album. Here we get most of the singing section of the song, the interludes and that progressive like riff which is played during the solo. Finally, the song is rounded out with some sections from “The Song Remains The Same” from the “Houses Of The Holy” album.
LaBrie proves that you can still pay homage to Robert Plant without sounding like him (remember Lenny Wolf) and Petrucci must have made a deal with Aliester Crowley as he is basically Jimmy Page.
“The Big Medley”
The last song. A mash up of songs from a diverse list of artists that clocks in at around 10 minutes.
It starts off with “In the Flesh?” a Pink Floyd cover.
At the 2.30 minute mark, the awesome riffage of “Carry On Wayward Son” from Kansas kicks in.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen kicks in 4.35 that whole hard rock section after the operatic vocals. Petrucci then goes into the lead break.
“Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” from Journey kicks in at 6.00. It shouldn’t work here, but it does. Its 12/8 bar room boogie riff works perfectly after “Bohemian Rhapsody”. LaBrie croons as good as Steve Perry and what else can be said about Petrucci who can move between Jimmy Page, Richie Blackmore, Dave Gilmour, Brian May, Kerry Livgren and Neal Schon so effortlessly. And then he covers Steve Morse and Steve Hackett easily.
“Cruise Control” from Dixie Dregs kicks in at 8.11. This music was new to me back then.
“Turn It On Again” (Genesis cover)”
This part kicks in at 9.14. The riff is immediately memorable, yet familiar as I feel that it influenced some sections on “Innocence Faded” from the “Awake” album.
By the end of the medley, I was out and about seeking albums from Genesis, Dixie Dregs, Journey. I already had the Queen and Kansas albums that had those songs.
If you haven’t heard this EP (which by the way is an hour long), press play on it.
Do you know how hard it is to find a Dream Theater single in Australia?
And as soon as I found one, I purchased it straight away. But I haven’t found any singles since and in the 2000’s I just stopped looking for em in the record shops.
“The Silent Man” is the third EP released by Dream Theater in 1994.
The personnel for the band was Mike Portnoy – Drums, John Petrucci – Guitar, John Myung – Bass, Kevin Moore – Keyboard and James LaBrie – Vocals.
John Purdell and Duane Baron are producing the songs “Eve” and “The Silent Man”.
I actually purchased the single for the song “Eve”. At the time it was an unreleased bonus track.
It’s an instrumental, but it’s not the kind of instrumental you think with a thousand notes per minute. There is emotion and feel. Kevin Moore on the piano lays down most of the music which belongs to a soundtrack in a film.
His keys and piano riffs dominate the song and then there is Petrucci, who knows which notes to wrestle out of his fingers with his melodic leads. Especially that lead from 4.02. Press play on it.
Close you eyes and let the music take you to a peaceful time. It’s soothing, I could use it to meditate to.
Take the Time (demo)
This demo along with a few other songs, are part of “the” demo tape that got them their ATCO deal for the “Images And Words” album.
The Silent Man
It’s an acoustic song, and man can Petrucci write a complicated acoustic song with unique chord voices.
Produced and Engineered by Duane Baron and John Purdell who were still riding the wave of success from the “No More Tears” album by Ozzy Osbourne. Dave Prater who produced “Images And Words” was not considered due to the difficult working relationship between the band and producer.
“Awake” is the third studio album but the first album for the band, written knowing that there was an audience for their music. Artists would like us to believe that they write music to please themselves but they are lying. Once an artist experiences public acceptance of their music, their minds want to experience more of it. That in itself leads to a different kind of pressure. And the guys in the band were still young, so they didn’t know how to deal with this pressure and the pressure from the label.
Released on October 4, 1994, the album came out at the peak of the Seattle movement. The heaviness was evident and the label wanted it, but the label also wanted a song like “Pull Me Under” even more, a combination of that Iron Maiden meets Metallica sound. But that song never came.
But with this album, Dream Theater unknowingly went from a progressive rock band with roots in hard rock, to a progressive rock band, with roots in groove metal, paving the way for a fertile new genre known as progressive metal. But the critics were mixed on it and even the fans were split. But the years that have passed have been kind to the album, and now it is seen very differently.
The writing sessions began in February, after a small 4 week break after the “Images And Words” tour. Each song had weird working titles like “Kittens On Crack”, “Blowfish”, “Beach House Reality” and “Squid”. A lot of music was written and when this happens, a band leader would need to decide as to what is kept and what is discarded. Dream Theater had no band leader. So the creative disagreements started.
Once the demos were completed, the tracks were given to their A&R Rep, Derek Oliver to listen to. While the songs were good, Oliver didn’t see a marketability to them, however he still gave the go ahead to record the album, as his boss Sylvia Rhone wanted the album done so she could show orders for the album.
It’s also the last album to feature original keyboardist Kevin Moore, who announced his decision to leave the band during the mixing process of the album.
Larry Freemantle, who had designed the cover of “Images and Words”, provided the artwork for “Awake”. As with “Images and Words”, the band instructed Freemantle to include several lyrical references in the cover, such as a clock showing the time 6:00, a mirror and a spider in the middle of a web.
“It’s 6 o clock on a Christmas morning”.
I’m not sure what I expected from Dream Theater for the follow up to “Images And Words”. But voiceovers saying it’s six o’clock on a Christmas morning was probably not it.
A Mike Portnoy drum groove kicks it off, rooted more in freeform jazz fusion.
And there is a Rush like groove that reminds me of “Natural Science”.
The lyrics are written by Kevin Moore about routine, duty and commitments in a person’s life, like cutting wood to keep a family warm and working to put food on the table. It’s so far removed from Rat Tailed Jimmy in “Dr Feelgood” or Metallica’s evil Sandman.
Caught In A Web
The 7 string guitar with the Low B string is in action here.
Truth be told, I saw the 7 string as a fad. I never saw a reason why a guitarist would need one. If you wanted a low B, increase the gauge on your strings and tune the E string down to B.
While someone like Iommi tuned down to C# out of necessity to make the strings easier to bend due to cutting off the tips of his fingers in a work accident, I still didn’t get why artists needed to go lower.
Because it sounds muddled when you play fast riffs, but press play to hear the killer lead.
Would you expect anything else from Petrucci?
Petrucci wrote the lyrics of “Innocence Faded” with Wikipedia telling me “it was inspired by his deteriorating friendship with Moore”.
When Dream Theater do major melodic rock, they do it well.
Press play to hear the outro.
Petrucci comes in with an outro riff with triads over an E pedal point. And if that wasn’t good enough, he starts to solo over it in a Steve Morse and Paul Gilbert manner.
Next up we have the “A Mind Beside Itself” Trilogy featuring the three separate songs, “Erotomania”, “Voices”, and “The Silent Man”.
A large section of this song was written for the song “Pull Me Under” however it was removed from the song before they went into the studio to record it. And those sections which were removed ended up in this song.
The intro. Press play to hear it.
An acoustic song during the unplugged craze. It deserved more attention.
Its heavy courtesy of the 7 string and its ready to challenge all the groove metallers. Here the 7 string works because the riffs are slower.
There is a section in this song, when they play the main piano riff from “Space Dye Vest”. Brilliant.
Portnoy wrote the lyrics to “The Mirror”, describing his battle with alcoholism. He would return to the subject on later Dream Theater albums with the group’s so-called “Twelve-step Suite.”
It was the leadoff single. Not sure if this should have been the song as lyrically its poor. “The Mirror” was a better choice.
But the lead is killer.
And it ends the same way “The Mirror” started as the two songs are connected. But this time around the heavy groove sets the foundation for Petrucci to solo over.
Lifting Shadows Of A Dream
It began as a poem and two chords brought to the band by Myung. They worked on it, hated it and the next day they liked it.
This is DT being like U2 and Marillion. Myung sets the foundation with his bass riff and Petrucci brings out his Marillion and The Edge influences with digital delay melodic riffs, while Kevin Moore lays a keyboard riff which is sad but hopeful.
The blues jazz fusion intro hooks me. For an 11 minute song there are so m at good sections.
Like the Metal verses and the solo and the outro.
Space Dye Vest
Kevin Moore is listed as the sole writer here, much to the protest of Mike Portnoy who in hindsight wanted to leave this track of it.
But it was one of my favorites because it had a soundtrack like quality to it. I could feel the sadness in the music. And James LaBrie is like Peter Gabriel in his vocal delivery.
It’s a style that I liked from em.
To tour they had to find a keyboard player.
Jens Johansson from Yngwie Malmsteen’s solo band was the first to be approached. While the label and management were keen on Johansson, the band wasn’t.
Jordan Rudess was the second and the band were blown away by him at the audition. Jordan agreed to play a small gig with them (which went terribly) and then rejected the offer to join them at that point in time. He had a gig with the Dixie Dregs, a full time job with Kurzweil and a very young family. He chose to be around his family during this period.
Enter the love child of Paul Stanley and Cher (as described by Gene Simmons), the one known as Derek Sherinian. By this point of time, Sherinian had worked with Lita Ford, Alice Cooper and Kiss.
John Petrucci and Al Pitrellil are both from Long Island and they used to teach at the same guitar store. Pitrelli put a call to Petrucci and basically said to him, “you got to hire this keyboard player”. And Sherinian was hired on a temporary basis to begin with.
In relation to the album, the label considered the album a commercial failure, which would lead to the band being pressured to write more radio-friendly songs on their next studio album. For Dream Theater, the label situation was never easy. Their Atco seven album deal was moved to East West Records, a division of Atlantic Records and then to Elektra.
This would lead to more problems. But that’s for another post.
The whole “Images and Words” album was a surprise success as it was released in a market that was very anti-technical. But “Pull Me Under” was not technical at all. It was actually pretty simple, with riffs that could have come from a Metallica or Maiden album.
So when an act is successful, the label is keen to capitalise on more sales. The best way to do that between studio albums is to release a live album.
Enter “Live At The Marquee”, released in 1993, on the back of the failure of the “Another Day” single. The music video for “Another Day” was totally ignored by MTV and never played on the music network.
There would also be a live video release of this period called “Live In Tokyo” from this tour. But that release would be covered a bit later.
In case people are not aware, The Marquee Club is a small venue in London. It’s a rite of passage for a lot of artists to play at The Marquee.
The band is the same as the “Images and Words” album with James LaBrie – vocals, Kevin Moore – keyboards, John Myung – bass, John Petrucci – guitars and Mike Portnoy – drums.
In relation to how live it is. All the music is live as captured on the night and most of James LaBrie’s vocals were actually re-recorded in a studio. In the book “Lifting Shadows”, Portnoy jokingly said the album should have been called “Dream Theater Live At The Marquee But With James LaBrie Live At Bear Tracks”.
The actual set list as found on Mike Portnoy’s concert database is as follows;
Metropolis Part I (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
A Fortune in Lies (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
Under a Glass Moon (not released)
Surrounded (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
Ytsejam (w/ Drum Solo) (not released)
Bombay Vindaloo (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
Another Day (only released in Japan, replacing “Surrounded”)
Another Hand (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
The Killing Hand (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
Pull Me Under (released on “Live At The Marquee”)
Take the Time (not released)
Wait for Sleep (not released)
Learning to Live (not released)
Metropolis—Part I: “The Miracle and the Sleeper”
The show opened with this and the CD release also did. The abilities of Petrucci, Portnoy, Myung and Moore are evident here.
The comments I read on a YouTube video of this song all mention the vocal performance of James LaBrie on this track. And it is a great vocal performance, regardless if it was recut in a studio.
A Fortune in Lies
I heard James LaBrie singing the debut album songs before I heard Charlie Dominici. Sort of like how I heard Bruce Dickinson sing the Paul DiAnno songs first.
The production sound of this song is a lot better live than what was captured in the studio. Especially the machine gun snare section before the solo break and then Petrucci nails his lead which has fast tapping, sweep picking, alternate picked lines and legato playing.
Named after a vicious curry that played havoc with the band. It’s an improvised instrumental performed live only six times and never recorded in a studio. They really set the mood of India here with the use of exotic scales to highlight the themes of the song.
I’ve read reviews that mention “La Villa Strangiato” as an influence.
Petrucci again shines with his emotive leads as he builds and builds on em, very Al DiMeola like. It’s rare tracks like these, that make these kind of EP’s special.
The best part of this song is Petrucci’s digital delay lead, however the effect wasn’t as prominent live as it was on the studio cut. And for some reason it sounded very Van Halen’ish this time around.
If you are a fan of Marillion, then you will like this.
Another Hand / The Killing Hand
The newly written major key intro titled “Another Hand” that bridges “Another Day” with “The Killing Hand” is beautiful. Press play just for that.
And LaBrie delivers a great vocal on this. And yes, I don’t care if it was recut in the studio.
Pull Me Under
Could there be a Dream Theater set list without “Pull Me Under”?
Of course not. It’s their title winning MVP.
I have seen Dream Theater perform live on a few occasions in Sydney and they are excellent.
“When Dream And Day Unite” came out in 1989, the label Mechanix did nothing with it.
The band didn’t tour and compared to the sale numbers that other bands achieved in 1989, the album was classed a failure. But it’s pretty hard to sell something if no one knows it exists or if it can’t be found in record stores. A little bit of promo during this time would have gotten the album at least 200K sales worldwide. There was a market for the kind of music that Dream Theater was writing. But the market needs to know about it.
It also didn’t help when the A&R Rep who signed the band, left Mechanix to go to a competitor. And when that normally happens in label land, the label in spite, tries to kill off the acts the Rep had signed. Further to that, Mechanix was being taken over by a larger label in MCA and when that normally happens, labels consolidate and focus on winning projects.
Apart from the label issues, the band decided that in order to be successful, they had to change something that was not working.
Vocalist, Charlie Domicini was let go. He was a decade older than the rest of the guys and his image didn’t fit with the band. But they got their manager to break the news to him.
Even a newly inked tattoo of the Dream Theater logo on his shoulder wasn’t enough to save him. According to the band, his vocal style just didn’t suit. While Portnoy and Petrucci wanted a cross between Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, they knew that finding such a vocalist was not going to be an easy task.
Dominici’s lyrics on the first album, a co-write with John Petrucci on “Status Seeker” and the sole lyricist for “Afterlife” resonated more than all of the other lyrics penned by Petrucci and Kevin Moore.
Being a bit older, meant he had a bit more experience with words and story-telling. But his voice is an acquired taste and he did cop some criticism for sounding like a bad imitation of Geddy Lee. But his vocals on “The Killing Hand” are my go to vocals for this song.
But as soon as Dominici was gone, he was back in for a gig, opening for Marillion, who wanted to unveil their new singer Steve Hogarth for his U.S debut. Portnoy was a massive fan of Marillion, so the opening slot was a dream come true. The band was on fire, but it was too little too late for Dominici who was let go again after it.
At first the band focused on trying to find a new singer as they still had six albums to deliver on the Mechanix deal. This process would take 14 months to happen. The book “Lifting Shadows” from Rich Wilson goes into great detail about the “search for a singer”.
John Arch was the first vocalist the band approached. He was out of Fates Warning after the release of “Awaken The Guardian” album in 1986. They rehearsed “The Killing Hand”, “Only A Matter Of Time” and a cover of Fates Warning “The Apparition”. Arch felt uncomfortable about how the band members wanted the vocals to sound. He felt it was too rigid. But the reason Arch left was family circumstances. He was about to become a Dad, he had a long commute to rehearse and he wasn’t comfortable spending so much time away from his family.
John Hendricks was the second vocalist the band rehearsed with after he sent the band a demo from an ad the band put out.
His appearance was more New Kids On The Block and the live audition in December 1989 didn’t go down well. But they kept him around to do vocals on some new demos called “Metropolis”, “To Live Forever” and “Don’t Look Past Me”. When they went back to live rehearsals, Hendricks still didn’t cut it, but his studio work was exceptional. The band wanted to move forward with Hendricks but label and management weren’t convinced. While Petrucci and Portnoy wanted a Tate/Dickinson style of a singer, Hendricks was none of that, more Pete Gabriel than anything and his image was New Wave compared to the Hard Rock and Metal image of Dream Theater.
Next was Steve Stone.
Stone was from Seattle and he had replaced Geoff Tate in the band “Myth”, Tate’s pre Queensryche band. Stone’s manager at the time was journalist Paul Suter, who sent demo tapes of Stone to George Lynch for the Lynch Mob project, to Steve Stevens for his Atomic Playboys project and to Dream Theater. Portnoy liked Stone’s voice, a cross between Tate and Steve Perry. Stone enjoyed the audition but conversations afterwards with the band made him feel that his creativity would be stifled.
However, they did get Stone to do studio vocal versions on “Metropolis” and “To Live Forever” as Mechanix wanted to hear product.
And then they played live. As soon as Stone yelled” Scream For Me Long Beach” and then kept on yelling it throughout the show, he sealed his axing.
By September 1990, the band was still without a singer and with a label that was losing interest in the band (as if they hadn’t lost it already) but wouldn’t release them from their contract.
Enter Chris Cintron. His demo tape was rejected at first but after Hendricks and Stone didn’t work out, Portnoy called Cintron to an audition.
Cintron’s voice was more Steve Walsh from Kansas and he was also the first singer to sing on a new song called “A Change Of Seasons”. The fact that everything was written and Cintron just had to perform what was written, didn’t sit well with him as well. Image and a few other disagreements with Kevin Moore, sealed his fate.
During this time, they also focused on writing better songs. Most bands normally have 3 months to come out with album number 2. Dream Theater in this case had close to 2 years. Furthermore, their sound evolved from the technical derivative metal sound on “When Dream and Day Unite”, to a more warmer sound, rooted in classic progressive rock with nods to Heavy Metal.
As the singer search took time, the seven album deal with Mechanix fizzled out.
But they had an ally in journalist Derek Oliver. Oliver wrote for Kerrang and he was a fan of the band. As fate would have it, Oliver moved into an A&R role at the same time that Dream Theater found themselves searching for a label who would support them.
Enter Kevin James LaBrie. He was part of Canadian glam metal band Winter Rose during this time and he sent the band an audition tape. After a short jam session, he was named Dream Theater’s new lead singer, and has remained with them ever since.
The band was then signed to a seven-album contract by Atco Records, and shortly thereafter, they began recording their new album in late 1991. The album’s production was marred with tensions, as the band clashed with producer David Prater who was chosen by Derek Oliver.
Enter Dream Theater with “Images and Words”. Released in 1992.
The album was unique and innovative to remain rooted to the prog rock niche that Derek Oliver spoke about in 1989 and it was familiar enough to cross over to the hard rock audience, looking for something new and exciting.
Dream Theater originally intended to release a double album, but that plan was rejected by ATCO, causing several songs to be omitted from the album. One of these songs, “A Change of Seasons”, would later be re-recorded by the band and released on an EP of the same name in 1995.
A Billboard review didn’t have great things to say about it;
“Power rock band’s Atco debut shows its members did plenty of listening to Yes, Boston and even Black Sabbath while growing up.
While the material is all well delivered, lead vocalist James LaBrie has a voice that stretches to fit the many different styles represented here, the main problem is the music, which sounds like it was written in the 70’s.
However given that the bands potential fans probably weren’t born until the end of that decade, it shouldn’t serve as any great detriment.”
Pull Me Under
Music composed by the band and lyrics written by Kevin Moore.
The lead single, “Pull Me Under”, gained the band a lot of commercial success with its airplay on MTV and radio, garnering them a top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. When the album was released, it sold at a steady pace, helped by an extensive world tour.
Its original working title was “Oliver’s Twist” as it was a last minute song written at the request of Derek Oliver. The original version also had the unbelievable solo section from “Erotomania” in it.
“Pull Me Under” was so good, that John Petrucci used the 1st verse riff of “Pull Me Under” in “The Count Of Tuscany” 1st Verse from the album, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” released in 2009.
He also used the structure and dynamics for the song “On The Backs Of Angels” from the album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” released in 2011.
As soon as the first three notes of the acoustic arpeggio are played, I was hooked. Then Portnoy started with his drum build. Metallica used an approach like this on “Enter Sandman”.
Music is by the band with lyrics written by John Petrucci.
It’s like a hard rock ballad, but the guitar playing and the choice of chords by Petrucci is excellent. And the Soprano Sax solos are just perfect.
But press play to hear Petrucci on the lead break. It’s well worked out, it flows brilliantly, its melodic and cruisy and then he steps on the pedal and then brings it back to cruisy.
Take the Time
It’s a team effort on the lyrical front with Moore, Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and John Myung contributing.
How good is that start? The fast riffing is a cross between Van Halen and Metallica.
Then the verses go into a Rock Funk groove.
And the Chorus, its melodic hard rock.
As a guitar player, this song is like a Chord Book on complex chords.
It’s listed as words and music by Kevin Moore.
It starts off as a piano ballad, before it builds up to a funky blues rock tune.
But press play to hear the digital delay lead break from John Petrucci. It feels like The Edge from U2, but a lot better.
Metropolis—Part I: ‘The Miracle and the Sleeper’
It’s a monster of a song that every Metal and Rock fan would enjoy.
The pulsing intro alone is head banging material.
But those verses. Petrucci plays fast palm muted chords like the “Darkness, imprisoning me” part in “One” and keyboardist Moore outlines the chord progression with his riffs, while Portnoy plays a “Kashmir” like beat.
Perfection to my ears.
Under a Glass Moon
What an intro, pushing the envelope of what metal and rock should sound like.
But press play for the groove in the Verses from Petrucci and Myung, while Moore outlines the Chord progression with his keyboards.
And then wait to hear Petrucci on the solo.
Wait for Sleep
A brilliant piano piece from Kevin Moore. It’s like a haunting soundtrack. The main piano idea from here appears in “Learning To Live” and when it comes in, its brilliant.
Learning to Live
At 11.30 it’s the longest song on the album. The music is written by the band and lyrics are written by John Myung.
If I had to recommend one song to a new Dream Theater fan that typified the progressive rock leanings of the band, then this song would be it.
The song is that good, that Dream Theater rewrote it and called it “Breaking All Illusions” for the “A Dramatic Turn of Events” album in 2011.
The Kevin Moore keyboard intro kicks things off with a wicked 15/8 time signature. This same passage re-appears and this time it is played over alternating time signatures, starting off with 14/8 for 2 bars, then 13/8 for one bar and back to 14/8 for another bar. Then it goes back to 13/8, 14/8, 13/8, 7/8.
In between you get a very metal like passage in the vein of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin, that moves between 7/4,6/4,4/4 and 5/8 time signatures over F#m, C#m and Em root notes. It doesn’t sound forced. It is very fluent like.
The verse is unbelievable. Myung holds it all together with an unbelievable groove over a 7/4 and 6/4 time signature, that is supplemented by Kevin Moore’s choir like voicing’s outlining the Em9, Cmaj9, Amadd9 and Em9 chords. Myung paraphrases the novel “Atlas Shrugged” from Ayn Rand.
There was no time for pain, no energy for anger The sightlessness of hatred slips away Walking through winter streets alone, He stops and take a breath With confidence and self-control
I look at the world and see no understanding I’m waiting to find some sense of strength I’m begging you from the bottom of my heart to show me understanding
Petrucci and Portnoy build the song nicely into the chorus. Petrucci begins with normal volume swells, while Portnoy locks in with Myung. As Petrucci’s guitar gets busier with harmonics, chords and arpeggios, Portnoy’s drumming becomes busier.
The second verse has a great progressive groove that keeps within the 7/4 and 6/4 time signature of the first verse. This time it’s all power chords and its heavy as hell. Chugging along on an E5 power cord, Petrucci enhances the riffs by chucking in B5, Bflat5 and F power chords, utilising the devil triton to maximum effect.
The 90s bring new questions New solutions to be found I fell in love to be let down
Then when you think they are going to go into the Chorus again, they go into a bridge part with a simple 4/4 groove and then the instrumental break starts. Petrucci is now playing what Moore played in the intro.
The flamenco passage at 5.30 kicks things off. From 6.30 it gets progressive and then the woo ohh ohhs kick in and Petrucci takes over at 7.10 in one of the most heartfelt solos Petrucci has laid to tape. Those bends remind me of Dave Gilmour in “Comfortably Numb”.
The whole “Wait For Sleep” segment that begins at 7.30 and ends at 9.35 includes brilliant jazz bluesy solos from both Moore and Petrucci and the main piano riff from “Wait For Sleep”. It then segues back in to the Chorus.
The way that your heart beats Makes all the difference in learning to live
Just when you think the song is over, the outro kicks in, again led by an unbelievably groovy and very funky Myung bass line. Then Petrucci joins in with the Natural Harmonics and then the monk style voices take over. As a listener I just sit back with the head phones and allow myself to be taken away. A brilliant song and a brilliant piece of work.
Mike Portnoy has gone on record saying how much he hated working with producer David Prater and the use of drum midi triggers. Portnoy feared that the triggers would make the album sound dated and seen as another generic hard rock album.
One thing is certain.
The album still sounds fresh and current in 2022 as it did back in 1992. As Rush’s “2112” laid the groundwork for what was to come for Rush, “Images and Words” did the same for Dream Theater.
The tour finished in November, 1993. Overall they played 194 shows in 17 countries. “Images And Words” was certified Gold in the U.S. Everything they worked hard and persevered with, had finally happened.
It was 1992 and the music scene was changing. The record labels started to abandon the music I grew up with and the writing was on the wall for a lot of the hard rock bands, especially the ones that got marginalised as “hair metal” or “glam metal”.
I saw a Geffen ad that promoted White Zombie, Nirvana, Roxy Blue and Guns N Roses. It was a smart marketing move from Geffen. Promote different acts on the same page and see what sticks. I think Galactic Cowboys also appeared on it.
While I was angry that it was getting hard to find releases of bands I liked, I was also a bit lost as to what new music I should spend my money on. At this point in time the CD had overtaken the vinyl LP as the favourable format, so the second hand record shops had a lot of vinyl stock which I was purchasing at insane cheap prices. At first I was buying all the 80’s records I didn’t have money to buy when I first saw em or decided to buy something else instead of that. Like I purchased WASP instead of Britny Fox. Once that 80’s fix was satiated, I went back even further and got my 70’s fix from acts like “Free”, “Bad Company”, “Styx”, “Kansas” and many more.
Then Dream Theater came into my life in 1992.
It all started with the “Images and Words” album and the song “Pull Me Under”. Most of the music I got into was because of friends and family. My cousin Mega (his nickname because he loved Megadeth) was 4 years older than me and he spent every cent he earned on getting new music. He wanted to be known as the guy who had it first and shared it with others. My fandom of Dream Theater is because of him. And Megadeth. And Metallica. And Twisted Sister. And Fates Warning.
The whole intro from “Pull Me Under” is worth the price of the album. And I thought it was the debut album from Dream Theater, until my cousin Mega told me differently. A week later I was back in the record shop to buy the debut. But it wasn’t there nor was it available to buy locally. The only way to get it was via an expensive US Import.
It wasn’t until “Awake” came out in 1994, that I got “When Dream And Day Unite”. At a $27.99 price.
“When Dream and Day Unite” was released on March 6, 1989, through Mechanic/MCA Records. There is a story about how this album came to be and why Dream Theater couldn’t use the Majesty name, but that is for another post, when I get to the release of “The Majesty Demos” release as my Dream Theater record vault is based on release date instead of where the releases fit in.
The production from Terry Date is thin compared to “Images And Words” which Portnoy actually hated because producer David Prater used triggers on his drums, which Portnoy saw as a relic of the 80’s hard rock and glam rock movement. And Date at the time was also making a name for himself as a groove metal pioneer with the “Cowboys From Hell” from Pantera.
The band for the debut is Charlie Dominici on vocals, John Petrucci on guitar, Kevin Moore on keyboard, Mike Portnoy on drums/percussion and John Myung on bass.
The cover art from Amy Guip looks bizarre with “The Majesty” logo being branded into the male model and from what I have read, there are versions of this album out there with “The Majesty” band name. They got a cease and desist from another act called “Majesty” just as the record was getting ready to ship.
All music is by the band members.
A Fortune in Lies
Lyrics are written by John Petrucci.
When I first heard it, I thought it was about writers block, and not being able to write the song to get them a record deal which is basically a contract promising a fortune but with a lot of lies in between.
Then I read the book, “Lifting Shadows” from Rich Wilson and he described it as an “acquaintance of John Petrucci’s who was arrested for theft and Petrucci’s subsequent experiences after that”.
Check out the middle section homage to “Forgotten Sons” from Marillion.
It was the last track written for the album with lyrics by Charlie Dominici and John Petrucci.
The Rush influences are strong on this. Think of “New World Man”.
I would have liked them to flesh out those kind of pop elements on this however the song is loaded with extra riffs and fills just to make it sound progressive.
The Ytse Jam
Its Majesty (the former name of Dream Theater) spelled backwards.
An instrumental, written by John Petrucci, John Myung, Kevin Moore and Mike Portnoy.
If you like “YYZ” from Rush then you would like this. The intro is excellent and make sure you check out the section in the middle which has the keyboards playing the intro guitar riff, while the guitar plays arpeggios.
The Killing Hand
There are five parts, to this 9 minute song with lyrics written by John Petrucci.
“I The Observance”, “II Ancient Renewal”, “III The Stray Seed”, “IV Thorns” and “V Exodus”.
The acoustic intro in “I – The Observance” is excellent. The middle parts are cool and the keyboard solo from Moore in “IV – Thorns” is worthy, but the last two minutes and thirty seconds of the song which is “V – Exodus” is the best part. The movement between sections is very similar to what they would do on “A Change Of Seasons”.
Light Fuse and Get Away
Lyrics are written by Kevin Moore. The intro is progressive and at the 38 second mark it moves into a Rush like groove, something which they would do similar on “Learning To Live” on the follow up album.
But press play for the riff between from 1.37 and 2.12. It then moves into the verse riff and in between you hear you hear a little bit of a progression that would be used on “Take The Time” and “Home”.
The best song on the album for me as it reminds me of the first two Queensryche albums.
Lyrics are written by Charlie Dominici and maybe the band should have gotten Dominici to write more of the lyrics as they make sense compared to the stuff that Petrucci and Moore were dishing out.
Make sure you check out the guitar lead from Petrucci on this as it’s another Guitar Hero moment which then morphs into a harmony lead with the keyboards.
The Ones Who Help to Set the Sun
The surprise track on the album with lyrics written by John Petrucci.
Press play to hear the intro on this, with the keyboard riff and the natural harmonic bass riff.
Then Portnoy comes in with a drum groove, while Petrucci plays a “Mirror” like riff and Moore plays an exotic keyboard lick over it.
Only a Matter of Time
Lyrics are written by Kevin Moore and I like the intro on this.
Musically, the song has a lot.
I remember reading an interview with Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield, when they were writing the earlier songs for Metallica, and how they would just chuck in riffs to make the song longer.
Well there are plenty of riffs here, but so many different ones and sometimes for a short amount of time so it’s hard to have any familiarity with any of em. Hence the song gets lost.
There is this section between the 4 minute and 6 minute mark which reminds me of Marillion.
The best way to describe this album is as a mix of progressive rock and 80’s arena hard rock and early US metal is the best way to describe this debut. Rush and Marillion are here.
Queensryche and Iron Maiden are here. Metallica is here as well. And very different to acts like Ratt, Bon Jovi, White Lion and Motley Crue, who did great business on the charts.
Derek Oliver from Kerrang gave the band a glowing review and it wasn’t forgotten either, when a few years later, Oliver was the A&R Rep who signed them to their ATCO deal (which then became Elektra).
Charlie Dominici copped some flak for his vocals. Portnoy wanted a hybrid Tate and Dickinson, and got more a Graham Bonnet. The songs that Dominici wrote lyrics to like “Afterlife” and “Status Seeker” also have the best vocal melodies, which makes me wonder how the other songs would have sounded vocally if Dominici was allowed to write the lyrics and melodies instead.
The national and European tour promised by their label Mechanic Records didn’t eventuate, as Mechanic lied about providing funding. The band was left to do a 5 date regional tour in their own state and a small support slot for Marillion when they toured their hometown.