Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault: Dream Theater – The Silent Man (CD Single)

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”.

Eve

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.

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The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Awake

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.

6.00

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?

Innocence Faded

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”.

Erotomania

An instrumental.

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.

Voices

The intro. Press play to hear it.

Silent Man

An acoustic song during the unplugged craze. It deserved more attention.

The Mirror

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.”

Lie

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.

Scarred

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.

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The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Live At The Marquee

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.

Bombay Vindaloo

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.

Surrounded

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.

This release captures all of that.

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The Record Vault: Dream Theater – Images and Words

“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”.

Another Day

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.

Surrounded

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.

The pressure for a successor was intensified.

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The Record Vault: Dream Theater – When Dream And Day Unite

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.

Status Seeker

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”.

Afterlife

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.

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1976 – Part 4.9: Genesis – Wind And Wuthering

Why wait a few years for a new album when the new version of the band became successful with its new singer?

Released in December 1976, the band of Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett remained unchanged, however trouble was brewing on the horizons.

Success leads to the need to create more success. And for Genesis, they had four competent songwriters who thought they all had the songs to create more success. The question was, which songs would get chosen and which songs would be left out.

Eleventh Earl Of Mar

Written by Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford. Its progressive, competing with bands like Yes for complex time changes and yet it still sounds like foot tapping rock and roll.

That section that starts with the words “I’m fighting, gravity falling” is my favourite and while brief, the vocal melody from Collins is memorable.

It refers to the historical figure of John Erskine, Earl of Mar, a Scottish Jacobite.

One For The Vine

At 10 minutes, it’s not for everyone. Written solely by Banks, the keys dominate the track.

I like the section from about the 4.40 minute mark. It’s almost soundtrack like something which The Alan Parsons Project would do a lot with his instrumentals. And the quietened down section at 7.21 fits well after the long instrumental passage.

Your Own Special Way

Even though the song is written by Rutherford in open tuning, it’s a typical Phil Collins song. It also reminds me of Coheed and Cambria and a song from the “No World For Tomorrow” album.

Wot Gorilla

An instrumental which Collins brought to the band and one that he said is one of his favourite tracks as it brought in his influences of jazz fusion.

Meanwhile Hackett felt that the song was “good rhythmically, but underdeveloped harmonically” and didn’t want it on the album in place of his song “Please Don’t Touch” which Hackett would later use for his solo album of the same name.

All In A Mouse’s Night

Written by Banks, it’s a silly song lyrically about a 10 foot mouse with big teeth however the music reminds me of a section in Dream Theater’s “Six Degree Of Inner Turbulence” song.

Blood On The Rooftops

Written by Hackett and Collins, I like the classical/flamenco style guitar from Hackett to start off the song. Listen closely and you will hear a bit of “Dee” from Randy Rhoads there. Then again, classical is classical so everyone is borrowing from the same masters.

Banks and Rutherford have said that this was Hackett’s best song as a member of the group.

Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…

Written by Hackett and Rutherford, it’s an instrumental which is in two parts. The guitar playing from Hackett is very flamenco finger picked liked and good enough to rival the masters of the genre.

In That Quiet Earth

Written by the band, this is the second part of the instrumental and Collins is playing a fast jazz fusion beat which allows the rest of the band to dance over.

The heavy metal like section from 2.50 is the reason why I press play.

Afterglow

Written by Banks, this a milestone song for the band, as it proved that they could write short songs that they all liked. And a sign of the direction they would take.

The album was another success and the tour was huge with the gigs in Brazil being attended by over 150,000 people and each member needing armed bodyguards during their stay.

But Hackett was not a happy camper.

The writing process for the album was argumentative and having his songs removed was also contentious. So once the tour ended, Hackett left the bend to pursue a solo career.

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Top 10 – 2021: Part 3

Times Of Grace – Songs Of Loss and Separation

10 years is a long time between albums.

The debut album “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” came out in 2011.

Have I mentioned that Adam Dutkiewicz is a great riff meister?

All different musical roads lead to here. A combination of country, blues, metal and rock.

For those looking about positive messages, this isn’t the album for you. It’s melancholy lyrics and metal like riffage is music to make you crash your car. You can feel the sadness, a pain at the world, society and the various demons within the mind.

It’s gloom and doom, but inspirational as well.

The album title is indicative of the theme. And having gone through loss recently this album is becoming my companion, riding shotgun with me.

So I press repeat.

Free Spirits Rising

An Australian artist who releases a song every 6 weeks or something like that and plays all the instruments.

Its raw sounding hard rock but the music is melodic and catchy even though the vocals can be hit and miss.

Check out songs like “Outside The Lines”, “It’s OK”, “My Destiny” and “It Starts With Me”.

Soen – Imperial

It’s the kind of metal I like.

Soen is a Swedish progressive metal supergroup consisting of various extreme metal musicians. Their debut album “Cognitive” came out in 2012.

It was like hearing Tool and I was all in.

“Tellurian” came out in 2014 but their rise really started with “Lykaia” in 2017 and “Lotus” in 2019. And in 2021, we have “Imperial”.

And this one is more metal and hard rock with some progressive grooves and textures.

Lumerian

How good is the Intro riff?

And the Chorus, so melodic and haunting.

In the middle, the band introduces its main dynamic, which is heard throughout the album, in which they quieten down the song and rebuild it.

Deceiver

It’s almost Disturbed like from the “Believe” album in the Intro.

Monarch

That Intro riff. So heavy and intricate.

The only thing left to do is to listen to it again.

Durbin – The Beast Awakens

James Durbin’s covers of Judas Priest on American Idol got me interested. The YouTube videos got some traction here in Australia.

His debut album released in 2011, “Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster” rocked hard and I was a fan. “Celebrate” in 2014, lost me as it went way to poppy.

Then he hooked up (surprisingly) with Quiet Riot and he made me a fan again with the very underrated and forgotten “Road Rage” album released in 2018. “Space Cowboys” came out a year later but shit was going down in the Quiet Riot camp, as Durbin left the band before the album was released and drummer Frankie Banali was fighting for his life but we didn’t know it at that point in time.

And here we are with Durbin.

Durbin possesses a great vocal range and his prowess on the guitar is evident on this album. As a songwriter, all songs are written by Durbin.

If this is his first entry into the realms of Metal, then I will eagerly await his next.

Check it out.

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The Record Vault: Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

Mark 2 was back.

It made perfect business sense to have one of the premier bands of the early 70’s come back in the 80s MTV era.

“Perfect Strangers” is album number 11, released in 29 October 1984 and it became the most successful album from the ‘Mark II’ line-up.

Like nomads, they all arrived from different directions. Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover arrived from Rainbow, Ian Gillan from Black Sabbath and his solo band, Jon Lord from Whitesnake and Ian Paice from Whitesnake and Gary Moore’s backing band.

But problems existed from the outset. Business problems.

Gillan and Glover wanted the credits to be of the collective. Blackmore didn’t. As the main writer, he didn’t want to share any song writing credits with people who didn’t write anything. After years in the business, Blackmore knew how valuable the publishing is.

It wasn’t until Blackmore left the group in 1993 that the issue was finally resolved within Deep Purple.

I missed this in 1984 because I was into the whole Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot and Judas Priest phenomenon. These guys were just old dudes. Just look at the “mo” on Jon Lord. It’s classic 70’s.

All songs are written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover except where noted.

Knocking at Your Back Door

By now Blackmore had the experience of Rainbow and the commercial success that came with that, so when this song exploded out of the gate you get the best of Blackmore’s influences from Deep Purple and Rainbow.

If you don’t believe me, listen to the Verses, which is very similar to other Deep Purple verses like the one on “Smoke On The Water” and then the Chorus riff which has that Rainbow melodic rock feel, circa Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner.

And Ian Gillan has a smile on his face as he feels it coming while he’s knocking at someone’s back door, while probably cool for Motley Crue or Ratt, this is Deep Purple we are talking about.

But stick around for the outro solo.

Under the Gun

It was the first track I heard via a double compilation LP called “Headbangers Heaven”.

The intro riff grabs my attention right away, making me think of Rainbow and I like the way it all works with the Jon Lord’s keys.

But Ian Gillan is in form here, as it’s not an easy riff to sing over which then gets me thinking of his Gillan project.

Nobody’s Home

It’s a blues rock number and the only song listed as written by all Deep Purple members.

It’s like the band never left and continued to make albums after “Who Do We Think We Are?”

And if it sounds familiar, it should. “Lay Down, Stay Down” comes to mind.

Mean Streak

But press play to hear the Chorus Riff as Blackmore shows he can compete with the LA bands and do it better by taking “Schools Out” from Alice Cooper and making it sound a bit modern.

In the verses I am reminded of “Black Night” and in the solo break, the riff behind it like “Roadhouse Blues” from The Doors.

And I like it.

Perfect Strangers

The side 2 opener.

It’s a classic and one of their best songs.

How good is the “Kashmir” style groove when it kicks in at the 2.30 minute mark?

Whatever Jimmy Page could do, Blackmore could do as well, at a time when Page was not as prolific as he used to be.

A Gypsy’s Kiss

It could have come from “Rising” but “Highway Star” also comes to mind. Gillan’s bluesy delivery suits.

Check out the unison keyboard and guitar riff/melodies. It brings back memories of the work that Lord and Blackmore did on “Burn”.

And Ian Paice behind the kit. He is relentless.

Wasted Sunsets

Remember in the 70’s when these kind of slow blues rock ballads sounded progressive and epic and then in the 80’s they morphed into clichéd power ballads.

While this song isn’t a 70s classic, Blackmore is in his element here with his emotive soloing.

Hungry Daze

That exotic Eastern European melody hooks me. It could have come from the Balkans, maybe Hungary or even Russia.

Not Responsible

I don’t have this on the album, but how good is that intro. It reminds of “A Light In The Black”. It’s an extra track on the cassette and CD release. And Spotify has it.

Son of Alerik

At 10 minutes, this Blackmore penned instrumental is for the diehards.

The song appeared on the 1999 CD issue as a bonus track and it also appeared in an edited form on the 7″ B-side of the “Perfect Strangers” single, or in full on the 12″ “Perfect Strangers” single and the European version of the compilation “Knocking at Your Back Door: The Best of Deep Purple in the 80’s”.

The thing is, if a band reforms these days, or in the last 30 years, it would have been quite a media show, but their comeback in 1984, didn’t cause a ripple in the news outlets who had jumped on board the LA Sunset Strip Train or the San Francisco NWOBHM Thrash Scene.

But their comeback was met with success in the European markets which loved em back in the 70’s. The U.K, Switzerland, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, France, Austria, Finland and Holland jumped back on board the Deep Purple train.

Japan never left em. Australia and New Zealand also provided em with a certification.

And The Boss was the only artist on the touring circuit that out grossed out em.

Crank it.

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1996 – Part 4.6: Steve Vai – Fire Garden

I sort of lost track of Steve Vai in the mid 90’s along with all the other instrumental guitarists I was into.

“Fire Garden” is his fourth studio album, released on September 17, 1996 through Epic Records.

As described by Vai in the liner notes, Fire Garden is a concept album divided into two “phases”.

“Phase 1” comprises tracks 1–9 and is entirely instrumental while “Phase 2”, features Vai on vocals on every song except the instrumental “Warm Regards”.

There’s a Fire in the House

The start of Phase 1.

This feels like it could have come from a Whitesnake album. David Coverdale would have had a nice time coming up with lyrics to the riffs here as it’s got that heavy rock feel from the “Slip Of The Tongue” album which although Steve Vai didn’t co-write, he recorded all the guitars for.

The Crying Machine

I like the funky rock on this and Vai’s lead for what I call the “verses” is excellent.

Then it moves into a Blues and Funk Rock fusion solo section.

Dyin’ Day

This song is listed as a co-write with Ozzy Osbourne as it was written during the writing sessions for Osbourne’s 1995 album “Ozzmosis”.

Another song from those sessions, “My Little Man”, made its way onto the “Ozzmosis” record and is credited on that album as being co-written by Vai.

I don’t know what Osbourne could have written on an instrumental song, however I am pretty sure contractually Vai had to add him as a co-writer.

How good is the acoustic guitar riff to start it off?

Whookam

Useless track of backward vocals.

Blowfish

Great track, with a groovey riff which wouldn’t be out of place on a Joe Satriani album.

The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tiera’s Lover

A minute of Steve Vai doodling and it’s somehow a track. More like a solo section spot light.

Hand on Heart

It’s a romantic power ballad instrumental. Press play on it.

Bangkok

Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. Yep it’s those Abba dudes. The sound of flies starts it all off and the flies get louder and louder and louder and then the music comes in, more soundtrack like with a classical exotic feel.

It’s a great track which segues into the best track on the album.

Fire Garden Suite

It clocks in at 9.56 and it has four parts in “Bull Whip”, “Pusa Road”, “Angel Food” and “Taurus Bulba”.

It reminds me of the progressive rock fusion of Al DiMeola and Dream Theater. It’s some of his best music.

Definitely press play on this.

This song also has Mike Mangini playing drums on it.

And Phase 1 ends here.

Deepness

Phase 2 begins here.

A 47 second song that features some vocals from Devin Townsend, actually more yeahs and ahhs then vocals.

Little Alligator

Vai’s take on the Blues is very Mixolydian and Lydian like instead of Pentatonic.

All About Eve

Vocally, Vai sounds very Alternative Rock like. But musically, it feels like I am listening to a Dream Theater album.

Aching Hunger

It sounds like a Prince song, like “When Doves Cry”.

Brother

Emotional song, with Vai’s attempt on Southern Country Rock sounding modern and great.

Damn You

I like the riff that starts it, and before bands like Stone Temple Pilots blew us away, I guess Steve Vai was already doing it.

When I Was a Little Boy

It’s a skip for me.

Genocide

It’s a weird title for a song which sounds like a stadium rock song.

Warm Regards

A relaxed ballad instrumental jam to end the album.

And the personnel for the album is extensive. Steve Vai plays a lot of instruments plus he produced it and engineered it and wrote it. He had five drummers come in. The bulk of the drums are done by Deen Castronovo, with Mike Mangini playing a couple of tracks and Chris Frazier, Greg Bissonette and Robin DiMaggio providing drums on a track each. Steve Vai plays most of the bass, but that funky bass on “The Crying Machine” is played by John Avila and Stuart Hamm appears on “Dyin’ Day”.

Phase 1 is exceptional.

Phase 2 is Vai trying to do things a bit different and add vocals to his solo career which didn’t connect.

In the end, the album is a fusion of so many different styles that it almost can be labelled a prog rock record.

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The Record Vault: Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy

“Elegant Gypsy” is the second album by Al Di Meola, released in 1977 by Columbia Records.

The musicians for the album are Al Di Meola on guitar, piano, synthesizer and percussion, Paco de Lucia on guitar, Jan Hammer and Barry Miles on keyboards, Anthony Jackson on bass guitar, Steve Gadd and Lenny White on drums and Mingo Lewis on congas, synthesizers, organ and percussion.

“Flight Over Rio”

Percussionist Mingo Lewis has written another 10/10 opening track.

Like “The Wizard” on the debut album, this track is loaded with great riffs.

At 7 minutes and 16 seconds, it’s the first 90 seconds which is essential listening, just for the bass riff.

Tool built a career from bass riffs like this. It also reminds me of the soundtrack work that John Carpenter would do, like in “Escape From New York”.

Then it goes into something similar to “The Wizard” with a bass groove, which allows Al Di Meola to flex his chops.

Check out the lead break from 2.48 to 3.48. After that Di Meola goes into a solo tag with the keyboardist Jan Hammer, which has Di Meola soloing on a few bars and then Hammer and they go back and forth. Like the Dream Theater guys.

“Midnight Tango”

Written by Al Di Meola and at 7 minutes and 28 seconds in length.

Press play to hear jazz rock fusion in all its glory from the 3 minute mark. It begins with some fast major key playing, however it is brief and then it goes into a Latin-esque passage. It stays within this domain, while Di Meola delivers a lead break which Santana lovers would say is from good ol’ Carlos.

At 4.58, it goes into a lick which reminds me of licks from 80’s Heavy Metal artists. And Di Meola knows a good lick when he hears one and he carries this lick and chord progression all the way to the end.

“Mediterranean Sundance”

Just over 5 minutes long, this Al Di Meola composition is the first song I heard from Al Di Meola and it made me a fan instantly.

It’s the crown in his jewel and showcases his acoustic prowess to the world. Of course he calls in his friends to lend a hand in Paco de Lucia and their playing is at another level.

This song would also get released many years later, from a live recording that Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin would do on the “Friday Night In San Francisco” album.

Listen to the sections from the 28 second mark to the 51 second mark. It’s all fingers folks, no pick. So just press play, lay back, close your eyes, be in awe at the playing and let the music take you away.

“Race with Devil on Spanish Highway”

Written by Al Di Meola, this is the track that was referenced by the 80’s players as an influence. Once you hear it, you will know why.

A simple bass riff begins proceedings, then Di Meola joins with a distorted guitar. After repeating a few times, they both go into some serious fast alternate picking. Hearing the bass and guitar play in unison is pure bliss.

After the hectic intro at around 1.15 it goes into this jazz rock lounge section. Its relaxed and it actually feels that you are cruising the streets in your car.

But at 2.09, a section begins which is heavy metal. While those riffs are playing, Al Di Meola starts his shred solo. By 3.13, it ends and transitions into a different section which is a combination of the previous sections mentioned.

Then “the section” begins from 4.10. The Intro riff is played, but everything is faster, more frantic. And at 4.51, Di Meola is soloing super-fast to about the 5.10 mark.

He then pulls an awesome riff out for the outro, which has some of his best soloing in it, moving from emotion to super-fast alternate picking.

“Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil”

A short acoustic piece at 1.46, a calm within all the technicality delivered by Di Meola and de Lucia.

“Elegant Gypsy Suite”

At 9 minutes and 16 seconds long, it’s definitely elegant. So many different styles are covered but back then it was all just music. Styles and genres didn’t matter.

My favourite section is from the 8 minute mark to the end of the song.

This album is his masterpiece. If you like guitar instrumental music, then your collection is not complete with this album.

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