I grew up with “Gutter Ballet” and “Streets”. I owned those albums and I played em like I owned em.
My cousin Mega, was also a fan. He’s older than me by 4 years and had more cash, so he had “Hall Of The Mountain King”, “Edge Of Thorns”, “Handful Of Rain”, “The Wake Of Magellan” and “Dead Winter Dead”. Of course, my trusty TDK tapes didn’t fail me in copying those albums, until the time came when I had the dollars to buy em myself.
From a vocal style point of view, I didn’t mind Jon Oliva or Zachary Stevens. Both offered different styles. But I was heaps bummed when Criss Oliva died in a head on car crash with a drunk driver. His guitar playing was and still is, inspirational. His work on the “Gutter Ballet” album is up there for me.
“Poets and Madmen” was hard to get in Australia. Released in 2001, there wasn’t a lot of brick and mortar shops looking to import Savatage and zero distributors to release it locally. So studio album number 11 remained elusive. It didn’t help matters that Atlantic Records dropped them and their German label was still seen as an “IMPORT” label in Australia. But Mega was always resourceful and he got it, albeit a few years later. He called to tell me about it, but by then, I also had a copy of it, via AudioGalaxy.
The album had a last minute concept added, inspired by the career and death of South African photographer Kevin Carter, who committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, a few months after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his “The Vulture and the Little Girl” photo, of a frail famine stricken child, who had collapsed on the ground with a vulture in the background, waiting. This photo also caused an uproar about the ethics of photographers.
Is the shot more important than the welfare of a child?
“Stay With Me Awhile”
The outro lead break by Al Pitrelli (who actually left the band to join Megadeth) reminds me of “Empty Rooms” from Gary Moore.
“There In The Silence”
An 80’s like synth lead kicks off the song, before a foot stomping groove kicks in.
The lead break here from Chris Caffery is guitar hero worthy
The symphonic elements to kick off the song are excellent.
Then it goes into an Iron Maiden like riff while Oliva delivers a schizophrenic King Diamond like vocal.
And the lead breaks are excellent. The first part of the main solo and the outro is Al Pitrelli and the others are Caffery.
One of my favourite riffs. Its foot stomping, head banging heavy metal. It reminds me of classic Savatage, even “Handful Of Rain” is in this song.
The main solo is Al Pitrelli and its one of those special album songs which has the multi-layered counterpoint vocals.
They sort of go something like this.
There is a bunch of voices repeating one word, another group of voices repeating a different melody, another group of voices doing something else and another group doing something different and blended in they all seem to work.
They started this kind of counterpoint vocal arrangement with “Chance” on the “Edge Of Thorns” album, when Zachary Stevens was the singer. In order to pull it off for this album, three other singers came in.
The main solo is Al Pitrelli. I had to mention it.
It’s a haunting piano riff and vocal kicks it off, before the metal comes. The lead break from Caffery has some massive sweeps happening,
“Back To A Reason”
The first two minutes and twenty seconds is country rock awesomeness as a piano like Free Bird. Then it changes like Jekyll and Hyde, similar to “New York City, Don’t Mean Nothing”. And if there is a fault of the album is that all of the songs move between these kind of moods all too regularly.
The by-product of Savatage existing is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And that project had just started to play to a lot of people, so clearly the inspiration for Savatage was not there while Oliva and O’Neill started to focus on TSO.
And with this album, Savatage signed off.