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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dream Theater

A Change of Seasons

Review by Gary Hill

This is an intriguing disc from Dream Theater. It consists of one awesome 20 minute plus epic that’s a pure roller coaster ride and a series of cover tunes recorded live. All in all, there’s nothing weak in this whole set. It’s certain it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but it’s well worth picking up – whether you are a fan of Dream Theater or not. It would make a good introduction to the band with both familiar music and some epic length original stuff from the band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
A Change Of Seasons
The epic of the set is the opening title track. I love the dramatic guitar picking that opens it and grows forward. After it builds along that road for a while, it explodes out into some seriously crunch prog fury. This is such an incredible jam building forward with different instruments taking charge at different times. Then there's a shift towards an almost thrash sound. It drops way down for the vocals. After the first verse, though, they fire out for a more rocking vocal movement. This is a pretty amazing ride, making its way through various sections. Then around the seven minute mark it drops way down for a picked guitar section that serves as the backdrop for the next vocals. We're taken from there through a number of intriguing instrumental sections. I love the organ solo that ensues in the midst of this powerhouse section. There is some killer guitar work, too. There is a segment along the road that takes it almost into fusion territory. This one heck of a ride for sure. The frantic fast paced symphonic section leans toward technical metal. The whole thing moves this way and that. If you don't like where it is, just wait. You'll be somewhere else shortly. Although, I can't imagine not liking where it is. There is a more melodic resolution section that leads into a drop back for the next vocals. That section builds pretty organically, as the vocals also rise gradually upward. This is such a powerful and evocative movement. Around the fifteen minute mark it starts really rocking. Some melodic guitar soloing ensues and the cut works its way forward leaning toward the crunchy end from there. It drops back to a more fusion oriented jam around the 17 and a half minute mark. The changes continue, though, leaning towards more hard rocking prog first, and then marching into thrash-like territory. Synth screams over the top of that section. It drops to just bass for a measure or two, and then they fire out from there into more crunchy prog jamming. We are taken to more metallic stuff that eventually works to the next vocal movement. The cut continues to evolve and grow as it works steadily toward its resolution. There is some rather Neil Peart like drumming as this reaches for the sky. A crescendo takes it to the outro. The guitar section that started us off returns to end it.  
Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding

Dream Theater take on this classic Elton John twofer in fine fashion. I’ve always been a huge Elton John fan and the openers from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road are among Mr. John’s most progressive rock oriented, so this turn of events seems appropriate. While they play the extended instrumental half of this pretty true to form, there’s a bit harder edge that Mr. John’s version. That said, the song was always a hard rocker, so it’s not that much of a stretch. When they take it out to the “song” portion the vocals are at times so reminiscent of Elton John’s that it’s almost scary. The closing motif on this is just plain incendiary.

Perfect Strangers

Here DT turns their attention to Deep Purple. I’ve always been a big fan of the Perfect Strangers album and the title track itself. Well, Dream Theater manages to either match the power of the cut – or perhaps even raise the ante. Personally I’m a bit on the fence about that question. However you look at it, though, this version is in no way inferior. They bring a bit more prog rock to the table later in the track and take in some different directions.

Led Zeppelin Medley

As the title suggests – no, demands – they bring us into a Led Zeppelin medley, starting off with “The Rover.” This killer riff driven track is delivered in fine fashion feeling a lot like Zep, but perhaps the bass line is a lit more busy. Next they turn their attention to “Achilles Last Stand” from Presence. That disc is arguably Zep’s most proggy and DT turns up the progressive rock. I’d have to say that this one place where LaBrie’s vocals don’t seem to be on an equal par – but we’re are talking about a track originally recorded with Robert Plant singing. They continue with “The Song Remains The Same” and I’d say LaBrie pulls that one off better. The music on this section is perhaps the least Zeppelin trademarked of anything in the medley. It’s a good way to end the set.

The Big Medley

Here we get a medley of all kinds of covers. They open with the bombastic “In The Flesh?” from Pink Floyd. It seems a natural for DT. They take us out from there into Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.” If the first one was obvious this is a “no brainer.” They put in a fiery performance of the track. They just stick to the instrumental section on the track, though, but do include vocals when they hit Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” While Wayne and Garth would be proud, I have to say I’m not blown away by the vocal performance. However, when they take us into Journey’s “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” I’m pretty impressed by LaBrie’s performance. Here we get a scorching rendition of this Dregs classic. It’s fast paced and fusion oriented. They close it all out with a take on Genesis’ “Turn It On Again.” They do that one sans vocals and when they’re done, all you can say is, “wow, what a ride!”

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