June 26, 2009 by torqdog
The time has come….. the time is now! A new musical direction has been released and you need to be aware, it’s time to listen up people! Black Clouds and Silver Linings is the latest offering from Dream Theater, just released June 23, 2009. My copy arrived today and I’m spellbound…….. no other way to describe my mood right now.
For those of you unaware of who or what Dream Theater is, they are a band of virtuosos that have been making beautiful noise for almost 25 years. They first entered the scene back in 1985 with a band named Majesty, changed their name to Dream Theater (named after a movie house in Monterey Cal.) sometime around 1988 and have had the usual ups and downs that any band, refusing to go along with the commercial demands set forth by “know it all” labels would expect to suffer. They stuck to their guns and are more popular today than ever…… with little to no help from Radio or MTV. They have succeeded to play the music THEY wanted to play and never listened to critics or managers telling them to do something more commercial. A typical Dream Theater song may last 12 minutes or more. If you’re looking for a band with the typical 4/4 time signatures, Dream Theater may take a little getting used to. They are constantly pushing the envelope into the bizarre but all the while keeping it QUITE entertaining. One listen might not be enough. When looking them up, they are listed in the “progressive” genre but in my opinion they have progressed and are now in a world of their own. They defy gravity!
Black Clouds and Silver Linings;
WHOA!!!! This CD is intense! If you have never heard Dream Theater before and you want to take a chance, it’s available for less than 15 bucks right now and this is for the deluxe version that has 3 CDs in the package. Quite a bargain! The first CD is the main attraction, Black Clouds and Silver Linings. It contains 76 minutes of music so you won’t feel as if you’ve been cheated somehow. Disc 2 contains 6 bonus tracks called “Uncovered”. Disc 3 is another bonus offering that is a compilation of instrumental mixes from the album. Like I said, this CD is a real bargain….. allotta music for minimal dineros and this one also comes equipt with liner notes….. nice ones with groovy artwork! YEAH!!!!
The CD, Black Clouds and Silver Linings;
Excellent! I must say that I had much concern as to whether Dream Theater was done, finished, caput after their past two releases which were only so-so and I only bought this because there is always “hope” as they say. This CD is excellent. It’s cerebral both in music content but even more so in lyrics. Some reviews I’ve read are comparing it to Scenes from a Memory, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and Train of Thought as well.
If this is your first venture into the world of DT, may I suggest you start with the last track, #6…… “The Count of Tuscany” This tune is over 19 minutes long. In it you will hear evidences of Rush, Yes, Metallica, and even some traces of Pink Floyd but it is unmistakeably pure Dream Theater. Rip a fatty and strap yourself in for 19 minutes of sonic ecstasy. Be sure to have the liner notes with you as part of the experience is just marveling in the genious of the lyrics. Speaking of the Rush influence, here’s a sampling of lyrics;
“A young eccentric man, bred from royal blood
took me for a ride, across the open countryside
Get into my car, Let’s go for a drive
Along the way, I’ll be your guide, just step inside”
Sounds a bit like Red Barchetta but that’s where the rubber leaves the road so to speak. This song goes much deeper than that.
Working backwards we come to track #5 ” The Best of Times”. This song, written by drummer extrodinair, Mike Portnoy, is about his father who passed away this year. Again, another masterpiece……. this one bringing a tear to me eye…… it’s that strong!
A note about Mike Portnoy…… this dude is arguably THE best drummer out there and I don’t say this without ammo.
from wikipedia; “Portnoy has won 23 awards from Modern Drummer magazine, including “Best Up & Coming Talent” (one time), “Best Clinician” (two times), “Best Educational Video/DVD” (two times), “Best recorded performance” (6 times) and “Best Progressive Rock Drummer” (for 12 consecutive years), and is also the second youngest person (at 37 years of age) to be inducted into the Rock Drummer Hall of Fame since Neil Peart was inducted in 1983 (at 31 years of age).”
See him shred here and please take note that YES!, that IS a 3 kick drum set and he does somehow use them all.
…… or, here’s another solo that just kicks butt from around 1992…… back when hair was popular;
Mike Portnoy is a recovering alcoholic and doesn’t try to hide from it. The past four CDs have had a unique track on each that Mike wrote, dedicated to friends of Bill W. This CD has the last of the 12 steps in the song from track #4, “The Shattered Fortress”. Here’s a sampling of lyrics Mike wrote in this tune, this coming from step # 10, Restraint;
I once thought it better to be right
But now I have finally seen the light
Sometimes you’ve got to be wrong
And learn from the mistakes
I live with serenity now
Not self righteous hate
This tune also has a great keyboard and guitar solo as well.
Track #3, “Wither” is another a lyrical masterpiece. composed and written by guitarist John Petrucci.
“I drown in hesitation
My words come crashing down
And all my best creations
Burn into the ground
The thought of starting over
Leaves me paralyzed……….
Like reflections on the page
The world’s what you create”.
I could go on and on about this album. I guess you’ll just have to get it and have a listen for yourself.
Disc #2 “Uncovered”
I finally had a chance to uncover and discover “Uncovered”, the second disc in this 3 disc set. Dream Theater has, for many years at times tried to break away from playing only their own music and have given tribute to some of their favorite bands by playing covers of songs they found that either inspired them or just to plain have some fun. They have done Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” and even took a shot at Deep Purple’s legendary “Made in Japan”. Vivian’s favorite (mine too) is an “official bootleg” DVD of a concert where they did a start to finish cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”, a VERY difficult album to copy to say the least and on this DVD you can see how much they appreciate this album by the job they did….. it is just plain unbelievable! There is a keyboard solo in the song “Any Color You Like” where Jordan Rudess does something unimaginable, he plays a ripper solo from BEHIND making everything backwards! Fricken WHOA, UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Theresa Thomason does an excellent job of recreating the very passionate vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky”. See or order it here;
Getting back on track here, this CD called Uncovered displays the variety of music they come to the plate with. Here’s the line-up;
Stargazer; from Rainbow. Ritchie Blackmore….. eat your heart out! And what ever happened to Ronnie James Dio?
Tenement Funster/Flick of the Wrist/Lily of the Valley; Freddie Mercury and Queen (excellent vocals on Lily of the Valley)
Odyssey; Dixie Dregs…… Steve Morse never sounded better
Take Your Fingers From my Hair; Zebra….. never heard Zebra before but this song is interesting
Larks Tongues in Aspic Pt.2; King Crimson….. Whadda trip doin Robert Fripp
To Tame a Land; Iron Maiden…… old, old Maiden song
As you can see here, this is a wide variety of music and Dream Theater does an excellent job at recreating the originals, unlike most bands you see at the Casinos around here. In some cases, they actually seem to improve on the original product. Watch Mike Portnoy discuss the tracks and why he picked them here;
Disc #3 Instrumental Mixes
I’m listening to it as I finish this review and where as I had my doubts as to what purpose this disc could possibly offer, I’ve come up with two scenarios;
1) Karaoke anyone?
2) Dream Theater has a different way than most bands as to how they approach writing music. What they do is they will jam and all the while the recorder is capturing everything they play. They will then go back and start taking favs of all the members and narrow it down, write the words and voila, you have a creation. This disc is actually an excellent display of the talent that lies within the members of this band. I like it but then again could it be that I’m just a little …………biased?