Hearing Dream Theater for the first time in 2009 (GH Bonus spoiler!) led me onto a path where I realized I like my guitar-driven music really proggy. Not King Crimson proggy, though; that’s about my limit.
anyway, once I was cemented in DT fandom, I picked up Dream Theater’s Greatest Hit, which I thought was a great sampler of their career. But one day perusing racks at a store I saw this Black Clouds and Silver Linings Special- a 3-disc for fifteen bucks.
BRAIN: Hey, I love Dream Theater!
BODY: Dude, we’re already out of the store. We bought it that fast.
It starts with ‘A Nightmare to Remember’, a chilling tale spun around a horrific car crash told from not one, but two perspectives. And in the role of storyteller, these guys wreck shop. It sets the overall tone immediately with the slow heaviness of the intro that proclaims the certain doom that is to come. It proceeds to trot along, laying out the scene; and a huge shift happens once the crash occurs. The tone of the song starts as pensive, but upbeat, and then really slows to a crawl, with piano and guitar tiptoeing through the confusing moments of waking up in a hospital. From what I can tell, anesthesia plays a role as well, because the song quickly dissolves into this sort of wild nightmare ride a la Rudess/Petrucci, the violent, disturbed, drug-induced sleep of the victim.
Near the end, the devil makes an appearance, lamenting over how he was unable to claim a single life. I thought this was unimpressive at first look, but the musical changes throughout make an impactful, dynamic story.
The rest of the album is that ‘light’ DT that is so often leaving me wanting more. ‘A Rite of Passage’, The Shattered Fortress’, and especially ‘The Best of Times’ are fantastic freaking songs, but it just isn’t there. Possibly because my baselines by which all other Dream Theater songs are judged include ‘Panic Attack’ and Sacrificed Sons’, or ‘Portnoy Attack’, if you will.
And the first disc of the Special ends with ‘The Count of Tuscany’. I came across a fellow blogger/DTer that wrote a review just for this song, and I’d say it’s damn good!
The second disc was a super bonus, all covers! First is Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’, and, let’s face it, Rainbow is just about as top-shelf as it gets. Next is ‘Tenement Funster/ Flick of the Wrist/ Lily of the Valley’ by Queen, which stands tall alone, but if it ain’t Freddie….
After that is a damn gem, a freaking trip, in ‘Odyssey’, originally by Dixie Dregs. Violinist Jerry Goodman is the star of this piece, he gets his baby to really sing, and the progression through the whole thing is marvelous. Next is a Zebra cover, ‘Take Your Fingers From My Hair’. It has a whimsical air to it as it builds, and grooves HARD once Mike P’s feet get to flickin’.
‘Larks Tongue in Aspic Pt 2’ is….you remember in the Ninja Turtles movie when the guys are in the sewer, fresh from kicking tail, and they’re trying to come up with words to describe their awesomeness? “A-ca-pell-a!” And “Par-a-stroika!” go perfectly here. This is John Myung’s song, and he really puts some pepper on the whole track with his bass. Highlight.
Last track covers Iron Maiden’s ‘To Tame a Land’, and this one flat out rips. James LaBrie belongs in this song. And somehow Petrucci, Rudess AND Myung manage to channel Steve Harris and Adrian Smith in a big way. Portnoy puts some serious punch on the bridge before it all breaks loose in the way we love our Maiden songs to do. I have to have a cigarette after I play this one, it’s SOOOOOO good.
All said, this is not a really fantastic album, so I’ll slap a 35/50 on it. But here it is, the Guitar Hero Bonus of 10 points, and a special Iron Maiden Bonus of 20 points! The covers disc does a lot to really save Black Clouds and Silver Linings from dropping too low in the pile. l
Love it, hate it, DT inexperienced? Let me hear it! As always, thanks for reading!!