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DT with a dash of jazz - 86%

ScourgeOfDeath, November 16th, 2009

For many Dream Theater fans, their first album with James LaBrie, ‘Images and Words’, is the best release in the illustrious DT discography. This is one thing that in my opinion shouldn’t be argued. The band challenged themselves a lot on that album, resulting in a varied track list. I personally don’t judge Another Day as the highlights of the albums but it is an interesting track, nonetheless. What with the sax taking over and pushing guitar to the back in some parts of the song. Is this track good enough to be released as a single, you ask? Yes it is.

The song is considerably different from the other tracks present on Images and Words mainly due to the fact that it is more of a progressive rock song than a proper metal one. It is a bit difficult to assign a particular prog rock genre to the song; I have seen it being inaccurately called jazz fusion a lot of times, which is nothing short of blasphemy. The mere presence of the saxophone, an instrument usually associated with jazz, is not enough for a song to be classified as jazz rock or jazz fusion. I believe it would be appropriate to consider it a heavy prog song with a few elements of jazz. Imagine it as a marriage of Porcupine Tree’s modern prog sound and Herbie Hancock’s take on jazz rock; of course all of this is still based on a particularly soft variant of the typical DT sound.

As expected, this song is pretty strong in the technicality department. No wankery to be seen here as Petrucci and co. go for a restrained approach. In particular, John Petrucci’s leads on this track are complex yet quite easy to comprehend. The solo in particular is a real treat, one of the better solos that I have heard in songs that have a power balladesque feel to them. Petrucci is also the writer of the song, with lyrics touching on his father’s struggle with cancer. Kevin Moore’s keyboard gymnastics are ear-pleasing as well but his role here is slightly less compared to the other songs on the album. Portnoy isn’t his usual hard hitting self here; he slows down, adding a jazzy feel to the drumwork. The use of the soprano saxophone, courtesy Jay Beckenstein of the jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra, adds more fuel to the jazz fire burning here, even after that, the track is essentially a DT song and is still far from some of the jazz influenced progressive acts, both retro and modern. The song has a power ballad feel to it, but it is still one of the most progressive DT tracks out there. In its essentials the song is mostly devoid of heaviness, with Petrucci’s guitar tone being the only ‘heavy’ feature of the song.

Oh! I almost forgot about the supremely accomplished, yet despised by all; James LaBrie. There is no denying the fact that in recent times LaBrie has given quite a few unimpressive vocal performances but his work on Images and Words was mostly satisfying. But on this track he is a bit inconsistent; while I’ll admit that the higher notes he hits during the chorus are quite good, his lower, so called ‘heartfelt’ vocals during the verses are a bit sugary and 'precious' sounding. They are not bad in the conventional terms and initially they had been one of the stronger aspects of LaBrie’s work on this album for me, but with time the novelties wore away and now; well, let’s just say that I don’t appreciate them so much.

The live tracks present here are interesting collectibles as well and I think are atleast worth a listen if you are an avid fan of the band. The main problem that has plagued most of the DT live performances in recent time i.e. LaBrie’s inconsistent vocals are not an issue here at all, as he does a good job on both the live tracks. The track, A Fortune in Lies was originally seen on When Dream and Day Unite. This live track was a chance for LaBrie to prove his vocal superiority over Charles Dominici and he doesn’t disappoint. In pure musical terms, the track wasn’t the best on the album it originally appeared on. It’s decent but that’s the best I can say about it. Although LaBrie improves it, making it more enjoyable but the main track totally smokes it. Probable the live performance of a better track from the debut would have resulted in a more balanced single. But this very minor flaw doesn’t tarnish this single much. It is worth a purchase for the ardent DT fan, others can keep themselves happy listening to the rendition of Another Day present on the studio album.