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While 'Stargazer' as a cover certainly isn't anything super-special for Dream Theater, it's definately not a bad tribute to one of the old greats. After having listened to the 'Uncovered (2008-2009)' EP several times, I can safely say that this is the track that I listen to least. That's not to say however, that it's not good. It's great.
Why it doesn't deserve such a high rating is because Dream Theater (a very innovative and creative unit) doesn't really do anything to make the song their own, and unlike an exceptionally well-done cover like 'Odyssey,' it doesn't seem like they really tried to add their own touch to it.
On a plus note however, the song really shows what a versatile vocalist James LaBrie really is. While he was about to properly tribute Freddie Mercury's vocal style in the Queen medley (off the 'Uncovered' EP) he does the same for 'Stargazer,' keeping the trademark Dio inflections and enunciations intact.
A good tribute, but for someone that isn't a big fan of Dream Theater, it's better to try out the old classic.
As the first of five bonus covers recorded in conjunction with the upcoming Dream Theater album, this version of Stargazer is competent and entertaining, but nothing truly amazing.
As one would expect from a band made up of Berklee and Julliard alumni the cover is, not counting the solo section, a note for note reproduction of the original song. This being Dream Theater, the individual performances are unsurprisingly solid. Mike Portnoy nails the opening fill and avoids over playing for the rest of the tune while still keeping a very solid groove. Jordan Rudess indulges in some absurdly huge keyboard sounds, but for the most part provides atmosphere and mood instead of drowning the track in synth leads. John Petrucci delivers a strong performance during the majority of the song, but makes some controversial choices once he gets to his solo spot. The new guitar solo, while not as overbearing as say “In the Name of God” or “The Glass Prison” is still very much a Petrucci guitar solo. Those who aren’t fans of his style will most likely be furious to see him zip across the song at top speed, but for the legions of shred hungry Dream Theater fans out there, this is sure to be a nice addition. I personally prefer Blackmore’s performance, but Petrucci’s solo is by no means bad. John Myung, as per usual in modern Dream Theater albums is nowhere to be heard.
The main differences between this cover and the original can be found in the vocals and the production. Anyone with half an ear knows that James LaBrie is no Ronnie James Dio. Even taking into account that LaBrie is a respectable and talented vocalist, and that he sounds more passionate and invigorated here than he has in over a decade, no one comes close to the diminutive demigod. That said LaBrie seems to have fully recovered from his vocal problems that were plaguing him for the better part of the decade. There is an edge to his vocals during the verses that have not been felt since the “Awake” era. However, and this holds true for the rest of the band, not matter how hard he attempts to nail the pitches and mannerisms, he cannot avoid the fact that this is merely a cover. While the performances are dead on, the magic and immersion found in the original track are drastically reduced due to the extremely modern production and the unavoidable fact that this is Dream Theater and not Rainbow.
The picture provided by the Dream Theater telescope is certainly pretty, and will definitely build anticipation for the soon to be released “Black Clouds & Silver Linings”, but nothing shines as bright as the original recording.