Usually about once a year I have a really great day. Ironically, it usually coincides with the release of a new Dream Theater project.
The good day falls on April 1st this year. And I can’t think of a better day than April Fools Day for Dream Theater to release their first compilation of studio cuts, aptly titled (with Portnoy & Company’s collective tongue planted firmly in its cheek) Greatest Hit ( . . . and 21 other pretty cool songs).
You read that right. Greatest HIT. The Gods of Prog have only had one song in their 20+ year career appear on the singles charts. Here, 1992’s “Pull Me Under” gets an updated remix by producer Kevin Shirley, as does “Another Day,” the mellower follow-up single from the same year. Both are stripped of the reverb that made James LaBrie sound like he was singing in a bucket, and the resulting remixes are much more palatable to the ears, if for only the fact that they don’t sound so gosh darn corny. The guitars are a bit crispier and the keys are subdued just enough so that they fit a bit tighter instead of sounding muddy and over-modulated. Also remixed just for this collection, “Take the Time” gets a similarly minimalistic fresh coat of paint and doesn’t sound all that bad.
The rest of this two disc collection – separated into “The Dark Side,” full of the more aggressive, metal-edged rockers, and “The Light Side,” brimming with the upbeat ballads and softer interludes – is left relatively untouched sonically, although most of the songs are the edited (read: shortened) versions released to radio over the years. In other words, regardless of how big of a DT fan you are and how many of their CDs you own, you’ve probably never heard these versions because radio and MTV (remember MTV?!) largely ignored DT after “Pull Me Under.” We fans knew these edited songs existed; we just could never convince our local radio stations to play them, even in their watered-down-for-the-masses versions. Hearing many of these versions for the first time, I imagine it must have killed the band to have to cut some of these songs down to acceptable lengths. To mention just a couple of my favorites from this collection . . . nothing is sweeter or more moving than the alternate remix of “Through Her Eyes” from 1999’s Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (perhaps the best DT ballad . . . ever), and the rare B-side from 1994 titled “To Live Forever” is a nice addition to the DT catalog.
I recall a warm July evening during the summer of 1994 when I first saw Dream Theater live. I had vaguely remembered hearing “Pull Me Under” on Fargo’s local rock station and, to celebrate their birthday, the station threw a big outdoor concert featuring DT as the headlining act. I won tickets and was looking forward to seeing the Galactic Cowboys, a favorite band at the time who was getting some very limited airplay, but came away having fallen head over heels for Mike Portnoy and his gang from the New York. They were loud, blazingly fast, technically impressive, and . . . did I say loud? Their songs lasted forever! I gained a new appreciation for the inventiveness and craftsmanship that goes into making music more than just a four minute radio single. And these guys made every note count, using the whole CD – all 70+ minutes of it – to draw me in and paint a musical story worth the time invested. When I can’t think of what to listen to on a given day, I usually end up putting in a Dream Theater CD.
And now I’ve got a new one to pick from the pile.
Thanks guys. You rock!!!! See you in May at the Progressive Nation tour. I can’t wait . . .