When Dream And Day Unite
Mechanic Records, 1989
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/30/1999
The first time I ever heard of Dream Theater was when I had the opportunity to raid the promotions closet of the college radio station I worked for. A promotional copy of their album When Dream And Day Unite happened to be laying there, and with song titles like "The Ytse Jam," it just sounded interesting. I snagged it, played it... and promptly forgot about it.
Chances are many people (except for the diehard Dream Theater fans, of course) have forgotten about this tape, which is the only album to feature Charlie Dominici on vocals. Eleven years ago, when this album was first released, Dream Theatre might not have set out to become the standard bearers for progressive rock, but their music was filled with many of the hooks that they would soon become noted for. While there are a few minor weaknesses on this album, it stands out today as a strong first effort.
Looking at the photo that lined the inside of my promo cassette, I can't help but be struck by the fact that these guys - Dominici, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, keyboardist Kevin Moore and drummer Mike Portnoy - look a lot like a rag-tag Quiet Riot. Maybe I expected to hear that kind of music when I first listened to this album way back in 1989. Instead, what I was treated to (though I don't believe I thought so at the time) was a magnitude of complex time signatures and rhythm changes, all topped with Petrucci's blazing guitar work, Dominici's solid vocals and Portnoy's Neil Peart-on-amphetamines drumming.
Fact is, the seeds for what would become Dream Theater's trademark sound are definitely germinating on When Dream And Day Unite. Tracks like "The Killing Hand" (featuring some nice acoustic guitar work in the opening), "A Fortune In Lies" and "Light Fuse And Get Away" all have that special kick, even if the sound is a litle keyboard-heavy and Dominici's vocals, while good, don't have the grit to make these tracks emotional.
What? You're still not convinced? Well, pull up a chair, strap on the headphones, and blare "The Ytse Jam," one of the best prog-rock instrumentals you're ever going to hear. It almost has an Egyptian theme to parts of the song, which makes it all the more endearing to me. How Petrucci and Portnoy are able to play at such a pace and not miss a note or a beat is beyond me.
The only "negative" - and I'll use that term loosely - about When Dream And Day Unite is a more common sound to the lyrics. Not that Dream Theater went out of their way to be cosmic, but there is almost an approachable aspect to these lyrics, something that, frankly, I'm not used to with Dream Theater's music. I guess this part is just a matter of personal taste.
When Dream And Day Unite is not the easiest album to find, but if you're even a casual fan of Dream Theater - even if you're just a fan of stellar guitar and drum work - then this one is well worth the search. After having the privilege of seeing Dream theater play last year, something told me to dig this tape out again... and am I glad that I did.