A Change Of Seasons

Dream Theater

EastWest Records, 1995


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Who says that progressive rock is supposed to be stone-cold serious all the time? Certainly not Dream Theater.

In 1995, James LaBrie and company were welcoming a new member, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, to their fold. What better way to initiate him, they probably thought, than to release a "mini-album" comprised of one epic work and a collection of cover tracks recorded live? The end result is A Change Of Seasons, an album which is enjoyable -- in a way, kind of surprisingly enjoyable.

The centerpiece of this release, of course, is the 23-minute title track -- a song which is quite fluid, thanks to the breakdown of the track into movements that ebb and flow with the illustrated passage of time. What makes this piece work so well is that all the members of the band -- Sherinian, vocalist LaBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy -- make the music constantly exciting while giving each member room to shine. Portnoy consistently shows himself to be one of rock's most technically precise drummers out there, while Petrucci pulls things out of his guitar that should not be possible by mere mortals.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As much as Sherinian seems like he's a good fit with the band (though apparently not perfect; he'd be out of the band just a few years later), it almost seems like his role on A Change Of Seasons is mixed down a little bit -- a little bit too much for my tastes.

The second half of the album is culled from their "Uncovered" show in London back in January 1995. The evening appears to have been as much a jam session with other well-known musicians as much as an evening to have fun with cover tunes -- and I kind of regret that the versions of the songs featured here consist of only proper members of the band. Don't get me wrong, I liked hearing what LaBrie did on their cover of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers," but if you know where to look, there is an MP3 file of Dream Theater performing this track with former/current Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson. (Okay, so Dickinson missed one cue; it's still an incredible moment.)

The only real negative one could point out about these covers is that most of them are truncated into medleys. Only the two-fer of "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and the aforementioned "Perfect Strangers" get the full treatment. It would have been interesting to hear the band work their way into full versions of any of the three Led Zeppelin snippets they performed, or to have heard them do a full rendition of Genesis's "Turn It On Again." Oh, well.

As enjoyable as Dream Theater's albums had been to this point, A Change Of Seasons sets itself apart in that it's a fun disc to listen to. And, yes, I realize that calling this a "mini-album" isn't quite correct, as it clocks in at just under an hour. This is one I put on to clear the mental pipes; if you're a fan of Dream Theater or prog-rock, chances are it will become one of your favorites as well.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EastWest Records, and is used for informational purposes only.