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Dream Theater - Once in a Livetime CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.34 | 411 ratings

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5 stars The fall of 1998 found me walking through Times Square in New York City. I had not been to New York for almost 8 years at that time so I was rather amazed at the transformation. Whereas Times Square had once been a haven of porno shops and peep joints the area now looked like a cut-out from middle America. Disney, ESPN and Virgin Records had replaced Mikes Adult Video. Thus it was that I found myself perusing the rather vast catalog of CDs at the Virgin Records in Times Square.

And I was rather surprised at what I found. In addition to running across the scintillating 3-CD live release from Rush, I aslo found a double-CD live release from Dream Theater, entitled Once In A LiveTime. Not sure which to purchase I decided to buy them both. When I arrived back at my hotel I immediately placed the Dream Theater release in my computer player and listened to both CDs and knew that this was a great live CD.

OIALT contained all the elements that make a great live release. The music spanned the career of one of my favorite progreesive metal bands, introduced me to some new music I had never heard, expanded upon some of the music I was already familiar with, threw in a few solos and arranged the songs in a pleasing, surprising arrangement. All in all a very pleasing live release.

Highlights abound throughout this release. Perhaps the strength of OIALT is illustrated through the fact this would be a great introduction for a DT newcomer or a fantastic compilation of the band's greatest moments for a die-hard fan. The intro to disc one is a great illustration. The show opens with parts I and II of the band's opus A Change of Seasons which transistions beautifully into Puppies on Acid (which is really an intro to The Mirror from Awake). The music doesn't stop there, however, moving quickly into Just Let Me Breathe from Falling Into Infinity. It's a tremendous start to a show that captures a wide array of the band's history in a short timeframe. And it's really just the beginning of the fun.

Disc one contains several more highlights, such as a wonderful Line in the Sand complete with a cool Derek Sherinian piano intro and a marvelous rendition of Voices from Awake. Both songs are among my all-time favorite DT songs and represent the best the band has to offer. But perhaps the highpoint of the disc is a magical rendition of Take The Time from Images and Words which is quite satisfactory in and of itself but really excels when the band completes the song with a 5-minute throw-in of the jam session from Freebird by Lynryd Skynryd; the transition between the two parts is beautiful and the jam at the end of the song is pure unadulterated live music fun.

The only secton of disc one that drags is the final portion which is a medley of Scarred from Awake, part IV of ACOS and YTSEJam fromWhen Dream and Day Unite. The Scarred and ACOS portion is awesome as is most of the YTSEJam section. But once the Mike Portnoy drum solo starts all momentum is lost. Frankly I was disappointed by the solo; I was hoping Portnoy would be able to match Neil Peart from Rush and actually produce a drum solo worthy of standing on its own. Unfortunately the drum solo is pretty much like all other drum solos: boring. Thus the first disc end with about 12 minutes of extended musical masterbation that clearly deviates from the energy and high satisfaction that the rest of the disc delivers.

The momentun is quickly regained, however, with the opening to disc two. The version of Trial of Tears found here far surpasses the one found on FII. Opening with a very cool homage to Alex Lifeson and Xanadu and concluding with a wonderful, building high power climax, this is the way TOT SHOULD have been played in the first place. Followed quickly by honest, emotive renditions of Hollow Years and Take Away My Pain complete with acoustic guitar into and saxaophone. Then comes the only two songs that don't do much for me, Caught In a Web and Lie, both from Awake. For whatever reasons, I never cared much for these songs originally and the live versions don't change my minde.

We then move into a straightforward version of Peruvian Skies, another of my personal faves. The band again plays homage to its influences as they seamlessly work in bits of both Pink Floyd (Welcome to the Machine) and Metallica (Enter Sandman); the resulting effort really is phenomenal. We then get yet another solo, this time from John Petrucci, and while it's mildly entertaining (espeically when Portnoy joins him for a section of Paradigm Shift from Liquid Tension Experiment) it's still another long guitar solo that simply goes on too long.

The second CD concludes with a pretty cool medley that opens with Metropolis Part I, includes a bit of Learning to Live and finally concludes with the final to ACOS. While the piece works pretty well overall I imagine quite a few fans were unhappy with the partial section of both Metropolis and Learning to Live. For myself, I was simply wishing for a complete version of ACOS. Nevertheless, OIALT is a great live effort, effectively capturing DT as it stood at that point in time as well as offering a comprehensive overview of the band since its inception. Frankly, one of the best live CDs ever compiled.

MrMan2000 | 5/5 |


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