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Dream Theater - Uncovered 2003-2005 CD (album) cover

UNCOVERED 2003-2005

Dream Theater

Progressive Metal

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4 stars Highly recommended for Dream Theater fans!

Much in the spirit of Dream Theater's famous "Uncovered" concert (part of which appears on the "A Change of Seasons" EP), here is a collection of Dream Theater covers that include classic songs by some of the most famous progressive rock, classic rock, and prog-related bands.

The production quality on this album is fantastic. The first 5 tracks on the album were actually recorded during sound checks, and sound more like they were recorded in a studio than on stage. Of the remaining 5 tracks, 2 of them ("Machine Messiah" and "Diary of a Madman") have sound quality so good that you almost can't tell they're live (except for the fade-ins and crowd noise at the beginning and end).

The selection of songs here is really excellent, even ambitious. Dream Theater really pulls these tracks off with great skill and makes each their own. (Though it should be noted that in most cases these covers sound very close to the originals.) The only exception to this is, unfortunately, the first track. "Death on Two Legs" is one of my favorite Queen songs, and I was very excited to hear them cover it. Unfortunately, they weren't quite able to pull it off, mainly due to the vocals. However, this was the only disappointing part of this album for me. Now on to the track-by-track:

1) Death on Two Legs (from Queen's "A Night at the Opera") - The first track on this album is also the weakest. Portnoy points out in the liner notes that Dream Theater had trouble performing this song live. So, in order to get a better recording, they had to re-do it during a later sound check (which is the version here). With the exception of the bass being a bit too low in the mix, the instrumental parts are all dead on. Unfortunately, the vocals simply aren't up to snuff. LaBrie doesn't hold the vocal lines to the end of the phrase, giving them a "choppy" feel. He also sounds like he's singing out of his range and even forgets the lyrics in one place! The only redeeming factors on this track are Rudess's piano intro and Petrucci's guitarwork.

2) Heart of the Sunrise (from Yes's "Fragile") - Where the first track may have been lacking, this track more than makes up for it. The instrumentals on this track are pulled off perfectly. In fact, with few exceptions, its impeccable how true to the original this is. (Which is, in some ways, both good and bad.) If you've ever wondered what it would sound like to have James LaBrie sing for Yes, here's your opportunity. (Strangely, he seems to have less trouble singing Anderson's high notes than he did with Mercury? could he have been sick on the first track?)

3) Heaven and Hell (from Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell") - I wasn't familiar with this song before picking up this album, but they did a good job in comparison to the original. LaBrie's vocals don't quite live up to Dio's on this track. For a better LaBrie/Dio cover, I recommend "Stargazer," which Dream Theater Covered on their "Black Clouds and Silver Linings" Special edition. However, this is still a good straight ahead rocker that they pull off well.

4) Paradox (from Kansas's "Point of No Return") - Hearing Dream Theater cover Kansas is always awesome in my book. They certainly do this song justice, and without a violin! This is a great track in which Rudess and Petrucci really get a chance to shine.

5) Mother Father (from Journey's "Escape") - Here's a song where the vocals really shine. Its well known that the first song LaBrie ever sang with Dream Theater when he auditioned was "Separate Ways" by Journey. There's something special about hearing him sing a Journey song. He just packs it with such emotion and really sells it. Aside from the vocals, the guitar solo on this track is phenomenal... especially when Petrucci plays it!

6) Machine Messiah (from Yes's "Drama") - This is an excerpt from a song off of what Portnoy refers to as "the very underrated, only Anderson-less Yes album." This is the first track that was recorded live (not during sound check), but the production quality doesn't suffer. This is another one I was not familiar with until I picked up this album. This is an abridged version of the original track where they have taken many of the dark, instrumental sections of the song and pieced them together into a 3 minute instrumental track. They took a lot of liberty with the arrangement of this track, and the result is very interesting to hear. Its so heavy, dark, and epic sounding that its hard to believe this was based on a Yes song!

7) Since I've Been Loving You (from Led Zeppelin's "Led Zeppelin III") - This is an absolutely amazing track! I never would have thought Dream Theater could pull off this song so well. In particular, LaBrie really pulls off the vocals, which are powerful and at times quite bluesy. Petrucci's guitarwork is an excellent blend of blues and his signature lightning-fast picking. For the first time on the album, this track has the sound quality of a live recording. However, for a song like this it works? the spontaneity of a live recording just adds to the effect. All in all, a real treat.

8) Diary of a Madman (from Ozzy Osbourne's "Diary of a Madman") - According to Portnoy, this is one of his favorite covers amongst the dozens and dozens of songs Dream Theater has covered over the years. Not being a huge Ozzy fan, this is another song that I wasn't familiar with prior to getting this album. However, this is great cover. The music goes through so many feels. It really is an epic song that fits Dream Theater's sound perfectly.

9) Cemetary Gates (from Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell") - Another amazing track. This cover was recorded in 2005 during Gigantour as a tribute to Dimebag Darrell just months after his tragic death. This track features special guests Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Burton Bell (Fear Factory) on vocals and Dave Mustaine (Megadeth, guitar-god) on guitar. LaBrie trades of the vocal duties with Allen and Bell, with LaBrie singing the more delicate vocal lines and Allen and Bell trading off the aggressive vocals. The end effect is really great. I don't think LaBrie could have pulled off the heavier parts alone. My only complaint is that it would have been way better if Burton Bell had not been included. He simply isn't as talented as LaBrie and Allen. Not only does he struggle to hold a pitch, but he isn't able to sing his share of the harmonies with LaBrie. The call-and-answer between vocals and guitar at the end (squealing high notes on the word "gates") are actually done by LaBrie and Rudess, which is also interesting to hear.

10) Won't Get Fooled Again (from The Who's "Who's Next") - Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this song. But personal bias aside, this is a great performance. On this track Dream Theater is joined by special guests Queensr˙che. Hearing these two bands come together and rock out is always amazing.

Report this review (#256938)
Posted Saturday, December 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars A collection of covers by Dream Theater from classic prog and metal songs. I find this release very enjoyable, and they certainly did a very good job with most of the songs, though in many cases the vocals could be better. In fact, LaBrie does a good job in most of the songs, and technically there doesn't seem to be many flaws in his singing, but his voice as usual can get annoying. For me Death on Two Legs is just an enjoyable song. Heart of the Sunset is a very good song magnificently played and sung, but it somehow lacks the beauty and uniqueness of Andeson's voice. Heaven and Hell is a song I didn't know before, but I really enjoy this song very much on this version, it's one of my favourites and heaviest from the album. Paradox I don't really like a lot, I would have prefered some other Kansas song to cover. Mother Father is another very enjoyable song, though once again the original singer has a much more enjoyable voice. I was very gladly surprised with Machine Messiah, because seeing it was only 3:19 min (instead of about 10 min of the original) I just didn't think I would like the end result, but indeed it is a very enjoyable song, with only the instrumental bits of the original, and played in such a heavy way that it sounds awsome; still I would rather have heard the whole song covered, but still this is a very good version, another one of my favourites. Since I've been loving you was another good surprise, I just didn't think they could pull this bluesy song well, but it is magnificently performed (but once againg, though LaBrie sings it just about perfectly, he simply isn't Robert Plant and can't pull the same feeling out). Diary of a Madman is another song I didn't know before, but is another really great heavy song I got to like a lot, another one of my favorites. Cementary Gates for me is the worst song in this album, really annoying singing and playing and all; I didn't know the original before, and out of curiosity I searched it to see how the original sounded, and found that it was actually a rather good song, but Dream Theater just destroyed it with this version. Won't Get Fooled Again is another enjoyable song, though not among my favourites. In the end, 3.5 stars are just right for this album, and I'll round them down to 3.
Report this review (#288009)
Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Who are you...

This official bootleg from Dream Theater was compiled over a two year period and pays tribute to a wide variety of artists including Queen, Black Sabbath, Journey and Pantera. The choice of songs are excellent, however, I find the greatest achievement a cover version can make is to aid the discovery of new bands and new albums. As I was already familiar with 90% of the material here, this crucial element is lost on me.

The performances are generally good, although the live setting means it lacks the consistency of the 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' second disc. I enjoy most of the songs here, but the only two I really find myself coming back to are Heart of the Sunrise, and a fantastic collaboration with Queensr˙che for Won't Get Fooled Again. Overall a decent album, but I really cannot justify giving any cover song collection more than three stars, unless it is truly exceptional and puts a new twist on the material.

The Verdict: Collectors/fans only.

Report this review (#770007)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | Review Permalink

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