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Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons CD (album) cover

A CHANGE OF SEASONS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.68 | 663 ratings

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TCat
3 stars Dream Theater's EP 'A Change of Season's' definitely is an EP even though the entire run time is over 57 minutes. The reason for this is there is only the one original track on this EP which runs over 23 minutes, a suite that was originally written for inclusion on the album 'Images and Words', but for some reason, it was left off that album and released this way. The rest of the album, after this suite, is a 'bonus' and contains several covers that were recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in London, England on January 31, 1995. The decision to release this album this way was a strategic one since the real reason for the release was the original suite, but DT didn't want to disappoint fans by releasing a short album or EP (because you know someone was bound to complain, even with the cheaper price point), so the live cover fan club show was added to this album.

Let's start out with concentrating on the suite 'A Change of Seasons'. The basic story line here deals with an individual's experiences leading from birth to death. The suite is made up of 7 subsections, so each one is actually quite short, none of them reaching the 4 minute mark. Starting with the instrumental section 'The Crimson Sunrise' you get a nice electric, but soft introduction involving guitars, piano, keyboards which suddenly erupts into the full band and heaviness halfway through, and the band lives up to it's Progressive Metal style as the section continues. 'Innocence' continues with the heavier sound, but with a noticeable meter and style change as the guitars take hold of a melody and vocals start soon after. The music is a definite progressive sound with a 4 / 4 meter, that gets manipulated and played around with so that it isn't just standard. Soon other meters come in making this more complex and the vocal melody refrains from dropping into any singular theme. 'Carpe Diem' slows things down quite a bit as the rhythm section drops out and we have acoustic guitar and dramatic vocals. The last part of this section works as a vocal build up which intensifies to the next section which is the instrumental 'The Darkest of Winters'. This section is full of ever changing meters and instrumental solos which flawlessly move through tricky rhythm changes and styles, going from heavy to jazz fusion and rapid guitar riffs that approach tech metal riffs with hardly misstep and ending back to a stately theme that moves into the next subsection 'Another World'. When the vocals come in, the rhythm drops out again with only organ accompanying before minimal bass comes in, later accompanied by piano and soft guitar. Things intensify again as in the 'Carpe Diem' section so we end up with a lovely mid- tempo guitar solo and later, emotional vocals. The next subsection is instrumental and called 'The Inevitable Summer' which starts more atmospheric, but continues the moderate tempo from the previous section along with a nice guitar solo that borrows from an almost UK style, that suddenly moves to a fast rhythm and a cool keyboard solo then heavy guitars driven by changing rhythms and broken up meters. We return to the beginning theme from the first section 'The Change of Seasons', this time with vocals following the thematic elements from the beginning of the suite. It all ends as it begins, with soft guitar. This track is one of DT's epic works that many consider one of their best.

The rest of the album is a lot of covers done live as mentioned before. You could end the EP right there, but the band thought it would be nice to add this live fan show. So, this all starts with Elton John's 'Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding', which is Elton's only real progressive track, and it is a 5-star classic. But how does DT fare with it? Well, it is quite faithful to the original, but with more guitar filling in some of the extra keyboards and instruments that Elton has on the original. It's a decent rendition especially for being live, but doesn't add or take away from the original. The next cover is Deep Purple's 'Perfect Strangers'. I like the DP version well enough, but there really isn't anything added here except for a longer guitar solo. Next is a Led Zeppelin medley featuring 'The Rover', 'Achilles Last Stand' and 'The Song Remains the Same' all crushed down to 7 minutes. This is bad. So, so bad. You only get the introductory riff from The Rover and it slips into a shortened introduction to Achilles with some shaky vocals, and you can tell that DT is in too deep with this complex song and besides, you are entering sacred territory here. After a few verses and an attempt at part of the Achilles instrumental, they slip into 'The Song Remains the Same' but the vocals are just out of is range, so they end on that quickly before he tears a larynx or something. The last set of covers is a medley of various classical hits; 'In the Flesh?' by Pink Floyd, 'Carry On Wayward Son' by Kansas, 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' ' by Journey, 'Cruise Control' by Dixie Dregs, and 'Turn it on Again' by Genesis. It's like a Reader's Digest version of condensed 70's rock hits. It's as bad as it sounds.

So now we run into the problem of whether the covers were bonus tracks and don't count towards the final score of the EP, or, since in reality they are part of the whole album and actually take up more time than the suite does. I think you have to listen to it all when you are reviewing and decide if the bonus material adds or takes away from the main feature here, and since this is an original recording, and not one where the bonus covers were added later, then it definitely counts to the overall EP. The suite is great, but by the time you get to the end of all of the covers, you have forgotten about how good the suite was, so it takes away from the EP. Yes, I am saying they would have been better off leaving the covers off of this EP. I'm not a huge fan of DT anyway, but this is one of their better suites, but the covers are not great and sometimes laughable. So with the covers added on, they managed to turn this into a 3 star affair.

TCat | 3/5 |

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