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Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)

  by Paul Raven

published: 19 / 4 / 2008

Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)
Label: Warner Bros
Format: CD


Flamboyant and bombastic, but thoroughly enjoyable retrospective collection from New York-based group and guilty pleasure Dream Theater which will appeal to all fans of epic rock

I have a guilty secret - I quite like Dream Theater. It's not that I'm ashamed of it so much as that it tends to surprise people when I admit it. “But they're really cheesy compared to most of what you listen to,” they'll say, and they're quite correct. What can I say; Dream Theater are cheesy. But they're very very good at being cheesy. If you've listened to any of their music already you'll know what I mean. In case you haven't, Dream Theater are one of those rare independent successes that should give hope to any musician who refuses to compromise their art for the sake of easy marketing brackets. Two decades of playing epic progressive heavy metal - caught in the symphonic territories between the old-fashioned orcs-and-wizards stuff and the more moody modern incarnations - has seen Dream Theater tour the stadia of the world without ever really becoming a household name. Sprawling musical epics powered by extreme musical virtuosity is a select taste, it seems, but a taste that can evidently keep a band in business at a global scale. For this career retrospective, Dream Theater have taken a different approach to the tried-and-tested vanilla of the chronological running order. Instead, Greatest Hit is split into two discs, the 'Dark Side' and 'Light Side', the titles referring to the musical character of the contents. Such descriptions are, of course, relative. While the Dark Side contains the more moody and heavy parts of Dream Theater's output, it's not the sort of stuff that inspires troubled Scandinavian teens to burn down the village church. It might inspire them to stay at home and practice their diminished Mixolydian scales another twenty times before bedtime, however, because alongside the power chords and high clear vocals are lavish helpings of fretboard wizardry. We're talking the 128-bar solo sort of stuff here, and it's a mark of Dream Theater's incredible musical skills that the solos not only fit into the songs but actually add depth to them. It's this side of Dream Theater I really enjoy. Make no mistake, it's utterly flamboyant and bombastic, and the subject matter of their songs wanders between pedestrian rock clichés and cod spiritualism ... but good grief, they really know how to put a tune together. These guys don't write, they compose – so even the beefed-up hair metal of 'Lie', the post-Queensryche rock opera sprawl of 'The Test That Stumped Them All' and the ludicrously overblown 'Endless Sacrifice' are full of things to pay attention to. Even at the smallest level of detail, everything has been crafted to the n-th degree. For me at least, the Light Side disc shows up all the bits about Dream Theater that I find myself liking them in spite of – watered-down rock stylings, plus hackneyed and wimpy lyrics and imagery that wouldn't be entirely out of place on daytime radio, if daytime radio ever played ten-minute-long prog rock tunes. 'The Spirit Carries On' is as lyrically cringeworthy as the title suggests, for example, and when you get all the tracks with a similar character bunched together like this it becomes hard to focus on the musicianship through the haze of schmaltz. But the musicianship is still awesome, even on this lighter and more thoughtful material, and there are a few tunes that transcend the style - 'Solitary Shell' is an examination of childhood introspection which is touching but not cloying. So, who should buy Greatest Hit? Established Dream Theater fans, obviously (even though they'll doubtless have all the albums already, plus every tune included here in seven different bootlegged live versions). But also anyone with a love of epic musicianship, secret or otherwise. After all, if anyone catches you listening to it on your iPod, you can just say you're trying to crib some new scales.

Track Listing:-
1 Pull Me Under (2007 Remix)
2 Take the Time (2007 Remix)
3 Lie
4 Peruvian Skies
5 Scene Six: Home
6 Misunderstood
7 The Test That Stumped Them All
8 As I Am
9 Endless Sacrifice
10 The Root of All Evil
11 Sacrificed Sons
12 Another Day (2007 Remix)
13 To Live Forever
14 Lifting Shadows Off a Dream
15 The Silent Man (2007 Remaster)
16 Hollow Years
17 Scene Five: Through Her Eyes
18 Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
19 Solitary Shell
20 I Walk Beside You
21 The Answer Lies Within
22 Disappear

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