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DREAM THEATER - A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Like clockwork, Dream Theater builds and delivers a massive construct and scribes struggle with new things to say, as would presumably Mike Portnoy, his vague dissatisfaction being confirmed. Of course, there's a dramatic turn, in the departure of Portnoy - he of the rare drummer-leader breed - to be replaced by bubbly, agreeable, gee-whiz wiz Mike Mangini. Did you think it would really make any difference? No, it doesn't, with A Dramatic Turn Of Events featuring so many overpowering, energy-showered performances, he is just a superman where there already was one, whacking the underside of a long-ago raised bar. One abstract I might venture: this is a proggier Dream Theater than usual (both in the heavy and the old school prog "rock" bits), a little more textured, subtly, by Mangini and by Rudess, with James underscoring the creeping delicacy of it by singing like a church boy, no growls. And prog, of course, is characterized by rapid change, life changes loosely being the theme of this album of impassioned, real world lyrics, as evidenced on piano ballad respite 'Far From Heaven' and the superior, orchestrated 'Beneath The Surface', arguably the band's best ballad (Rudess sealing that deal with his eccentric and therefore very human Tormato solo). But then I question the midrangeyness of the production, most of the disappointment being in Mike's toms, snare, bass drum... that don't leave much. Maybe that was the idea, but the muscular expense of say Six Degrees or Train Of Thought... that weirdly ain't here, replaced by a frantic race to the middle, I guess, metal ego put aside for the origami of prog politeness. Final thought for ya: I think with Portnoy gone, LaBrie has come to the fore, A Dramatic Turn Of Events sounding like the best of LaBrie solo, bombarded with rocket attacks from Liquid Tension Experiment, in other words, touching but intriguingly loose, messy, even chaotic or at least not so discussed or planned, just like the lyrics might get across to you about life itself.
STATUS QUO - Quid Pro Quo
An astonishing 44 years on, Quo have worked their way through psych, blues boom blues, a patented and celebrated heavy riff boogie, a sort of sour pop boogie, and now, with the rough framing of the last, say, three records, they've struck a balance between the '80s sound and the '70s sound, or more accurately, they've applied the light touch of the '80s execution and production to songs generally more driving than the material on those forgotten '80s albums. And I'm happy to report, Quid Pro Quo is more "driving" than the last tow. Not so much heavier (although a bit), but more uptempo and rocking, Francis and Rick still, somehow, finding new permutations toward boogieing briskly, like a Ramones with roots, as on 'Frozen Hero', 'Let's Rock' and the almost metal 'Two Way Traffic'. Keeping things interesting, you've got the piano and keyboard work of Andy Bown as well as the two vocalist formula, Rick turning a tune slightly gangland, Francis, almost country. Fourteen varied, but, as I say, generally faster, tracks later, and the guys re-make their own melancholy, Eagles-ish popster 'In The Army'. Under the circumstances, 'Backwater'/'Just Take Me' would have made more Motorheaded sense.
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