A VIEW FROM THE TOP
OF THE WORLD
Sony Music International Japan
For the last few months, Dream Theatre have been releasing their series of Lost Not Forgotten albums, live recordings from their archives which in the absence of a new studio album, most welcome. It has been two years and eight months since Distance Over Time was released, an album that saw them dump the epic concept of2016’s The Astonishing - what many reviewers called their Tales From Topographic Oceans moment – in favour of a return to a more accessible set of songs. Distance Over Time not only re-established Dream Theatre as the band their fans preferred, it also won them many new ones.
I’ll dive into the audio first. A View From The Top Of The World is their second for Sony in Japan; it’s also their first to be mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap, a man who has established himself as one the best in the Metal business when it comes to polishing a recording and he has made a significant contribution to the sonics. The guitars are crisp and they bite, the keyboards float and tinkle, the bass punches and the drums crack through the middle with plenty of spatial toms and percussion. Is it heavier? Yes, a little bit but not so much as to change their genre from Prog-Metal to Metal-Prog. Rest assured fans, Mr Sneap has added much and taken away nothing.
Seven tracks, seventy minutes, the last twenty of those for the title track and also the last in the running order. Before we get there though, we have fifty minutes of pure Dream Theater and if you like the off-beat drums, the staccato guitars and odd-ball riffs, you are in for a treat because this album is loaded down with them. By the time you get to the last track, you are wondering what they can do but A View From The Top Of The World truly is epic in every way and perfectly paced. Personally, I think it’s their best song over ten minutes.
The release comes in several formats and Sony Japan have gone top town on this release with not only the usual translated lyrics and liner notes booklet a BSCD2 mastering coupled with a 5.1 Surround Mix on a separate disc which also includes the documentary titled ‘Digging For A Spark - A View From Inside DTHQ’ with Japanese subtitles. Get into Tower Records early for a free limited edition Clear File or other participating stores for jacket post card, both are which are lovely but even if you miss those, the music is still worth buying.
Summing up, on this release, Dream Theater have managed to follow up the highly praised Distance Over Time by combining that and their earlier work. Adding in Andy Sneap was a masterstroke and they have come up with an album which will not only secure their place in the Prog-Metal world but also give them unlimited roads to explore in the future.
Answering The Call
Awaken The Master
A View From The Top Of The World
Sony Music International Japan
When it comes to Christmas albums, there are a limited choice of songs to choose from. At a rough guess I would say there are about forty great, instantly recognisable standards and twenty modern ones that have stood the test of time so there is a good chance that the songs you choose have been covered at least fifty times before by various artists over the years. A good case in point being Frosty The Snowman – the opening track on this album - which has been recorded some 400+ times since Gene Autry first recorded it in 1950 so the question is, how do you re-present something that is so familiar? Answer: Give it to Paul Gilbert and let his imagination run wild.
Quite simply, you’ve never heard a Christmas album like this one. Paul has not simply covered these songs, he has taken them apart, added a few bits and embellished the whole thing with his own flourishes. Pretty much what you would expect from Mr Gilbert then and he has done it with aplomb. The melodies have been retained but they have been incorporated into a variety of styles not just per track but sometimes within each song itself and the real beauty of the arrangements is that they sound like a jam; nothing seems too worked out or polished giving it a very casual feeling.
There are ten covers, all standards and three originals written by Paul, the latter of the three being the bonus track for the Japanese edition. The other two are placed plum centre of the album and they do fit very well with the tone of the songs that surround them. Very Christmasy in fact and whilst the bonus track is a Blues and could really be of any theme, it does showcase what a great feel for the Blues Paul has. I should also take a moment to point out that his band on this album are firing on all six, nice one lads.
Christmas albums are of course seasonal and they are usually released, bought, played and shelved away all within a space of two months. For those two months though, if the album is good, it can enhance the spirit of Yuletide and us Rock lovers have been rather starved of good ones to play but given Rob Halford’s and Rick Wakeman’s, both in 2019, our libraries are steadily growing and this one from Paul is a worthy addition that I suspect will be played a little more and a little longer than the average one. It certainly will be in my home as it will be at Christmas 2022, 2023, 2024…
1. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
2. Frosty the Snowman
3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
4. The Christmas Song
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
6. I Saw Three Ships
7. Every Christmas Has Love (original)
8. Three Strings for Christmas (original)
9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
10. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
11. Silver Bells
12. Winter Wonderland
13. Down The Chimney Blues (original)*
*Bonus track on Japanese edition