My first DREAM THEATER record... A very special moment I must say! These Progressive gods have redefined the whole Progressive genre and their music is like no other band!
This album consist of one track that was written all the way back in 1989 and was meant to be included with "Images And Words". Because of delays and other problems they didn't make it time and had to record it years later, in 1995 that is. So besides this first track, "A Change Of Seasons" we also get 5 tracks from their live performance at "Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club" in London. All of the latter aren't originally recorded by DREAM THEATER but by other renowned artists like QUEEN and LED ZEPPELIN.
The album kicks of with the monster track "A Change Of Season", running at more then 23 minutes! One could almost write a review of this track alone. It is made up by multiple parts all beautifully intertwined with each other. After the acoustic intro there are a couple of heavier riffs accompanied by nice keyboards, pianos and overall futuristic sounds. At certain point there are tempo changes that keeps the song very interesting. James LaBrie's vocals fit very well with the music. He can sound very peaceful and calm as well as irritated and furious. The whole song continues in this style, calm and fast parts, heavy and harmonic guitars, fantastic drumming and keyboards that sometimes are in the background and at other times the main instrument. Sometimes it can sound a bit chaotic but never for long, definitely keeps you focussed!
In conclusion; an amazing song with great musicianship that despites its length never bores!
Onto the other songs then... The second track is two songs in a row, originally recorded by Elton John. This sounds a bit less heavy, because, of course, it wasn't originally a Metal song. Still very nice, good melodic guitar riffs and very upbeat keyboards, so upbeat that it really makes you happy! Still, can't measure up to "A Change Of Seasons". "Perfect Strangers" is originally written by DEEP PURPLE. Another good song, in which you can clearly hear the DEEP PURPLE roots. Has a superb guitar solo!
Up next is a LED ZEPPELIN cover. "The Rover/Achilles Last Stand/The Song Remains The Same" is a nice song. I think it's a bit messy sometimes although there are some excellent guitars and great bass play. Again, great solo's which I'm beginning to get addicted to.
The album ends with a big medley, aptly called "The Big Medley". It contains covers of PINK FLOYD, QUEEN and others. Because a lot of the covered bands are already legendary one shouldn't expect that DREAM THEATER better them, which isn't the fact too in my opinion.
The song isn't bad at all but the original versions are hard to beat. And DREAM THEATER is just better at their own material!
In conclusion, this album is perfect for what it was meant for, to fill the gap for a new DREAM THEATER record, it contains one killer song, "A Change Of Seasons" and great covers by renowned artists, however all of them can't measure up to the opener, despite the wonderful musicianship.
One other thing that should be mentioned is the great production, top notch, even the live songs! (Online October 8, 2003)