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...the history and mystery that is Dream Theater...
on 5 April 2008
Well, with Dream Theater off to pastures new, it was inevitable that a compilation from their old paymasters would appear on the shelves. So welcome to the knowingly titled "Greatest Hit".
That hit, 'Pull Me Under', opens the show with a new remix from Kevin Shirley, one of three new mixes alongside 'Take The Time' and 'Another Day'. For once, a retrospective has been compiled with the approval of the band, and coming off the back of the bands 20th anniversary, it's an excellent reminder of just why Dream Theater have slowly worked their way towards their exalted position at the top of the prog-metal tree. It's certainly unusual nowadays for a band to achieve their level of success without the support of radio or music television, and for a band so revered by, let's call them 'obsessive enthusiasts', they can actually be surprisingly accessible.
Which is why I'm slightly questioning the way that "Greatest Hit" has been presented. Eschewing chronology, the album has been carved up into 'The Dark Side' and 'The Light Side'. CD1, therefore, presents the darker side of Dream Theater, and once you're past the hit, then you're off into an intensive listening experience, taking in some heavy, crushing slabs of music like 'Peruvian Skies', 'Endless Sacrifice' and 'The Root Of All Evil', which demonstrate how you can move through different gears, and still remain heavy. Which is why, if a compilation is also designed to reel in some new listeners, it might not be the best idea to have this CD first.
'The Light Side', conversely, presents the more melodic side to Dream Theater, and you've got to think that this might be the stuff to draw the casual punter into their world. There are some really wonderful moments on this CD that will lull newbies, as Dream Theater display a warmth sometimes missing on 'The Dark Side', where they're busy showing their chops off a bit more. It also has 'Hollow Years', a song that always brings a tear to my jaded eye, as well as truly stunning songs like 'The Spirit Carries On' and ' I Walk Beside You'.
I'm not sure how devotees will take to some of the tracks appearing in edited form as despite 'The Dark Side' being packed to the gunwhales, there's room to play with over on CD2. And I'm sure they would also have appreciated a couple of genuine rarities to sweeten the deal.
However, any compilation is bound to cause dissent as fans debate inclusions and exclusions, and this one will be no different. But it amply demonstrates just what a great band Dream Theater can be.