on 25 September 2006
Many of the previous reviews seem to have failed to pick up on the relevance of this album within the context of the 90's, and what a masterwork it truly is. In the UK, prog rock on any grand scale had been more or less dead for a long time, with only neo-prog, which could hardly stand up to the might of the 70's masters (floyd, yes), to easily satisfy though not particularly interested in indie/britpop.
Then Images and Words came out, and it is a masterpiece. In recalling the musical form and style of bands such as Yes and the Dixie Dregs, and combining it with a slightly harsher edge, the album is lively yet subtly beautiful, something that has rarely been achieved elsewhere in my eyes.
As for the musicianship, the Dream Theater boys really do seem like a collective that is second to none. The early 90's were the glory days for singer James LaBrie, who had only just replaced Dream Theater's last singer, who was far less suitable. His vocals soar on this album, and are dynamically stunning, showing great variation on Learning to Live in particular.
John Petrucci is a hero of mine - perhaps the finest guitarist of the last 20 years: Rooted in a mixture of flamenco and metal, his rhythm playing is tight, melodic and intricate (more on this album than any of their others, where he tends to just go over the top) -unlike many guitarists who overshadow their fellow bandmates, Petrucci knows how to accompany other musicians, and is a great example to all guitarists. The solo on Under a Glass Moon is perhaps the best I have ever heard - though Take the Time, as suggested by another reviewer, ain't half bad.
Which leads on to Kevin Moore. Dream Theater have gone on to have many keyboardists, all of whom are very capable, but Kevin Moore seems to me to be the most heart felt, and only appears on the early albums. His keyboard work here is superb, giving the album a fine progressive finish, with some wonderfully memorable solos and backing - often breaking into unison with petrucci for an interestingly celtic feel.
The rhythm section, Mike Portnoy on drums and John Myung on Bass are indeed excellent. Portnoy has a signature sound, with very strong and intense bass drum rolls combined with syncronised snare drumming (at the start of Take the Time his bass drum is synced with Myung's playing, and his snare with Petrucci's - in different rhythms!). A truly great musician. As for Myung, he is a rather shy legend, who holds the whole thing together, and occasionaly takes centre stage for some nifty virtuoso playing, similar to Dave LaRue of the Dixie Dregs.
To appreciate the album to the fullest, you simply need a reasonable sound system - complaints about Moore's keyboards being too loud are simply unfounded: This is progressive music, in which all instruments have a sense of balance, not Extreme or Van Halen, in which only the drummer, vocalist and guitarist are audible. Moore is there to be heard. Myung is easily heard with half decent speakers I promise.
If you are going to buy any album soon, make it this one. It is a lengthy masterpiece, that does not get dull - only after a few listens do you realise it is a concept album! I bought Awake and was disappointed with it after hearing this. Take the Time, Pull me under, Under a Glass moon, Metropolis, Learning to Live - all masterpieces, and the other 3 tracks are amazing too :).
Perhaps the best album of the 90's!