Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
This, fourth solo album from Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie sees the Canadian vocalist in more of a mellow mood than previous outings or anything from his day job.
Whilst others may just seem to replicate what they’re best known for, the singer here dips into other, less well travelled paths and the results are a worthy addition to any follower of his career.
Stripping back the technical wizardry and heavy-duty riffing, ‘Beautiful Shade of Grey’ still rocks but in a more gentile manner more befitting bands like Styx who dominated the American radio airwaves in the 80’s.
Opener ‘Devil In Drag’ goes back further than this, its structure very rooted in the seventies and sounding like the lovechild of Yes and Supertramp as elements of both bands very English Prog Rock filter through.
So far, so gloriously Pompy.
Things take a bit of a dip with ‘Supernova Girl’, as light as candyfloss and just as filling but fortunately, the album picks up with the Spanish siesta feel of ‘Give and Take’ which features some sparkling acoustic fretwork by Marco Sfogli.
This feel is continued nicely on ‘Sunset Rain’, another lush and chilled out track that sees LaBrie and his ensemble caressing the senses once again, the feel of a sunny warmth radiating from the speakers.
‘Hit Me Like A Brick’ is layered with keys by Christian Pulkinnen and, again, appeals to those in love with Styx and Yes, the soft rock pomp solidly at play. Generally, the album thus far seems more something to put on whilst in a mellow mood, the music washing over the senses but never really firing the synapses, but to be honest that’s one of its strengths as it creeps up and captures you with its delicate whispers.
The sun continues to shine on the feelgood ‘Wildflower’, its harmonies and upbeat feel wonderfully evocative and the following ‘Conscience Calling’ is a short, acapella wonder. ‘What I Missed’ and ‘Am I Right’ see the singer in pensive form, his vocals more plaintive and the production adds a slow building kaleidoscope of lush pastel shades.
LaBrie’s drummer son Chance and bass player Paul Logue get their chance to really shine in the albums take on Led Zeppelin’s ‘Ramble On’, their sensitive playing lifting what could have been so easily ham-fisted but has turned out as an offkilter choice that looks at the classic through a different, more subtle lens. The closing ‘Devil In Drag (Electric Version)’ kicks up more dust than the rest of the album put together, rocking out but not in a teeth rattling, flesh stripping way but on a buzz.
Overall, ‘Beautiful Shades of Grey’ is a good album, if not a great one and something that nicely bridges the gap between the old fans and new of the singer. Whether its vintage composition will appeal to a wide audience is arguable, but you can have no doubt that LaBrie has made the album he wanted to and this, less visceral, side to his creativity is one that certainly has its very own merits.
The full track-listing is as follows:
- Devil In Drag
- SuperNova Girl
- Give And Take
- Sunset Ruin
- Hit Me Like A Brick
- Conscience Calling
- What I Missed
- Am I Right
- Ramble On
- Devil In Drag (Electric Version)
Look out for more information in the coming months!
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