James LaBrie – Elements of Persuasion

Reviewed: April 2005
Released: 2005, Insideout Music
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Rick

Listening to an album for the pure enjoyment is an anomaly for me these days. It is usually in the context of a doing a review that a CD ends up in my CD player. Sometimes this leads to discovering a CD that I probably would never have listened to otherwise. James LaBrie falls into this category. Though I am a Dream Theater, for some reason his solo work had eluded me. The first Mullmuzzler disc didn’t cross my desk and unfortunately I didn’t hunt it down. My taste for LaBrie’s solo work changed when MULLMUZZLER 2 was dropped in my lap a couple of years ago. The scope of the work surprised me as LaBrie didn’t stick to the tried and true Dream Theater formula. He spread his wings, so to speak. With ELEMENTS OF PERSUASION LaBrie has dropped the Mullmuzzler moniker to finally showcase the material under his own name.

The music on the disc is as wide ranging as anything on the Mullmuzzler discs but LaBrie has moved in a heavier direction. This has been aided by the addition of 24 year old Italian axeman Marco Sfogli. to compliment returning cohorts Matt Guillory, Mike Mangini and Bryan Beller. The heavier direction is immediately apparent on the opening track “Crucify”. This track sets a high standard for the rest of the CD as the band almost thrashes through most of the song with Sfogli absolutely shredding. Not bad for a 24 year old. “Smashed” takes the aggression level down a notch as LaBrie and company deliver one of the discs more atmospheric moments but not surprisingly one of its best. LaBrie is also not afraid to tackle more socially conscious topics as heard on “Freak”. The subjest matter is derived from LaBries’ travels to different cities of the world and his experience with the homeless people he has seen. The song looks at life through the eyes of a man who has left his family and now lives of the streets because he has nowhere else to go. People look at him and something less that human but forget that he was once just like them. He had a wife, kids and responsibilities. Now he has nothing. One of the albums better and more interesting tracks is the story of an undercover agent who sets out to infiltrate a mob family. “In Too Deep” tells the story of the agent who joins this mob family but is eventually discovered and buried alive with only a tube to allow oxygen to get to him. He has plenty of time to wonder about why he is abandoned by the government and his friends while wondering when his air will be cut off and he suffocates.

LaBrie and writing partner Matt Guillory have come up with the strongest CD of LaBrie’s solo career. While trying to become heavier they have not forgotten that heaviness is not everything. There is room for Labrie to showcase his vocal talents and create some music that is a bit different than what he does with Dream Theater. The album will persuade a lot of people that James LaBrie is a solo artist not the be underestimated.


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Track Listing:
1. Crucify
2. Alone
3. Freak
4. Invisible
5. Lost
6. Undecided
7. Smashed
8. Pretender
9. Slightly Out Of Reach
10. Oblivious
11. In Too Deep
12. Drained

James LaBrie: Vocals
Marco Sfogli: guitar
Matt Guillory: keyboard
Mike Mangini: drums
Bryan Beller: bass