Reviewed: January, 2022
Published: 2020, Sonic Bond Publishing
Back in October of 2019 I had the pleasure of reading a book by John Tucker from the On Track Series called Judas Priest:Every Album, Every Song. It was (at the time) a relatively new series of publications by SonicBond Publishing. The idea is that an author, an expert in a band will write a song-by-song analysis of that bands catalogue.
In that review of the Judas Priest entry, my concluding sentence was, “ I have no doubt that the ‘On Track..’ series will continue to grow and hopefully publish more metal content.” I’m very pleased to announce that my prediction came true and we have a great new slate of books to review. Courtesy of the good people at Sonic Bond I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing titles about Dream Theater, Iron Maiden and UFO. Please feel free read all my reviews in this mini-review series.
There are quite a few of these ‘song-by-song type books. There are at least three publishing houses that have series that employ this type of format. All of the titles are great in their own but I can’t help but feel that most of them go for the low-hanging fruit, namely the biggest bands that people want to read about. That’s what sells and the publisher cannot be faulted for that, nor the uber-fans who want to write about their favourite bands. Accordingly, we get books about the usual subjects, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and so forth.
That is why I was quite pleased that Jordan Blum wrote about Dream Theater. While still very popular, very few books have been written about the band. I’m not positive but, if you exclude the dozens of guitar tab books, this might be only the second book written about the band. The first being the bands own biography, LIFTING SHADOWS which came out in 2007 and has been updated at least a couple of times. I reviewed that back in 2010 in case you are interested.
I learned a ton of material about the band. I consider myself a fan, I own all the albums but I’m not obsessive about them. That fact combined with the fact that Dream Theater have not been written about extensively, I learned so much about this band thanks to Blum. Blum is well known in Prog and pop culture circles and he does a fine job. Keeping in the theme of the ‘On Track series’ Blum, after a short introduction takes from the beginning album by album. His is opinionated, and even makes a ranking best to worst in an appendix, but not oppressively so. I feel that his thoughts are generally in line with most fans, although has a ‘Metal’ guy who discovered the band early on I felt that WHEN DAY AND DREAM UNITE could have got some more love.
Each song is loaded with facts about construction, lyrics and assorted trivia. There is stuff in the songs I have never heard but am keen to go back and listen to again with renewed appreciation. That is a feat in itself because, for example when I read the Iron Maiden song-by song book (also reviewed this month) I did not need or want to go back and listen to ‘Number of Beast’ for the one-billionth time. I found myself on many occasions reading Blum’s comments thinking to myself, I have to go back and re-listen to that song!” If that is point of this series, mission accomplished!
Dream Theater is a musician’s band and I was worried that Blum might dissect each song with an eye to musical theory but that is not the case. He keeps it simple so laypeople like me can understand without having to rush to the dictionary to look up what an augmented fifth is or what paradiddle means. Blum uses many adjectives almost too many at times, but his enthusiasm shines through. For example on p. 17 when referring to a song called ‘Take The Time’ from IMAGES AND WORDS he says, “In a way the trippy lavishness of it’s first measures foreshadows Metropolis Part 1, with chaotic guitar licks steering jackhammer syncopation and hostile synths.” The whole book is loaded with lines like that! On the edge of that line of thinking, he does lean a bit into hyperbole at times calling certain songs ‘miraculous’ but in the case of Dream Theater the hyperbole is probably deserved. For the record the book stops at DISTANCE OVER TIME but has many nice bonus features about videos and live albums and so on.
DREAM THEATER;EVERY ALBUM EVERY SONG jumped to a very high place in my rankings of song-by-song books due to the fact that it has not been covered ad nasuem. The fact that Blum did such a good job only adds to the value of this book. A welcome addition to any prog-heads library!