Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ghost In The Ruins

Savatage followed up "Gutter Ballet" by taking the theatrical element one step further. "Streets (A Rock Opera)" is a concept album based on a play producer Paul O'Neill wrote. It's about a man named DT Jesus, a low life on the streets of New York who rises to rock star fame and falls, then rises again ... and so on.

This is the first (of what would become a staple for Savatage) concept album by the band and an album of controversy. I believe this is a highly under-rated album, but it garnered a lot of debate amongst fans. After a supporting tour for "Streets" founding member and front man Jon Oliva left the band (sort of, more on that later).

"Streets" is one of the first Savatage albums I bought and is one of my favourites. It has a sentimental appeal for me as well as including the song that would become my all time favourite tune. My one complaint of this album is the weaker production quality. Where "Gutter Ballet" was full and thick, "Streets" seems convoluted and thin. Perhaps it's the layers of instrumentation and what not, but the guitars lack a certain bite.

"Streets" starts off with the haunting and dark title track which opens the album with a bleak and eerie atmosphere. "Jesus Saves" is where the story begins. After a short dialogue "Jesus Saves" kicks in with an upbeat metal narrative with some killer solos.

"Tonight He Grins Again" continues the haunting, dark atmosphere as does "Ghost In The Ruins" later on in the album. "Strange Reality" is a darker tune with cool riffs and "Can You Hear Me Now"s dark rock atmosphere is broken with a great breakdown.

The theatrical feel is brought forth with songs like the upbeat and thankful "You're Alive" as well as the passionately pleading "St. Patrick's". A powerfully poignant song and one of the stand-out tracks here.

"If I Go Away" and "Somewhere In Time" bring it home with heartfelt and moving melodies and a narrative theatrical quality. "A Little Too Far" is a piano piece that is raw and passionate in its simplicity. A sweetly sombre tune. "Heal My Soul" based on a Welsh lullaby called "Suo Gan" is an uplifting piano piece, raw and hopeful. Jon Oliva shines on these simple pieces.

"Streets" is a rock opera and it doesn't water anything down. "Sammy And Tex" is a fast and heavy tune whose vivid storytelling of Sammy and DT Jesus' fight makes anything from West Side Story seem wussy. Killer guitar work by Chriss Oliva. "Agony & Ecstasy" is similar in style, but has a more aggressive edge a darker sound. And "New York City Don't Mean Nothing"s acoustic opening is pummelled by a thumping rock rhythm that sees the song through.

As I mentioned, "Streets" has the greatest song ever written on it and that song "Believe" closes the album as it should. "Believe" is a heart-wrenching plea with beautiful piano work and powerful vocals by Jon Oliva. Its inspiring lyrics are strengthened by Criss Oliva's brilliant guitar work and has the greatest guitar solo Chriss ever performed. It is a powerful song that moves me every time I listen to it. And I listen to it a lot.

"Streets" takes a well worn concept and gives it a shot of passion and conviction. There are no bad songs here. No filler, just brilliant rock songs with a theatrical theme.

Up next is Savatage's "Edge Of Thorns".


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