Thursday, June 18, 2009

Song Review: Dream Theater Covering Queen

I've now listened to Black Clouds & Silver Linings once through, which means that I'm nowhere near ready to give my thoughts on it. However, I do have some thoughts on the cover of the "Tenement Funster/Flick of the Wrist/Lily of the Valley" medley: I finally understand why people think that Dream Theater's covers are so soulless.

You see, Queen was my favorite band from around the time Wayne's World came out. I spent far more of my adolescence listening to A Night at the Opera, Sheer Heart Attack, A Day at the Races, and News of the World than I did pretty much anything else. I wanted to be able to sing like Freddy Mercury; I wanted to find a gigantic copy of the cover of Queen II and put it up on my wall; and I definitely gave Queen's music enough ear time that a lot of it became ingrained on a subconscious level.

When I listen to the original "Tenement Funster," I hear the essence of rock music: musicianship that's loose without being sloppy, a vocal line that sprouts sex appeal and attitude. When I listen to "Lily of the Valley," I hear one of Brian May and Freddie Mercury's most beautiful collaborations, a song that builds from a fragile beginning to a gorgeous bloom that crescendos with one of the best examples of Queen's multitracking vocal experiments. The Dream Theater covers seem pale in comparison, faithfully rendering the material without being able to execute the idiom that made the originals so powerful. As the song closest to a metal track, "Flick of the Wrist" is the best showing (which might be more indicative of either the limitations of the band's abilities as a cover band or their stylistic choices when arranging covers than anything else), but overall these recordings sound like Dream Theater covering Queen - if Queen sounded like Dream Theater.

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