Savatage's 'Streets: A Rock Opera' is the last of the recent re-issues series, and the 1991 opus written by Paul O'Neil, Jon Oliva and Criss Oliva has been revised, extended and re-packaged into a very covetable item.
The CD contains the sixteen songs from the original album, with a narration track before each one, and a bonus track of the previously unreleased 'Larry Elbows'. The DVD has nine videos and a further six bonus audio tracks.
I am really partial to a good rock opera. Actually, before we get too far into the review let's talk about this term. It's just so naff isn't it? I mean you have a movie, a novel, but when it comes to a set of songs that tell a story, is that the best we can do? Concept album is just as bad. I haven't got anything better to replace it, but I need to think about this one – as much as I love the subject matter, the term just makes me cringe.
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Anyway, back to 'Streets'. Forget how it is described, it's a quality piece of work from start to finish. From the opening notes of the choir this piece pulls you in. It's so atmospheric and time has enhanced not diminished it; this extended version reveals the true classic it is.
The narration between the tracks gives it coherence and structure and the story of the fall, rise, fall and redemption of main character DT is compelling. The story takes you deep into the shadows.
The narrator's voice is that of Jon Oliva, showing that he is as versatile in his speaking voice as his singing one, and the words overlay the sounds of New York City. These street sounds are genuine on the spot recordings captured in the heart of the city on a portable DAT recorder. The editing of these clips is a masterpiece and if it weren't for the sleeve notes explaining the process it's completely believable to think that these were recorded exactly as heard.
The outstanding vocal talents of Jon Oliva are of course also showcased in the songs themselves. His range and depth and the ability to morph within and between the different characters and moods is a complete delight.
The track 'Jesus Saves' is the only different arrangement from the original recording, although this was the first version recorded and was later reworked into a more Savatage style by Jon and Criss. I'm on the fence about this, they both fit in to the collection well, so it's good to have both versions.
The musicianship and production is also excellent on this album. Even though some of the songs don't advance the story much, it really doesn't matter as the tracks are more than good enough as stand-alones.
The album finishes up with unreleased track 'Larry Elbows', based on an earlier band demo. It's a great rocker to end on, the subject matter has already been covered elsewhere, DT discovering an old friend in the gutter, but musically this is a variation on the other tracks and a good inclusion here.
So after a thoroughly enjoyable listen to the CD, it was on to the DVD, which starts with a chronological run through of the official videos.
A lot of the videos are straight performance style videos, Gutter Ballet being a classic and you can see how this morphed into Streets. The addition of the rocked up version of Jesus Saves means both versions are on this collection.
After all these years it's still good to watch 'Hall Of The Mountain King', with the sneaky dwarf and sad king. I still haven't worked out what it's all about - is the king an earthbound deity who just guards his gold or a dragon in human form? Either way, every time I see it I feel sad that he is stuck inside the mountain; that's no life.
By the time we get to 'Edge Of Thorns', Zachary Stevens has taken over as lead singer. This is a completely different style of video, shot in a forest with alternate sepia and colour, but the saturation of the latter gives it a lovely, dreamy feel; it's really lovely.
'Handful Of Rain' was recorded and filmed in the aftermath of Criss Oliva's death, and it shows. There is real emotion in this track, the 90s grunge style may have been fashionable, but here it fits perfectly and the poignancy is intense.
As with 'Streets', there are extensive sleeve notes to go with the videos which are well worth a read – I never thought that it would possible for New York City to run out of rats!
There are also some bonus audio tracks, including a gorgeous piano only version of 'Sleep', and a couple of tracks from 'Live In Japan'.
Overall this is a quality edition. It is well worth getting for the extended narrated version of 'Streets', the additional songs and videos are a nice touch, and there is enough on this collection to make it attractive to newcomers and established fans.
Streets: A Rock Opera with Narration
2.Narration to 'Jesus' 1:05
3.Jesus Saves (Original Version) 4:49
4.Narration to 'Tonight He Grins Again' 0:18
5.Tonight He Grins Again 3:26
6.Narration to 'Strange Reality' 0:35
7.Strange Reality 4:54
8.Narration to 'A Little Too Far' 0:16
9.A Little Too Far 3:23
10.Narration to 'You're Alive' 0:25
11.You're Alive 1:51
12.Narration to 'Sammy And Tex' 0:17
13.Sammy And Tex 3:06
14.Narration to 'St. Patrick's' 0:42
15.St. Patrick's 4:15
16.Narration to 'Can You Hear Me Now' 0:30
17.Can You Hear Me Now 5:09
18.Narration to 'New York City Don't Mean Nothing' 0:57
19.New York City Don't Mean Nothing 3:59
20.Narration to 'Ghost In The Ruins' 0:21
21.Ghost In The Ruins 5:29
22.Narration to 'If I Go Away' 0:15
23.If I Go Away 5:15
24.Narration to 'Agony And Ecstasy' 0:22
25.Agony And Ecstasy 3:32
26.Narration to 'Heal My Soul' 2:03
27.Heal My Soul 2:33
28.Narration to 'Somewhere In Time 0:37
29.Somewhere In Time 3:15
31. Larry Elbows (previously unreleased)
The Video Collection
1.Hall Of The Mountain King 5:30
2.24 Hrs. Ago 4:52
3.Gutter Ballet 6:10
4.When The Crowds Are Gone 6:16
5.Jesus Saves 3:21
6.Edge Of Thorns 5:25
8.Handful Of Rain 4:28
9.One Child 4:36
1.Sleep (piano version recorded by Jon Olivia in 2011)
2.Stare Into The Sun (Live In Japan, for the first time on CD)
3.Conversation Piece (Live In Japan, for the first time on CD)
4.Voyage (Al Pitrelli acoustic instrumental)