Let me say right from the start that this is my favorite album of all time, so there will be no holds barred in this review. I'm a man on a mission, and that is to explain to you exactly why I think this album deserves to be labeled a timeless masterpiece.
Streets was released in 1991 and as you probably gathered from the title, this is a concept album. The story deals with D.T. Jesus and his life as a musician through his rise and fall due to his use of drugs. The story has been said to be an autobiography of Jon Oliva's life in some parts and I'm pretty sure that some of the emotions on display could only come from someone who has experienced it in some way. The story is based on a book by their producer Paul O'neil, but Jon wrote the lyrics to many of the songs himself. The story is very spiritual in it's message and I'm sure everyone will feel something after listening to the whole thing.
For me the emotional impact of this album is unmatched. Jon Oliva sings straight from the heart and he is beautifully accompanied by the other instruments. Especially the guitar playing of Criss Oliva is beyond anything I've ever heard. The story and the music fit each other perfectly and the music is able to convey the emotions of the main character with so much power.
The production of the album is another highlight with every instrument being perfectly balanced. In some songs both speakers are used to the full extent with some instruments only playing in one speaker while Jon sings in the other one. The lead guitar really has a sound of it's own. I can't describe it in any other way but say that it has a "streets" feel to it. Like sirens screaming in the dead of night.
If you want to discover this gem for yourself then go right to the bottom for the conclusion now. I feel the need to guide you through the album and let you know what I think of every song.
The album starts out with the soothing voices of a children choir, which sets the mood perfectly. Jon Oliva's keyboard gently eases in with the main melody of the song before he starts singing with a voice that rips through the night. There is something menacing about the voice of Jon Oliva here. Already you'll notice the always present guitar of Criss Oliva playing different things in the background and making the song even more interesting. This is a song that has to be heard several times before it sinks in. Excellent solos and the rhythm guitar lays a effective background. A perfect mood setter.
Now we're set for the main story. Jon Oliva becomes his alter ego "The Bum", who starts telling the story of D.T. Jesus...
tells the story of D.T. rising to be a famous musician. Oh man, this one has one of my alltime favorite riffs. Monster heavy guitar playing on display. What a way to start a song. The alternate version of this song found on "From the gutter to the stage" is very different, but great too. The power of this one blows it away though. Good thing they went with that. Criss plays some excellent solos here.
Tonight he grins again
is one of my favorites of the album. D.T. is confused and back on the streets where he stays for the remainder of the album. This is a very melancholic song where Jon gives it his everything. Just listen him sing a line like "The lost in search of his own"
. The song is lifted even higher by the nice drive and beautiful melodies of the guitar. Just listening to the always changing guitar of this song is something special. The emotional singing by Jon Oliva make this song fly straight through the heart.
Ohh here comes another brilliant riff. Strange reality
has a drive that makes it something special. One of the heaviest song on the album. I love the guitar solos right before the song starts fading out. Nobody has ever done this better than Criss...
A Jon Oliva solo performance is in store for the next track, A little too far
. This is a very emotional song carried by the voice of the mountain king himself and his piano. Jon uses his voice in ways I've never heard before and here he works magic. One word: Beautiful.
is a short song that tells the story of D.T.'s short comeback. It has a happy up beat feel to it.
Sammy and Tex
actually gave me a shock the first time I heard it. I still remember it. Jon's voice is mixed right in front of the sound here and listening to this one really loud makes it seem like he is standing right next to you screaming in your left ear...There is a nice stereo effect in some parts of the song which you will no doubt discover by yourself...Great guitar melodies here. A heavy, fast and guitar driven energy attack.
is another of my favorites which I hold very close. The lyrics are very well written. Here D.T. is having a monologue with God. Asking questions and getting no answer. Jon once again sings like an angel. Just listen to his voice in the verses. A line like "Surely you must care"
gives me the chills every time I hear Jon sing it. The bridge of this song blows my mind. The guitar solos here bring even more emotion to the song.
Can you hear me now
. Deep pounding drums break the silky voice of the acoustic guitar. The menacing feeling is back in Jon's voice and that helps give the song a special atmosphere. Another song with a truly killer guitar solo part. I've got one word for this: Excellent.
New York City don't mean nothing
starts out like a heavenly ballad with Jon Oliva accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Damn, I love his voice. I'm amazed by the emotion he is able to express. Then, at the turn of a coin his voice changes and becomes this gritty powerful menacing voice of power but still with the emotion intact. How he does this is beyond me. The song takes a turn and becomes a powerful beast with excellent solos once again before making a quiet exit.
Ghost in the ruins
is ruled by the guitar of Criss Oliva. There is not one moment where he isn't playing some kind of melody. I feel it's almost an offense to try and describe his playing in words because no words can do him justice... He just has to be heard.
If I go away
is a song that's very close to my heart. For one thing it has one of the best piano melodies I have ever heard. Right from the start this song makes an impact. It conveys a kind of an isolated feeling before the voice of Mr. Oliva takes over. The way the guitar plays along to the melody of Jon's voice has to be heard. Especially during the chorus it helps the song soar towards music heaven. The whole song gives me the chills even after 11 years... The voice of Jon Oliva once again brings unimagined emotion to a song and for me this is the emotional highlight of the album. The way he sings lines like "The ghost within your eyes"
, "Searching for the call I can't hear"
and "Forever is a long time they say"
is god like... Everything fit's like a hand in the perfect glove. Even taken out of context this song works. There are some songs I'll never forget the lyrics to and this is one of them. (Along with every Beatles song :)) This one goes straight through the heart.
Agony and ecstasy
brings the power right back in your face in the form of heavy guitars, great drums and another vocal performance with that menacing feel to it. This is a song that rips through the speakers. Once again I'm amazed by all those little guitar touches that rule this song and never lets it be a standard straight ahead thing. Check out those solos. Wow!
Heal my soul
is the Savatage
version of an old Welsh hymn. I don't know who originally wrote it, but I have heard versions by Nana Mouskouri and Charlotte
Church. Jon does a beautiful performance and puts you in a relaxing state of mind before the final conclusion to the story.
Somewhere in time
is a brilliant song. "I've been changing, redefining"
Oh, I wish I could sing like this. It is truly a song that brings out emotions. The powerful ending to the song is one of a kind. It brings back memories of You're alive
but with so much more power.
The album is finished off by one of the finest songs ever written, Believe
. This song ties the concept of the album together and makes the ultimate conclusion. Never give up, there is always hope! And that is also what this song is capable of bringing. "Your childhood eyes were so intense"
is a pure magic music history moment. The guitar playing in this song is amazing and especially in the last part it carries the song the final step into music heaven where Criss must surely reign...
Parts of Believe are similar to "When the crowds are gone"
from Gutter Ballet. In fact some of the songs on Gutter Ballet were written for the Streets album but they were used Gutter Ballet instead. I've read that Streets originally was supposed to be a double album with 19 tracks and spoken parts in between each track. The record company didn't like that so the cd was cut down to 12 tracks and the rest were never used. Some extra songs from the Streets recording sessions have popped up on various Savatage
releases as bonus tracks and on the Internet (Desiree, Stay and Larry Elbow).
You've probably noticed by now that I love this piece of music. From the first moment I heard it in 1991 on the imported tape I'd bought, I knew this was a music experience that I would come to treasure through many years. To me this is a timeless piece of music history. If you've never heard it before, do yourself a favor and take a listen to this album. It only gets better through time. I would love to hear your thoughts on this album as well.
This is music that will never grow old. A timeless masterpiece that everyone should have the pleasure to experience. The powerful message it brings will stay in my heart forever and this is one of the albums I live by.
Written by Steen
Sunday, September 1, 2002Show all reviews by SteenRatingsSteen: 10/10
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