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James LaBrie – Beautiful Shades of Grey

James LaBrie
Beautiful Shades of Grey
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 06 May 2022, 3:08 AM

James LaBrie, known internationally as the vocalist for Progressive Metal icons DREAM THEATER, embarks on uncharted waters with his fourth solo album, titled “Beautiful Shade of Grey.” The new endeavor sees him traverse personal maturation, loss, a myriad of complex relationships, and most importantly – LaBrie’s burning passion for music. On paper, the latest studio offering from the Canadian singer first took shape shortly after the global pandemic began to emerge. But in reality, LaBrie formed a bond with his fellow collaborator, bassist Paul Logue, nearly a decade earlier. The new album contains ten tracks, with his son Chance taking his turn on the kit.

“Devil in Drag” leads off the album. It opens with keys and clean guitars. That main riff swings with melody, and LaBrie never sounded better. It’s a far cry from the Progressive mastery of DREAM THEATER, but it’s a catchy offering. “SuperNova Girl” is another acoustical offering with smooth vocals and some positive tones. The harmonies in the chorus are deeply layered. “Give and Take” is a darker number that also features acoustic guitars. Bass guitar thumps along in mostly sad song, with poignant vocals. You can feel the skies above turning grey as hope begins to exit the room.

“Sunset Ruin” begins with strings and note of depression. The message is positive, urging you to keep going despite your life circumstances. “Hit Me Like a Brick” is the fifth acoustical offering on the album, and I am sensing a theme here. The harmonies in the chorus are perhaps the best part of the song, yet these introspective offerings are pretty straightforward. “Wildflower” opens with acoustical guitars in thick layers. The sound is both sad and beautiful at the same time, and they keyboards add some nice melodies to the song. Sing along…this one is catchy and pretty. “What I Missed” begins with piano notes and more melancholy vocals. I have to comment that this album is pretty mellow. Based on his past solo work, I expected a heavier affair.

“Am I Right” opens with more acoustic guitars. LaBrie builds beautiful melodies here, one thing that translates well from DREAM THEATER. He still has that “X” factor, even after 30+ years of being a musician. This is probably the best song on the album. “Ramble On” is of course a LED ZEPPELIN cover, and I like his interpretation because it follows the original very well. Chance must have had a blast on the kit here. Overall, I enjoyed the album, even though strong melancholy tones were threaded throughout it. As I mentioned above, based on his past solo works, I was expecting a much heavier affair, but this was a pleasantly pleasing affair with a lot of memorable melodies.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Devil in Drag
2. SuperNova Girl
3. Give and Take
4. Sunset Ruin
5. Hit Me Like a Brick
6. Wildflower
7. Conscience Calling
8. What I Missed
9. Am I Right
10. Ramble On
Lineup:
James LaBrie – Lead & Backing Vocals
Paul Logue – Acoustic Guitars & Bass
Chance LaBrie – Drums & Percussion
Christian “Chrism” Pulkkinen – Keyboards
Marco Sfogli – Lead Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Record Label: InsideOut Music
     


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Edited 26 September 2022
 

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