From the Gutter to the Stage is a double compilation CD comprised of Savatage's songs from 1981 to 1995. That means there are no songs from their last two studio albums The Wake of Magellan (1998) and Poets and Madmen (2001).
I personally don't think it is at all possible to compile any 'best of' albums for bands whose career spans over two decades since I believe these bands go from style to style always growing, improving, maturing and progressing, be it for the better or worse. Well I won't get into any details about the songs here because no matter how I much tried I'd fail to verbalise my feelings about Savatage... my favourite band of all times.
Basically this is a little insight into the progression of Sava's musical style from the early 80's to the mid 90's covering some of the band's major hits including "Sirens", "Hall of the Mountain King" and "Gutter Ballet" with original vocalist Jon Oliva. The songs are listed in chronological order so the change of style is pretty obvious. With the release of Gutter Ballet in 1989, Savatage signalled that they were going to become one of the most progressive bands ever embracing their earlier Beatles, Queen, The Who and Pink Floyd roots and combining them with their own unique form of heavy metal. Second vocalist Zak Stevens is introduced to the listener with "Edge of Thorns" and from here on three meticulously detailed songs off the Dead Winter Dead album follow. With songs like "Chance" and "One Child" the band explores with different vocal harmonies and counterpoint vocals reminiscent of 70's Queen, only fuller and stronger.
15 songs is no where near enough to give anyone a good idea of what Savatage is about, but it's enough to prove that musically and songwriting-wise they are among the most progressive bands in the world. Their use of keyboard and piano intertwined with soaring lead guitar work, fiery rhythmic bass and unpredictable drum work makes them stand head and shoulders above any other band, regardless of their genre.
The best and most appealing thing about this CD, however, is on the second disc featuring the two bonus tracks on the Jap edition of Edge of Thorns. "Shotgun Innocence" and "Forever After" being officially the last two songs recorded by co-founder/guitarist Criss Oliva who was killed in a car accident shortly after the release of this album make this purchase quite worthwhile. Also there is the 1987 HOTMK outtake "This Is Where You Should Be" which is a heart-wrenching love song and "D.T. Jesus" which is basically a different version of the same song on the band's 1991 release Streets. This has got to be one of the most moving vocal deliveries by Jon Oliva ever accompanied by a destroying guitar solo performed by his brother Criss. To this day this remains as one of the most difficult Savatage songs to listen to because of the sheer power and intensity it encompasses.
If you're a die-hard Sava fan, the second CD alone is worth buying this release. However if you're new to the band, I'd much recommend starting out with Streets and Edge of Thorns. Depending on how you enjoy these discs, you can decide where to go. The best way to immerse yourself in Savatage is to give their albums a full listen.
- 1. Sirens (Live)
- Power of the Night
- Prelude to Madness
- Hall of the Mountain King
- 24 Hours Ago
- Gutter Ballet
- When the Crowds Are Gone
- Silk and Steel
- New York City Don't Mean Nothing
- Agony and Ecstasy
- Edge of Thorns
- Mozart and Madness
- One Child
- Shotgun Innocence
- Forever After
- This Is Where You Should Be
- D.T. Jesus
* Review originally written in 2004.