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LaBrie, James: Prime Cuts

Mention vocalist James LaBrie to any discerning metal fan, and he (or maybe even she) will link him with Dream Theater - even though his work away from that band merits attention for revealing diverse sides of the man's instantly recognizable voice. Prime Cuts, the latest in Magna Carta's compilation series featuring artists who have in one way or another been associated with the label, covers LaBrie's extracurricular activities from the mid-1990s through the early 21st century and features guest slots from Terry Bozzio, Mike Keneally, Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan and three fellow Dream Theater members.

Before he released Elements of Persuasion in 2005 under his own name on InsideOut Music, LaBrie issued two "solo" albums on Magna Carta in 1999 and 2001 under the name MullMuzzler (the name for someone "who silences an individual's thought before it can be expressed"). Five of the 10 tracks here are from those two discs, including an extended, unreleased version of "Afterlife" and the radio mix(!) of "Shores of Avalon." There also are two cuts from the eclectic Explorers Club project, helmed by Magellan's Trent Gardner, and songs from two of Magna Carta's most beloved tribute albums, Working Man (Rush) and Encores, Legends & Paradox (Emerson, Lake & Palmer). LaBrie also shows off dramatics on one cut from Leonardo: The Absolute Man, a majestic Gardner-driven concept album.

Whether singing a Broadway-style duet with Lisa Bouchelle and backed by Chicago-style horns ("This Time This Way"), channeling Geddy Lee ("Red Barchetta"), indulging in his own brand of world-metal ("Shores of Avalon") or trading vocals with Gardner on the Kansas-like "Vertebrates," LaBrie proves there's more to him than Dream Theater. Through it all, the emphasis is more on the music and the melody than on perfection, and the 10 cuts here are strong enough to convince listeners to revisit (or become acquainted with) the original source material.

Track Listing:
1) Afterlife (Extended Version) MullMuzzler
2) Red Barchetta (Rush cover)
3) Shores of Avalon (Radio Mix) MullMuzzler
4) Vetebrates Explorers Club
5) A Time and A Place (ELP cover)
6) This Time This Way Leonardo: The Absolute Man
7) His Voice MullMuzzler
8) As A Man Thinks MullMuzzler
9) A Simple Man MullMuzzler
10) No Returning Explorers Club

Added: July 21st 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Magna Carta Records
Hits: 4256
Language: english

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LaBrie, James: Prime Cuts
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-21 19:09:12
My Score:

Most folks that have any familiarity with the name James LaBrie, connect him to the incredible band he sings for Dream Theater (since 1992). The listeners that know progressive rock and progressive metal are aware that there is a vast catalog of recordings from James as a solo performer, his contributions to compilations and his band Mullmuzzler and for the first Frameshift album. He has been the guest on a score of different albums and now Magna Carta has released the Prime Cuts album to honor all his work with the label.

James LaBrie's voice is probably the most recognizable in progressive metal/rock today thanks to the impressive resume of work his has accumulated over the years. There are 10 tracks on this Prime Cuts featuring his best work and special mixes for the radio and one extended version of the lead off track "Afterlife" from the Mullmuzzler 2 album, which is a classic slice of LaBrie and the band at its fiery best.

I remember all the tributes that came out years ago from Magna Carta and this recalls the excellent interpretation of the Rush track "Red Barchetta" from Working Man (A Tribute to Rush). LaBrie was a big fan of Rush and his mates in Dream Theater are as well so it came as no surprise that he did such a great job with the song. I also recall with pleasure the following tributes and compilations-Encores, Legends & Paradox (A Tribute To ELP), Leonardo: The Absolute Man, and the Explorers Club. All of these recordings were exceptional pairing the renowned vocalist with people like Terry Bozzio, John Petrucci, Billy Sheehan, Kerry Livgren, John Myung, Steve Morse, a literal who's who list of great musicians in the world of progressive rock that have recorded for the highly regarding Magna Carta label.

There are 10 very strong and diverse tracks on this CD. It can be difficult to pull out the most deserving tracks with such a large body of work however; the label does a nice job giving each listener a taste of the variety of the James LaBrie cache outside of Dream Theater. This CD also points very strongly to just how diverse a vocalist LaBrie is. Prime Cuts is a fitting tribute to all the work the artist has compiled over the years on the label.
It takes a special talent like James LaBrie to make music consistently exciting and timeless and this is only a taste of his capabilities and work outside of Dream Theater. This CD is a highly recommended adventure you should take. Now I have to go find my Mullmuzzler and tribute CDs to remember how excited I was to hear all this music when it all came out and how those feelings and energy still hold true today because of how great all this music is.

LaBrie, James: Prime Cuts
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-18 18:00:28
My Score:

James LaBrie is undoubtedly one of the best and most exciting vocalists working in rock today: the timbre, strength and pure presence and impact of his voice brings a touch of class to any project with which he is associated. Over the years he has worked with some of the finest rock musicians of the age on a number of albums outside of the Dream Theater juggernaut: Prime Cuts is a compilation showcasing some of the best material recorded for the Magna Carta record company. This includes his two Mullmuzzler albums and the tributes to Rush and ELP, as well as three others.

For a compilation album, it is rather splendid! Prime Cuts avoids the truncated feel of many compilations, sounding very much like a unified, planned work in its own right. The individual songs are strong, the vocal and instrumental performances top notch, and sequenced cleverly within the album to maximize momentum, so that despite a couple of slower tempo songs this remains essentially a high energy album in its overall feel.

James shares the vocal duties on two of the songs, both of which are high spots on the album. On "Vertebrates", from the Explorer's Club project sessions, he is joined by Trent Gardner, the sound here being quite keyboards dominated and slow-tempo; and on "This Time This Way" he is joined by Lisa Bouchelle for an excellent song made all the better by their contrasting voices.

Elsewhere, there is plenty of pace, energy and interest. My favorites are the extended version of "Afterlife" which opens the compilation, "Red Barchetta", the Arabian textured "Shores of Avalon" and "His Voice", as well as the two with the shared vocals. Having said that, there are no weak tracks on the album and, as I said before, it plays very well as a coherent whole. Very good indeed!

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