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James LaBrie: Beautiful Shade Of Grey
James LaBrie - Beautiful Shade Of Grey Album Art

James LaBrie: Beautiful Shade Of Grey

Melodic (Progressive) Rock
4.5/5.0

Unless you've been living sequestered in a monastery, we all know James Labrie: the long-serving voice and vocalist of progressive metal act Dream Theater. An accomplished singer he's been sought to add his voice to many other artist's projects. Sometimes he finds time to drop his own solo project; the last being 2013's Impermanent Resonance (which was something of an experimental album whereas Labrie fondled with death vocals.) Between then and now, besides four Dream Theater albums, Labrie has been helping out Rik Emmett, Ayreon, Jordan Rudess, and Evergrey among others.

James LaBrie Click For Larger Image

James LaBrie & Band: Chance Labrie, far right

Now the vocalist returns with his fourth solo studio project, Beautiful Shade Of Grey, once more with InsideOut Music. The album features a collaboration with long time friend and musician Paul Logue from Eden's Curse fame. Guitarist Marco Sfogli, a veteran studio musician, returns to add his fret work. Labrie's son Chance is the drummer; Chance his own alternative modern rock band, Falset.

Speaking to the new album, perhaps the first thing to say is this: if you're expecting music akin to Dream Theater, it's not. LaBrie's songwriting reflects the musical influence that developed and sharpened his vocal talent, mostly melodic hard rock (with AOR notes) in different shapes over the last 40 years.

I suspect some writer-reviewers may simply discuss (or critique) the song content in some length at this point. But I want to start at the end. The second to last song is a cover of Led Zeppelin's Ramble On. A classic Zep song, LaBrie's handles it deftly with enthusiasm making it my favorite song on the album. Yet, it also gives us a clue to many of the original songs within the album. Ramble On features voice with acoustic guitar in song arrangement that blends melodic folk and hard rock. Many of the songs within Beautiful Shades Of Grey also turn on this relationship between Labrie's voice and guitar including Am I Right, Wildflower, Give And Take, and SuperNova Girl. But none really rise to the thumping heavy rock of Ramble On, to these ears. Things perhaps "heavier" might include Hit Me Like A Brick wherein LaBrie's voice is more assertive and also the riffs and rhythm. Devil In Drag is also derivative of this style, another upbeat rocker. The former has a more pronounced guitar solo; the latter more suggestive. With Sunset Ruin, hard rock is dismissed for acoustic guitar, synths, and Labrie's voice. Sfogli's guitar work has style that seems to blend both classical and jazz feelings. That latter feeling is very notable in his solo within Give And Take.

All things considered, James Labrie's latest solo album, Beautiful Shade Of Grey, is another fine adventure into his musical universe. Less Dream Theater progressive metal, Labrie's offers listeners song built around AOR melodic rock built around his voice with acoustic guitar and spattering of prog rock nuances. Easily recommended.




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The Take Away

James Labrie's latest solo album, Beautiful Shade Of Grey, is another fine adventure into his musical universe. Less Dream Theater progressive metal, Labrie's offers listeners song built around AOR melodic rock built around his voice with acoustic guitar and spattering of prog rock nuances. Easily recommended.

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