SAVATAGE — Streets: A Rock Opera (review)

SAVATAGE — Streets: A Rock Opera album cover Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
UMUR
"Streets: A Rock Opera" is the 6th full-length studio album by US, Florida based heavy/power metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in October 1991. There´s been one lineup change since the release of "Gutter Ballet (1989)" as second guitarist Chris Caffery has left, making Savatage a four-piece again. "Streets: A Rock Opera" is a concept album telling the story of troubled rock star DT Jesus. The story is based on a play (titled "Gutter Ballet") that producer Paul O'Neill had written in 1979 and which he had originally intended for a Broadway musical. It remained in a drawer in his house until Criss Oliva found it, and the band picked it up and turned it into "Streets: A Rock Opera".

"Streets: A Rock Opera" sees Savatage developing their style once again. "Gutter Ballet (1989)" saw them incorporating elements from musicals, orchestration, and just a generally more sophisticated and detailed songwriting approach than before. That musical direction is continued and further developed on "Streets: A Rock Opera". The basis in the music is still heavy/power metal with the rare nod towards progressive metal. The progressive tendencies are more due to the overall concept of the release, than due to the compositions themselves, which are predominantly vers/chorus structured. Savatage challenge conventional songwriting here more than ever though and at times the tracks are relatively adventurous, although you won´t be exposed to long instrumental parts or other progressive metal traits. Keyboards/piano play a more dominant role on this album than on any Savatage release before it, but they rarely function as a lead instrument. They are rather used for atmosphere, orchestration, and harmonization.

Musically "Streets: A Rock Opera" was the most diverse Savatage release up until then. It´s a highly dynamic release featuring both heavy/power metal tunes like "Jesus Saves" and "Agony And Ecstasy", heavy mid-paced epic tracks like "Streets" and "Ghost In The Ruins", up-tempo energetic rockers like "Sammy And Tex" (that swing rhythm is infectiously catchy) and "Strange Reality", epic power ballads like "Tonight He Grins Again" and "If I Go Away", and shorter ballad type tracks like "You're Alive" and "Heal My Soul". All musical styles and songs are placed strategically on the tracklist to make most impact along with the concept story.

"Streets: A Rock Opera" is a well produced album, featuring a powerful, detailed, and clear sound production, which suits the music perfectly. The musicianship is as always on a high level. The rhythm section of drummer Steve Wacholz and bassist Johnny Lee Middleton are a hard pounding machine, who drives the music forward with great energy and passion, while guitarist Criss Oliva plays one great catchy riff after another and also delivers blistering solo work. Lead vocalist Jon Oliva sings with both his commanding rusty voice and in a more sensitive fashion, but always with a great melodic sensibility. His performance here is both varied and very well executed.

So upon conclusion it´s safe to say that "Streets: A Rock Opera" is a very impressive high quality release. The concept isn´t the most original as artists like The Who and Pink Floyd (just to mention a few) have done similar things in the past, but it still works reasonably well, as Savatage skillfully combine music and lyrics into a great whole. Even with 16 tracks and a full playing time of 68:33 minutes, the album never feels long and there´s nothing on the album which feels unnecessary or doesn´t live up to the high quality of the rest of the material. This is through and through a well thought out, well executed, and well produced album. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.
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