Album review: JAMES LABRIE – Beautiful Shade Of Grey

JAMES LABRIE - Beautiful Shade Of Grey

InsideOut Music [Release date 20.05.22]

The latest solo offering from James LaBrie stems from his involvement on the Eden’s Curse track “No Holy Man’ (a real highlight on their 2011 album ‘Trinity’) and a subsequent support slot for the band on a Dream Theater tour.  Then, a chance meeting at Glasgow Airport between Eden’s Curse mainman Paul Logue and LaBrie led to this collaboration.

Fans will find ‘Beautiful Shade Of Grey’ subtantially different to previous solo albums.  The last, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ (2013), was feted by our reviewer John Stefanis and even had cookie monster vocal effects (not from LaBrie but from drummer Peter Wildoer).  And before that ‘Elements Of Persuasion’ (2005) and ‘Static Impulse’ (2010) were both made in the midst of early millennium nu-metal: vibrant and totally convincing.

Only Marco Sfogli has been retained from the earlier albums and here the Italian is mostly mellow, embellishing rather then energising proceedings whilst Logue himself contributes acoustic guitar and bass, with Eden’s Curse colleague Christian Pulkkinen on keys and LaBrie’s son Chance on drums.  All do a fine job.

The early preview track ‘Devil In Drag’ is the standout, characterised by an infectious rhythm and stellar chorus.  It gets reprised in an electric version which emphasises the dichotomy in this album; many tracks may have been enhanced by a more “electric” approach but the decision seems to have been taken to keep things pared back.  The track ‘Hit Me Like A Brick’ could almost be ‘Devil In Drag’ Part 2 which, frankly, is a bit lazy.

But the acoustic/electric groove that is ‘Devil In Drag’ is otherwise not duplicated and a possible musical direction, and opportunity, for the album passed over.  Instead there is a clutch of attractive if fairly uneventful tunes like ‘SuperNova Girl’ and ‘Wildflower’.  And the one cover ‘Ramble On’ adds nothing to the original (although perhaps the spiritual inspiration for the whole album).  Of course a singer like LaBrie can lift the ordinary and he does.

LaBrie is heard in fine fettle throughout and the vocal melodies and harmonies are excellent.  The album is a complete change from the bombastic earlier stuff, and indeed his regular job, and the hope might be that even at this stage the Canadian could reach a wider audience: those who would shrink from Dream Theater’s intricate and demanding  prog metal.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Album review (Impermanent Resonance, 2013)
Feature (‘Elements Of Persuasion’, 2005)

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