• 7/10
    JAMES LABRIE - Prime Cuts - 7/10


Magna Carta
Release date: June 24, 2008

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Metal Express Radio has featured Magna Carta’s Prime Cuts series several times before, so readers probably are familiar with it. It should be sufficient to say that this release, James LaBrie’s Prime Cuts sees eye to eye with the best ones from this series, but is not flawless as Magna Carta only had a limited selection of cuts to choose from.

James LaBrie is without a doubt one of the best known and most versatile Prog-Metal singers. His finest moments surely occurred in collaboration with his Dream Theater-mates (DT), but that is not the subject of this release. In this, the album offers the most: If you are a DT fan, and you don’t know about James’ other projects and albums. Prime Cuts let’s you see an unexpectedly progressive and different James than the one you know from DT. In total, Magna Carta put together songs from seven albums originally released on said label: the two Mullmuzzler albums, essentially LaBrie’s Solo recordings, both Explorer’s Club releases plus Leonardo – The Absolute Man and songs from tribute albums for Rush (“Red Barchetta” with Steve Morse on guitar and Cynic-Drummer Sean Reinert on Drums) and ELP (“A Time And A Place” with Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre on Guitar). It is worth mentioning for collectors that two songs are included in a different mix: “Afterlife” is extended from the original version on Mullmuzzler 2 and “Shores Of Avalon” is included in a radio mix version.

All songs, and regardless if one thinks it is the best ones from the respective albums or not, show an interesting side of James LaBrie and are worth having. There are two problems, which are the reasons for a lower score.

First, it is the quality of the five non-tribute albums featured here. Taking between one (Leonardo – The Absolute Man) and three tracks (Keep It To Yourself) does not do the albums credit. It is a nice appetizer, but in the end all those releases are worth having in a Prog fan’s collection.

Secondly, it is the fact that many of James non-Dream Theater projects are not included, be it the label did not want to, or they simply were not allowed to. Anyway, a track or two from Tim Donahue’s powerful Madmen And Sinners release, Henning Pauly’s ingenious Frameshift project and James’ solo album Elements Of Persuasion, maybe even the fantastic duet with Devon Graves from Ayreon’s Human Equation album would be needed to make this a real Prime Cuts.

Other than that, if you are interested to get to know a side of Mr. LaBrie outside of Dream Theater, this is a great place to start. You’ll be in for some surprises, and your respect for James will grow listening to this. Where in DT he just sits back and lets the other guys write the songs, those who know his solo works will surely place him side by side with Petrucci and Portnoy when it comes to songwriting. His style is just considerably different.

Highlights include “Afterlife”, “Red Barchetta” and “His Voice”. Check those out, and in the end the fact remains: There is only one thing better than this release, which is to have all the original albums James LaBrie sings on in one’s collection.


  • Frank Jaeger

    Frank was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Bavaria, Germany. He has worked in the games industry for more than 20 years, now on the manufacturing side, before on the publishing end. Before this, he edited and handled the layout for a city mag in northern Germany ... maybe that is why he love being part of anything published. Frank got hooked on Metal at the age of 14 when a friend introduced him to AC/DC. They were listening to The Beatles, Madness, and The Police, and he decided they should move on. Well, they did, Back in Black became Frank's first Metal album, and since Germany is reasonably close to England, they had some small New Waves Of British Heavy Metal washing up on their shores: Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson, Gillan, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Sweet Savage, Diamond Head, etc. If he had to pick his favorite styles, Prog and Power Metal would be at the top of the list.

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