Any opportunity to listen to some Queensryche goodness should always be explored.
Sure, the band has had their ups and downs, but what band hasn’t? They came to my attention when their popularity exploded in the wake of the classic concept album Operation: Mindcrime, and after their biggest album (in terms of mainstream popularity), Empire.
I remember listening to Empire over and over again, loving their technical precision, the emotion, and just great songwriting. I then took a step backwards and dove into Mindcrime, discovering even more excellence. I then went back even further and got a hold of Rage for Order and found still more great songs.
It was weird stepping back through their albums and hearing their progression in reverse.
Anyway, this is their second official greatest hits collection, following the 2000 release of The Best of Queensryche. There is also the Classic Masters release from 2003, but that is more of a contribution to another line of releases, than a part of their official discography.
Still, those other reissues of previously released material beg the question, why Sign Of The Times?
Well, it does cover more albums than the first best of disk for one thing. By comparison, that disc represented more of a closure to the Chris DeGarmo era, as it only contains songs from the albums he appeared on. This is significant because when that 2000 Best Of release came out, Queensryche had already moved on with a new studio album (Q2K), where Kelly Gray had replaced DeGarmo.
Of the 17 songs on the new Sign of the Times release however, only two come from the three post-DeGarmo albums — while the remaining 12 also appeared on the 16 track Best of Queensryche.
Keeping track so far? Good.
Because while the new Sign Of The Times covers all of the standard bases, there are few surprises here. Queensryche’s catalog has plenty of other songs that could have been used to vary this set a little bit more from that earlier release. I get that those earlier albums were definitely filled with better known songs — maybe even better music. But I really wish that we did not get a disk that so closely mirrors that original collection.
Okay, so enough complaining.
If you are someone who missed the Queensryche explosion back in 1990, and you are curious as to what Queensryche is all about, you could do considerably worse than Sign Of The Times (like picking up the album Tribe for example). When they do their job right, hits collections like this one are a good introduction for the uninitiated. They can also be good for the longtime fan that would like a CD of the top tracks and doesn’t want to put together a playlist from their own collection.
That said, this is not a bad set of songs by any stretch of the imagination. It shows Queensryche as a great band with an original sound I have yet to hear duplicated by anyone else. Geoff Tate has an amazing voice, that when paired with Chris DeGarmo is pure genius. DeGarmo himself is an excellent songwriter whose absence was sorely missed on the albums following his departure.
If you want the cream of the crop here, be sure to pay particular attention to “Walk in the Shadows,” “I Don’t Believe in Love,” “Silent Lucidity,” and “I Am I.” Of course, you won’t go wrong with any of the songs here, including the soundtrack offering “Real World” that appeared in The Last Action Hero.
Still, if you already have all of the remasters that came out in 2003, or the prior best of collection, you may want to skip this release. One final complaint. The 17 songs are really crammed onto this disk. With a total playing time of just under 80 minutes, the songs here are so tightly compacted, that as one song fades, the next begins. Each song transition is like a mini-train wreck.
For those interested, there is also a deluxe two disc edition of Sign Of The Times. The second disk contains 15 tracks of live, demo, and previously unreleased material. Leading off the set is a trio from the pre-Queensryche band Myth. Two of the three Myth songs were eventually re-written as Queensryche tracks. Other highlights of disk two are a previously unreleased acoustic version of “Della Brown,” as well as three demos from The Warning era. There is also a new recording with Chris DeGarmo called “Justified.” The only problem with most of the material here is that much of it appeared as bonus tracks on the remasters from a few years back. This means that completists likely have most of it already.
Bottomline. This is an odd release that straddles the line of playing to newcomers and to longtime fans. If they wanted to do this right, there should be a release of unreleased material, B-sides and such for the fan that wants it all, and a separate two disk best of set that covers their entire catalog in a way more befitting their excellence. I am sure this will eventually be in the works as the label looks for another way to mine the catalog for revenue.