James LaBrie // “Beautiful Shade Of Grey” // Album Review

Beautiful Shade of Grey is the latest and fourth solo outing by James LaBrie, best known as the frontman and the lead vocalist of progressive rock royalty Dream Theater. Despite such accolades to his name, LaBrie is an artist who should not be underestimated as a solo performer by any means, due in large part to an eclectic but resoundingly solid body of work in his own right.
The album presents a kaleidoscopic view of musical genres at play with the remarkable application of an instantly recognisable and incredibly gentle voice to guide us. As is tradition with James’ projects, on the whole, the musicianship on Beautiful Shade of Grey is impeccable and of the highest tier. But those familiar with his other work need not compare, the album is a voyaging study of international influence and stylistic experimentation quite unlike any of his previous outings.
‘Give and Take’, the third song and second single on the album have the daunting task of following the huge lead single ‘Devil in Drag’ but leaves a lasting impression as a cornerstone of the album, featuring an exciting sojourn into a Latin swing, lead by classical flamenco guitar by way of key collaborators and songwriters Paul Logue (of Eden’s Curse) and Marco Sfogli.
Make no mistake, this is by no means an onslaught of progressive metal wizardry, but instead, a charming showcase of a dynamic and heartwarming lead vocal performance over radiant, colourful explorations of guitar-led alternative music that borders on a meeting of inspirational soft rock and world music.
‘Hit Me Like a Brick’ marks a distinct turning point on the album, where classic rock influence bleeds into acoustic rock jamming, inspiring a nostalgic view of summers past, continuing throughout the second half of the album. Whilst their cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Ramble On’ breaks no new ground in its faithful reproduction, preluding tracks ‘What I Missed’ and ‘Am I Right’ certainly allow LaBrie’s gifted vocals to shine in an exciting and welcome new dimension. The latter song particularly evokes folk song storytelling with refreshing optimism.

‘Beautiful Shade of Grey’ will be released as a Limited CD Digipak, 180g LP + CD & as Digital Album, with artwork by Thomas Ewerhard. Pre-order now here: https://jameslabrie.lnk.to/BeautifulShadeOfGrey

The full track-listing is as follows:

  1. Devil In Drag
  2. SuperNova Girl
  3. Give And Take
  4. Sunset Ruin
  5. Hit Me Like A Brick
  6. Wildflower
  7. Conscience Calling
  8. What I Missed
  9. Am I Right
  10. Ramble On
  11. Devil In Drag (Electric Version)

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