Dream Theater Singer James LaBrie Picks 5 Favorite Instrumental Songs | Revolver

Dream Theater Singer James LaBrie Picks 5 Favorite Instrumental Songs

Prog-metal frontman highlights compositions in which "the instrument becomes the voice"
dream-theater_solo_james-labrie_by-rayon_richards-web-crop.jpg, Rayon Richards
photograph by Rayon Richards

Revolver has teamed with Dream Theater for an exclusive 2LP vinyl variant of their new album A View From the Top of the World on "translucent green" wax. Grab yours before they're gone! 

The past year-and-a-half has been brutal for bands. Tours have been unceremoniously canceled and excitedly re-announced … only to be postponed again. Albums have been bumped, and the periods of mandatory isolation have forced musicians to reinvent how they interact and create with each other.

Prog-metal icons Dream Theater are no exception and have confronted many of these same issues. But the turbulent COVID era hasn't stopped the venerable crew from experiencing one of the most prolific release periods in their three-decade-plus career.

Earlier this year Dream Theater opened their vaults and began to roll out a series of live albums, rarities, b-sides and more as part of The Lost Not Forgotten Archives series. The releases (which all received limited-edition vinyl variant treatments) include Train of Thought Instrumental Demos, Master of Puppets - Live in Barcelona 2002, A Dramatic Tour of Events - Select Board Mixes and more.

The band is also counting down to the October 22nd release date of their new and 15th studio album, A View From the Top of the World. The follow-up to 2019's Distance Over Time features seven songs of boundary-pushing prog metal, including the album's head-spinning lead single "The Alien."

In the lead-up to A View From the Top of the World, we've been catching up with the Dream Theater guys for a series of chats on a range of different subjects. We went deep with guitar hero John Petrucci on the new record and his own personal musical heroes and grilled bassist John Myung about the hardest Dream Theater songs to play live. But our recent interaction with singer James LaBrie has the distinction of containing the most unexpected subject matter: instrumental songs.

Sure, at first blush, LaBrie wanting to discuss his favorite instrumentals seems like an odd choice. But, it turns out that LaBrie's quite a fan of the form. In fact, he believes the best non-verbal songs embody the same techniques he employs to create a memorable vocal moment.

"My top five instrumentals are based more or less on the same principles," says LaBrie. "I have always felt that an instrumental is the instrument becoming the voice. They have to connect in a way that, like a vocalist, is an elongated conversation. Usually having the same impact and effect. For that reason I have selected the following."

Read the stories behind LaBrie's five favorite instrumental songs below.

Edgar Winter Group "Frankenstein" (They Only Come Out at Night, 1972)

This song is a classic and shows just how incredible of a musician Edgar is. The unison between him and the guitar along with his fantastic keyboardist melodies is mesmerizing. The dynamics, melody and ... sonics are hypnotizing. This song never gets old.

Rush "La Villa Strangiato" (Hemispheres, 1978)

This song shows the sheer brilliance of Alex Lifeson. The beginning is one of the most beautiful and powerful displays of the guitar. He shines throughout this piece and is without a doubt one of the best in his respective instrument.

Rush "YYZ" (Moving Pictures, 1981)

Once again an opus instrumental showing that Geddy Lee and Neil Peart couldn't be more in sync and complementing one another. Geddy's bass playing is so epic and Neil and Alex just keep building on Geddy's execution ...

Pink Floyd "The Great Gig in the Sky" (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)

I know what you're thinking: it's not instrumental because of the vocals from [guest singer] Claire Torry. I respectfully disagree — this song is hauntingly beautiful, and the great Claire Torry sang using no words and just her voice to interplay with the mood like an instrumentalist. This was such a cool move by [Roger] Waters, [David] Gilmour, [Richard] Wright and [Nick] Mason.

Pink Floyd "Marooned" (The Division Bell, 1994)

Although this song and album are post-Waters, I still think The Division Bell is one of Pink Floyd's strongest albums. This song shows why David Gilmour is one of the greatest guitarists on the planet. His sense of melody has always been his strongest attribute. Very few can compare, and this song once again shows Gilmour in all his glory and technical prowess. What a gem of a song.