Streets: A Rock Opera

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Streets: A Rock Opera
StreetsARockOpera.jpg
Studio album by Savatage
Released October 4, 1991
Recorded January–July 1991
Studio 321 Studios in New York City
Genre
Length 68:33
Label Atlantic
Producer Paul O'Neill
Savatage chronology
Gutter Ballet
(1989)Gutter Ballet1989
Streets: A Rock Opera
(1991)
Edge of Thorns
(1993)Edge of Thorns1993
Singles from Streets
  1. "Jesus Saves"
    Released: 1991
Alternative Cover
Narrated Version of "Streets: A Rock Opera".
Narrated Version of "Streets: A Rock Opera".

Streets: A Rock Opera (often simply shortened to Streets) is a concept album by Savatage, dealing with the rise and fall of the musician DT Jesus. It was originally released in October 1991 on Atlantic Records. The album took almost a year to record, with pre-production beginning in October 1990.[1] It was also Jon Oliva's last album as lead vocalist until 1995's Dead Winter Dead and 1997's The Wake of Magellan, where he shared lead vocal duties with Zak Stevens (singing lead on two songs from each album). He resumed lead vocal duties exclusively on 2001's Poets and Madmen.

Production[edit]

Savatage had thought about making a rock opera after their successful collaboration with producer Paul O'Neill in making Hall of the Mountain King. During the recording of its follow-up in 1989, guitarist Criss Oliva found a play and accompanying music written by Paul O'Neill, which the band intended to use on their album. Soon after, however, the band felt they were not ready yet, and postponed the idea for their next record. The record they were working on still received the name of the play, Gutter Ballet, and one of the tracks from the play was also recorded for Gutter Ballet, namely "When the Crowds Are Gone". The band then decided that their next album would be based on the play, and the band entered the studio to record what would become Streets.[2]

After the Gutter Ballet tour however, rhythm guitarist Chris Caffery left the band on friendly terms to rejoin his brother's band, where he could play lead guitar instead of rhythm guitar. He would later rejoin Savatage in 1995 for the recording of Dead Winter Dead and has remained a member ever since.

The album was originally due to be a double CD record, but late in the recording process Savatage decided to compress the story into one album. Jon Oliva and Paul O'Neill have since stated that they would have liked to release it as a double album later on, but record label Atlantic Records lost reels of the sessions in their vaults. These "lost tracks" were re-written over the years and eventually formed parts of songs on Edge of Thorns and later works. The album as a double CD as originally intended will never see the light, partly because the only recordings that remain are on audio cassette of the master tapes, and partly because most of the original ideas for the songs were used in later works. Originally the album would contain more spoken tracks than the one used for the introduction for Jesus Saves (which was a reworking of DT Jesus after Atlantic did not like the original version, and was recorded with only Jon and Criss in the studio, along with Can You Hear Me Now).

On September 27, 2013 EarMusic Records released a 31-track narrated version of the album,[3] which also includes the previously unreleased song Larry Elbows and the original version of Jesus Saves, making it the most complete version ever released.

Story and concept[edit]

The story features a fallen rock star called DT Jesus (DT is short for either De-Tox or Down-Town), who has hit hard times. He is a drug dealer as the story begins. DT Jesus is just another lowlife on the streets of New York City. Streets explains the story behind DT Jesus and his rise to fame again and his second fall.

The concept of Streets is based on a book written by Paul O'Neill many years prior to his involvement with the band, and was never meant to be an autobiography.[4] In fact, it was written in 1979 as a Broadway play and stored in a drawer at Paul O'Neill's home until Criss Oliva found it and suggested it be Savatage's next album. It is considered coincidental that the life of lead vocalist Jon Oliva mirrored that of the main character DT Jesus at the time. Songs like "Jesus Saves" and "Ghost in the Ruins" were "rocked up", said O'Neill, while many others, including "Believe", "Heal My Soul" (which is based on a traditional Welsh lullaby, "Suo Gân"), and "A Little Too Far", all appear in the same version intended for their Broadway performances. Other tracks like "Streets" and "Strange Reality" were written expressly for the rock opera. "Heal My Soul" was re-recorded by Savatage's offshoot musical project, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, on a 2007 Wal-Mart CD sampler. "Believe" was re-recorded with Tim Hockenberry on vocals by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on their 2009 album Night Castle.

Savatage would have liked to call the record Gutter Ballet, as the original play written by O'Neill was called Gutter Ballet, but the inclusion of the song on their previous record meant this was not going to happen. In retrospect, the band wanted to have called the album Ghost in the Ruins.[1] O'Neill said that "Streets was OK too", but Jon Oliva disliked the fact that A Rock Opera was tagged onto the title. Oliva has said he has only introduced any performance of the album simply as "Streets".[1] Eventually, an album entitled Ghost in the Ruins was released in 1995 as a tribute to Criss Oliva.

During their 2007 tour, Jon Oliva's new project, Jon Oliva's Pain performed some of the album, in album running order, as a special surprise to audiences. Oliva himself noted on stage that some of the songs performed had never been performed live to an audience before.

Jon Oliva's Pain performed the album in its entirety at the 2014 edition of the ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta, GA.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [5]
Rock Hard (de) 9.5/10[6]

In 2005, Streets: A Rock Opera was ranked number 310 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[7]

Track listing[edit]

All music composed by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva and Criss Oliva. All lyrics written by Paul O'Neill and Jon Oliva, based on a book written by Paul O'Neill.

Original CD release
No. Title Length
1. "Streets" 6:48
2. "Jesus Saves" 5:13
3. "Tonight He Grins Again" 3:28
4. "Strange Reality" 4:56
5. "A Little Too Far" 3:25
6. "You're Alive" 1:51
7. "Sammy and Tex" 3:07
8. "St. Patrick's" 4:17
9. "Can You Hear Me Now" 5:11
10. "New York City Don't Mean Nothing" 4:01
11. "Ghost in the Ruins" 5:32
12. "If I Go Away" 5:17
13. "Agony and Ecstasy" 3:33
14. "Heal My Soul" 2:35
15. "Somewhere in Time" 3:17
16. "Believe" 5:42
"Streets: A Rock Opera - Narrated Version" 2013 EarMusic director's cut
No. Title Length
1. "Streets" 6:48
2. "Narration to "Jesus"" 1:05
3. "Jesus Saves (Original Version)" (previously titled "DT Jesus" and released as a bonus track) 4:49
4. "Narration to "Tonight He Grins Again"" 0:18
5. "Tonight He Grins Again" 3:26
6. "Narration to "Strange Reality"" 0:35
7. "Strange Reality" 4:54
8. "Narration to "A Little Too Far"" 0:16
9. "A Little Too Far" 3:23
10. "Narration to "You're Alive"" 0:25
11. "You're Alive" 1:51
12. "Narration to "Sammy And Tex"" 0:17
13. "Sammy And Tex" 3:06
14. "Narration to "St. Patrick's"" 0:42
15. "St. Patrick's" 4:15
16. "Narration to "Can You Hear Me Now"" 0:30
17. "Can You Hear Me Now" 5:09
18. "Narration to "New York City Don't Mean Nothing"" 0:57
19. "New York City Don't Mean Nothing" 3:59
20. "Narration to "Ghost In The Ruins"" 0:21
21. "Ghost In The Ruins" 5:29
22. "Narration to "If I Go Away"" 0:15
23. "If I Go Away" 5:15
24. "Narration to "Agony And Ecstasy"" 0:22
25. "Agony And Ecstasy" 3:32
26. "Narration to "Heal My Soul"" 2:03
27. "Heal My Soul" 2:33
28. "Narration to "Somewhere In Time"" 0:37
29. "Somewhere In Time" 3:15
30. "Believe" 5:41
31. "Larry Elbows" (previously unreleased) 4:09

Outtakes[edit]

  • Larry Elbows
  • Beyond Broadway
  • Up to You
  • Life Goes On
  • Stay
  • Desirée
  • Tonight I Would be King
  • Island of the Kings
  • Sanctuary

Among the songs that were dropped was also "DT Jesus", later reworked into "Jesus Saves", a song which was later released on the 2013 director's cut version of the album, and also available on the From the Gutter to the Stage compilation.

"Desirée" was later released on the 1997 Edel re-release of the album as an acoustic version sung by Zak Stevens.

"Stay" involves the character of Duke, who is also featured in the story of "When the Crowds Are Gone" off Gutter Ballet, and was supposed to follow on from "Ghost in the Ruins",[1] and appears on the 1997 re-release of Hall of the Mountain King, also in an acoustic arrangement). The remake of song will appear on the sixth studio album Letters From the Labyrinth by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

"Sanctuary" was a new version of the Gutter Ballet out-take "Target", the latter later being released on the 1994 compilation of Sirens and The Dungeons Are Calling.

"Larry Elbows" (referred to by some as "the 17th track"), which was included in the 2013 reissue, is based on an old demo by the band, "Stranger in the Dark" (of which other parts would be used for "This is Where You Should Be") from the Silver Edition of The Dungeons are Calling. The track was also used as basis for the Edge of Thorns song "Follow Me".

"Beyond Broadway", another track written for the album, was also reworked by Jon Oliva and parts of the song formed "Lies" on the Jon Oliva's Pain's album Festival.

A demo of "Island Of The Kings" has surfaced on the internet and showcases that the band drew inspiration from The Beatles, as was often stated by Jon Oliva.

The band recorded a music video for the song "Jesus Saves" which received some airplay on MTV, and featured long time Savatage cover artist Gary Smith playing the role of DT Jesus.[1] A video was filmed for "New York City Don't Mean Nothing", but that video has been "lost" and as of 2015 has never been aired.

Personnel[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Robert Kinkel – Keyboard
  • John Zahner – Keyboard, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (touring member)
  • Female Background Vocals by Abi Reid
  • Child Background Intro (on "Streets"): Mozart's Magic Flute
  • Director of Children's Choir: Elena Doria
  • Children's Choir Conductor: Bob Kinkel

Further credits[edit]

  • Produced by Paul O'Neill
  • Recorded and Mixed at 321 Studios, NYC, Jan-July '91
  • Mastered by Greg Calibi/Sterling Sound, NYC
  • Engineered by John Kayne and James A. Ball
  • Assistant Engineer: Joe Daley
  • Second Assistant Engineers: Scott Pizzo, J Kael Trstram, Jay DeVito
  • Technical Assistants: Chris Fountain and Kurt Johnson
  • Photos by William Hames
  • Back Cover Illustration by Gary Smith
  • Cover Development by Tory Chartier

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e liner notes from Streets 2002 re-release
  2. ^ "RS interview". realsavatage.com. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  3. ^ http://www.savatage.com/streetsnarration.pdf
  4. ^ "Savatage FAQ". Savatage.com. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  5. ^ Streets: A Rock Opera at AllMusic
  6. ^ Kühnemund, Götz. "Rock Hard review". issue 54. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  7. ^ [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 88. ISBN 3-89880-517-4.