What will still remain of me
The ghost within your eyes
The whisper in your sighs
And I'm always there"
One Word Review: Divine
Let me say right from the start that this is my favorite album of all time, so there will be no holds barred in this review. I'm a man on a mission, and that is to explain to you exactly why I think this album deserves to be labeled a timeless masterpiece.
Streets was released in 1991 and as you probably gathered from the title, this is a concept album. The story deals with D.T. Jesus and his life as a musician through his rise and fall due to his use of drugs. The story has been said to be an autobiography of lead singer, Jon Oliva's life in some parts and I'm pretty sure that some of the emotions on display could only come from someone who has experienced it in some way. The story is based on a book by their producer Paul O'neil, but Jon wrote the lyrics to many of the songs himself. The story is very spiritual in it's message and I'm sure everyone will feel something after listening to the whole thing.
For me the emotional impact of this album is unmatched. Jon Oliva sings straight from the heart and he is beautifully accompanied by the other instruments. Especially the guitar playing of Criss Oliva is beyond anything I've ever heard. The story and the music fit each other perfectly and the music is able to convey the emotions of the main character with so much power.
The production of the album is another highlight with every instrument being perfectly balanced. In some songs both speakers are used to the full extent with some instruments only playing in one speaker, while Jon sings in the other one. The lead guitar really has a sound of it's own. I can't describe it in any other way but say that it has a "streets" feel to it. Like sirens screaming in the dead of night.
If you want to discover this gem for yourself then go right to the bottom for the conclusion now. I feel the need to guide you through the album and let you know what I think of every song.
The album starts out with the soothing voices of a children choir, which sets the mood perfectly. Jon Oliva's keyboard gently eases in with the main melody of the song before he starts singing with a voice that rips through the night. There is something menacing about the voice of Jon Oliva here. Already you'll notice the always present guitar of Criss Oliva playing different things in the background, making the song even more interesting. This is a song that has to be heard several times before it sinks in. Excellent solos and the rhythm guitar lays an effective background. A perfect mood setter.
Now we're set for the main story. Jon Oliva becomes his alter ego "The Bum", who starts telling the story of D.T. Jesus...
Jesus saves tells the story of D.T. rising to be a famous musician. Oh man, this one has one of my alltime favorite riffs. Monster heavy guitar playing on display. What a way to start a song. The alternate version of this song found on "From the gutter to the stage" is very different, but great too. The power of this one blows it away though, so it's a good thing they went with the aggressive version. Criss also plays some excellent solos here.
Tonight he grins again is one of my favorites of the album. D.T. is confused and back on the streets where he stays for the remainder of the album. This is a very melancholic song where Jon gives it his everything. Just listen him sing a line like "The lost in search of his own". The song is lifted even higher by the nice drive and beautiful melodies of the guitar. Just listening to the always changing guitar of this song is something special. The emotional singing by Jon Oliva makes this song fly straight through the heart.
Ohh here comes another brilliant riff. Strange reality has a drive that makes it something special, and one of the heaviest song on the album. I love the guitar solos right before the song starts fading out. Nobody has ever done this better than Criss...
A Jon Oliva solo performance is in store for the next track, A little too far. This is a very emotional song, carried by the voice of the mountain king himself and his piano. Jon uses his voice in ways I've never heard before and here he works magic. One word: Beautiful.
You're alive is a short song that tells the story of D.T.'s short comeback. It has a happy up beat feel to it.
Sammy and Tex actually gave me a shock the first time I heard it. I still remember it. Jon's voice is mixed right in front of the sound here and listening to this one really loud makes it seem like he is standing right next to you, screaming in your left ear...There is a nice stereo effect in some parts of the song which you will no doubt discover by yourself...Great guitar melodies here. A heavy, fast and guitar driven energy attack.
St. Patrick's is another of my favorites, which I hold very close. The lyrics are very well written. Here D.T. is having a monologue with God. Asking questions and getting no answer. Jon once again sings like an angel. Just listen to his voice in the verses. A line like "Surely you must care" gives me the chills every time I hear Jon sing it. The bridge of this song blows my mind. The guitar solos here bring even more emotion to the song.
Deep, pounding drums break the silky voice of the acoustic guitar in the opening moments of Can you hear me now. The menacing feeling is back in Jon's voice and that helps give the song a special atmosphere. Another song with a truly killer guitar solo part. I've got one word for this: Excellent!
New York City Don't Mean Nothing starts out like a heavenly ballad with Jon Oliva accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Damn, I love his voice. I'm amazed by the emotion he is able to express. Then, at the turn of a coin his voice changes and becomes this gritty, powerful, menacing voice of power but still with the emotion intact. How he does this is beyond me. The song takes a turn and becomes a powerful beast with excellent solos once again, before making a quiet exit.
Ghost in the ruins is ruled by the guitar of Criss Oliva. There is not one moment where he isn't playing some kind of melody. I feel it's almost an offense to try and describe his playing in words because no words can do him justice... He just has to be heard.
If I go away is at the top spot of the list of my all time favorite songs. For one thing it has one of the best piano melodies I have ever heard. Right from the start this song makes an impact. It conveys a kind of isolated feeling before the voice of Mr. Oliva takes over. The way the guitar plays along to the melody of Jon's voice has to be heard. Especially during the chorus it helps the song soar towards music heaven. The whole song gives me the chills even after 21 years... The voice of Jon Oliva once again brings unimagined emotion to a song and for me this is the emotional highlight of the album. The way he sings lines like "The ghost within your eyes", "Searching for the call I can't hear" and "Forever is a long time they say" is god like... Everything fit's like a hand in the perfect glove. Even taken out of context this song works. There are some songs I'll never forget the lyrics to and this is one of them. (Along with every Beatles song :)) This one goes straight through the heart.
Agony and ecstasy brings the power right back in your face in the form of heavy guitars, great drums and another vocal performance with that menacing feel to it. This is a song that rips through the speakers. Once again I'm amazed by all those little guitar touches that rule this song and never lets it be a standard, straight ahead thing. Check out those solos. Wow!
Heal my soul is the Savatage version of an old Welsh hymn. I don't know who originally wrote it, but I have heard versions by Nana Mouskouri and Charlotte Church. Jon does a beautiful performance and puts you in a relaxing state of mind before the final conclusion to the story.
Somewhere in time is a brilliant song. "I've been changing, redefining" Oh, I wish I could sing like this. It is truly a song that brings out emotions. The powerful ending to the song is one of a kind. It brings back memories of You're alive but with so much more power.
The album is finished off by one of the finest songs ever written, Believe. This song ties the concept of the album together and makes the ultimate conclusion. Never give up, there is always hope! And that is also what this song is capable of bringing. "Your childhood eyes were so intense" is a pure magic music history moment. The guitar playing in this song is amazing and especially in the last part it carries the song the final step into music heaven, where Criss must surely reign...
Parts of Believe are similar to "When the crowds are gone" from Gutter Ballet. In fact some of the songs on Gutter Ballet were written for the Streets album but they were used Gutter Ballet instead. I've read that Streets originally was supposed to be a double album with 19 tracks and spoken parts in between each track. In the end the cd was cut down to 12 tracks and the rest were never used. Some extra songs from the Streets recording sessions have popped up on various Savatage releases as bonus tracks and on the Internet (Desiree, Stay and Larry Elbow).
You've probably noticed by now that I love this piece of music. From the first moment I heard it in 1991 on the imported tape I'd bought, I knew this was a music experience that I would come to treasure through many years. To me this is a timeless piece of music history. If you've never heard it before, do yourself a favor and take a listen to this album. It only gets better through time. I would love to hear your thoughts on this album as well.
This is music that will never grow old. A timeless masterpiece that everyone should have the pleasure to experience. The powerful message it brings will stay in my heart forever and this is one of the albums I live by.
"I'll be right there
I'll never leave
All I ask is...
2014 Update: Streets: A Rock Opera - Narrated version
I finally purchased this alternative version of my all-time favorite album, which includes narration between all tracks, as originally recorded by Jon Oliva as well as the original version of Jesus Saves. Turns out the narration fits perfectly with the music and idea of the album. It is done with a certain charm that gets under the skin and incredibly, it gives the album extra impact and makes it even more moving (Heal My Soul comes to mind). This comes from someone who usually finds narration to be a curse in music. I never cared much for the tendency to explain the whole story in the liner notes as was the case of the original release either though. I would much rather interpret it myself and the narration actually helps accomplish just that on a finer level. The inclusion of the previously unreleased Larry Elbows is gold, as are the liner notes from Jon Oliva.
Listening to Streets: A Rock Opera in 2014 is a breathtaking experience. It is everything I have described above in my review and with the added narration it is one step closer to being the most complete concept album ever. I still hope that someone finds the original tapes with the lost songs and makes this into a double album as was the original plan. It may yet happen, Somewhere in Time.
Sadly the sound sound quality is not on the same level as the original or the 2010 remastered version. This narrated version has a thin sound with much more background noise, whereas the original release has a warmer sound. I found this to be a major problem, so I had to make my own "ultimate narrated version" by combining the original 1991 release with the 2010 remaster (replacing the dual songs) and the new narrations in between. Then I was satisfied. With two decades of listening to the album under my belt, I was surprised to be moved in new ways by this version.
Bottom line: If you have never heard Streets before, go for the original version. If you are a fan, check this narrated version out.
Written By Steen
Online: Saturday, May 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2014 - Updated my first impression of the narrated version and added old comments
If I Go Away
Tonight He Grins Again
Wednesday, September 25, 2002 - Roberto Ugalde
Dear Steen, Your review is spot on! It's good to know Savatage made an impact to so many people around the world with "Streets". The album is so full of emotion it's definitely a masterpiece for the ages. Thanks for your efforts, - Roberto (a music fan from Mexico)
Sunday, December 15, 2002 - Essam Charlie
Without a single doubt, this is one of the best CDs in the history of recorded music. I 've never in my life heard anything like this. It features one of the most inspiring vocal performances ever delivered from the Mountain King/Screamer From Hell, Jon Oliva. Also, the music in this album is outstanding, Chris plays chords and melodies imported from a heavenly place. Simply, this album is life changing.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - Christopher
This is indeed a fantastic album. I've been a fan of Savatage for many years, but have always been partial to the "classic" Savatage line-up. To me, "Streets" is their best album, and the truest representation of what they are all about as a band. I had the great privilege of seeing Savatage on both the Gutter Ballet and the Streets world tours. An incredible experience!
Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - Richie
And here I thought I was the only one who thought this was the greatest album ever. This frickin' album still moves me to this very day. By far one of the greatest works of music in history!
Saturday, July 31, 2004 - TOM
What else can I say that you did not put perfectly in your review? Savatage is the greatest, Criss Oliva is still to this day the greatest guitar player ever. Their music has touched so many lives and I proud to say that I am one of those lives. Excellent review man, keep giving them to us.
Monday, January 17, 2005 - Youssef
"I'm reading this from Egypt and u don't know how much i fucking respect u for this article! It says exactly everything that i think and feel about the album; which IS the greatest album of all time…
Thursday, March 31, 2005 - pol mac gaiothin
just to say when you described criss s playing on ghost in the ruins brought a tear to my eye(seriously he does that)
Thursday, July 28, 2005 - savafan
"Great review, nicely done by someone who ""got it"". Those who don't see the magic in this album, those who will never be able to enjoy songs like Ghost in the Ruins or If I Go Away... I can only express my regret. Long Live Criss!! :D"
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - Chris
The most unbelievable thing about this album is how prophetic its vision really was. If you love Jon Oliva, you'd understand.
Thursday, November 29, 2007 - keegs
you could not have said it better! i saw this article and i immediatley had to join this site just to post this. I LOVE SAVATAGE!! everything you said is exactly what goes through my mind when i listen to this amazing album. it seems that i am the only savatage fan where i live. everyone listens to all the new commercial crap here. long live metal. may Criss Oliva rest in peace. this album in my mind is among the top 3 greatest peices of ART in all fucking time! fuck yeah!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - savafan4ever
i joined just because i seen your review on savas streets album and i had 2 put in my 2cents you have hit the nail square on the head this is by far the best album ever made to this day it remains my all time favorite album in the world they are musical gods and the world should morn the passing of criss i feel that the world has lost one of the best and i would loved to of heard the music he never got to make my heart goes out to his brother jon and all his family im sure they miss him as much as i miss hearing his playing r.i.p criss oliva your music has helped me thru alot of hard times
Sunday, July 1, 2012 - Rene
Truly a masterpiece album, this one. And its also in my top 5 of greatest albums ever made. Funny thing is...i think it was you who actually introduced me to Savatage back in the days :)
Monday, July 16, 2012 - Steen
Hey Rene! Ha! I believe you are right. It's been a long time, but great to hear the album still touches a nerve.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - Thomas Reed
It is truly a shame that people don't make music like this anymore. The majority have never heard of Savatage and the Timeless music that they made. I agree my friend, this is probably the greatest album they made as far as soul, and spirit, and things you just can't teach. Criss Oliva is one of my top two guitar masters, the other being the late and great Steve Clarke from Def Leppard, that can truly touch my soul when I listen to them play! You can't teach that, it's just something special that those two men were born with God given talent and heart! You can literally feel their soul (almost) when they play, through their fingers. Both very special men to me, and the music that poured through my soul given by them, to me, I will never forget until I leave this earth!