Blog | The Vinyl Corner – Episode 16
Savatage Part 4
The entire Savatage musical catalogue has been re-released on vinyl by earMUSIC. In fact, some of the classic Savatage releases are available for the first time on the beloved vinyl format. August 2021 earMUSIC started with the re-releases of these albums. And not just like that, complete with liner notes and quotes by singer/songwriter/mr savatage himself: Jon Oliva and supplemented with special versions of songs, live versions or demos that had never been released before. Also, all the work is re-mastered especially for these releases.
Since this is a band that is very popular among fans and these are beautifully executed copies, I couldn’t resist to get into the pen and put them in the spotlight. For The Vinyl Corner, Savatage Special part 4, I will discuss Savatage’s last re-releases of their catalogue. ‘Dead Winter Dead’, ‘The Wake Of Magellan’ and ‘Poets And Madmen’.
SAVATAGE – DEAD WINTER DEAD
Let me start right off with the album released for the first time on the beloved vinyl format! The original album was released in 1995, and unfortunately not many albums were released on vinyl in the mid-1990s. The Compact Disc had pretty much supplanted the analogue records. ‘Dead Winter Dead’ may well be called the beginning of the second life that Savatage had. Officially, Jon Oliva had left the band again, but he was responsible for the writing and recording process along with Paul O’Neill. Fortunately, Jon was present during the tour the band did to support the record.
This second concept album of Savatage was unquestionably an important record for the band. It boosted the group’s European following and it found Jon Oliva reclaiming a more active role in the band. This concept album was inspired by the brutal war that tore the former Yugoslavia apart and divided it into numerous countries. The line-up of Savatage was Zachary Stevens on vocals, Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli on guitar, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass and Jeff Plate on drums. Jon provided the keyboard parts for `Dead Winter Dead’. Songs like ,,Dead Winter Dead’’, ,,One Child’’ became instant classics and cannot be left out of this band’s catalogue. Because their musical landscape did shift a bit further to the progressive side and with a more classical slant.
The LP reissue edition is available as 180g Double 12” Black Vinyl LP, along with a Limited Collector’s Edition on Heavyweight Red Double Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl, reissued with the original cover design, specially enhanced artwork, including a 16-pages LP booklet with extensive liner notes and carry an exclusive, previously unreleased live bonus-track. Exclusive to the Limited Collector’s Edition is a 1996 European Tour Poster Replica.
In case you can speak of hits with Savatage, ,,Christmas Eve (Sarajovo 12/24)’’ was indeed one. But that was mainly because this single was also later released with Paul O’Neill‘s first Trans-Siberian Orchestra project. Suddenly the song was a huge hit, especially in the United States. Something that was not thought possible under the name Savatage, but under another name it happened anyway and a much wider audience was reached. By the way, Trans-Siberian Orchestra in America is still a huge success, with annual tours in filled arenas on the East and West coasts of the country. Even after the passing of creative mastermind Paul O’Neill in 2017. And it is fair to say that without Savatage there would never have been a Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
SAVATAGE – THE WAKE OF MEGALLAN
‘Dead Winter Dead’ was also the prelude to the ‘The Wake of Magellan’ album the band released in 1997. This album allowed Savatage to reap the fruits of hard work, perseverance and, of course, continuous writing of great unique music. The second album in this band line-up is a somewhat heavier (more guitar orientated) compared to ‘Dead Winter Dead’. But also maintains the more progressive side of the band.
The concept of `The Wake Of Megallan’ is based on two real life events. The first, the Maersk Dubai incident, occurred just over a year before the album was released, when the captain and officers of the ship threw three Romanian stowaways overboard in the middle of the Atlantic. The second event regarded the Irish reporter Veronica Guerin, who died fighting the growth of the drug trade in her country. Her death may accomplish what she could not in life. These events are combined into the story of an old Portuguese sailor, Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan in English).
One of the things gave Savatage an advantage is that on first listen, a lot of songs come across as great music that’s enjoyable to listen to, but the more you look, the deeper it becomes. With Magellan, like the ocean itself, there’s so many little things hidden in there.
The LP reissue edition is available as 180g Double 12” Black Vinyl LP, along with a Limited Collector’s Edition on Heavyweight Transparent Orange Double Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl, reissued with the original cover design, specially enhanced artwork, including a 12-pages LP booklet with extensive liner notes and carry an exclusive, previously unreleased live bonus-track. Exclusive to the Limited Collector’s Edition is a Lenticular Cover Card.
Also releases is a Strictly Limited 10″ Picture Vinyl of ,,The Hourglass’’ (2000 pieces) that marked the forerunner of the carefully curated vinyl reissue series. ,,The Hourglass’’ comes emblazoned with a tailor-made, labyrinthine illustration of an hourglass, held by sixteen skeletons against a tempestuous surf. The single’s stunning, Doré-inspired visuals evoke aspects of memento mori and hearken back to The Wake of Magellan (1997) with their marine undertones. As this release comes from the ‘The Wake of Magellan’ album it makes sense to me, to shine a light on it on this place of the blog.
Highlights of the ‘The Wake of Magellan’ album are title track ,,The Wake Of Magellan’’, ,,Turns To Me’’ and ,,The Hourglass’’.
SAVATAGE – POETS AND MADMAN
The next and ‘final’ album in the Savatage catalogue is ‘Poets And Madmen’. This 2001 release saw the return of Jon Oliva as lead vocalist. Zachary Stevens and Al Pitrelli had left the band and with ‘Poets And Madmen’, we are once again dealing with a foursome that under the watchful eye of Paul O’Neill managed to create a final chapter in the band’s catalogue.
This album is again a touch heavier than its predecessors but retains the theatrical classical slant for which Savatage is so beloved. Jon’s vocals are so recognizable to the Savatage fan of the first hour that it immediately feels like a warm bath. For the tour in support of `Poets And Madman’, however, in addition to the regular line-up, the band had reinforcements in the form of vocalist Damond Jiniya and guitarist Jack Frost.
Available as Black 180g Double Vinyl Gatefold Edition and Strictly Limited Collector’s Edition on “Glow In The Dark” Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl, reissued with the original cover design and specially enhanced artwork, including a 16-pages LP booklet. Exclusive to the Limited Collector’s Edition is a 7” Splatter Single with the song ,,Awaken (Extended Version)’’.
Highlights on this album may be called ,,Commissar’’, ,,Morphine Child’’ and ,,Awaken’’. After the end of the tour, the end of the band was never officially confirmed. However apart from a ‘small’ headlining spot at the German Wacken open Air festival in 2015, we have unfortunately not heard anything new from Savatage. The diaries of the men directly involved with the band have been filled with work for Trans-Siberian Orchestra. So, whether the band ever comes out of their hiatus is future music.
BUT!!!! HERE IS A STORY THAT WAS REPORTED BY BRAVEWORDS A FEW WEEKS AGO
It’s been well over 20 years since Savatage released their last album, ‘Poets And Madman’, in 2001. Of course,the Trans-Siberian Orchestra took over and then we saw the tragic loss of leader Paul O’Neill in 2017. Jon Oliva, just spoke with Sakis Fragos, publisher/chief editor of Rock Hard Greece, for an exclusive update on the new record:
Oliva: “I just got home from the studio, where I was working on some Savatage songs. I was sending stuff back to Johnny (Middleton, the bass player) and Caffery. I’ll tell you something. This Savatage record is going to fuck it all up! That’s how good it is. I made a lot of mistakes like that before and I don’t make them now. I’m in no hurry at all. I want to release it next April, so we can all come and play the summer festivals next year. There’s no way we’re going to rush it. For any reason. Because this will probably be the last record we ever make, ever. I want to make sure it’s a 10/10 album. And the fact that Zak Stevens and I are going to be together on some songs and doing a duet makes me even more excited. Deliberately, I wrote six-seven songs specifically for Zak to sing. I worked on some songs with Al Pitrelli, which are definitely for me. There are a couple of epic songs where Zak sings some parts, I sing some parts, and we sing together on some of them. It’s the best record I’ve ever written. Unless I kill myself!”
”My goal is to have it out next year, on Criss’s birthday (i.e. April 3). Then we want to come back and play festivals. We have so many offers. Saki, I’m not 25 years old. I want to play Wacken, I want to play everywhere and then that’s it. This will be my way of saying goodbye to the whole world. I want to tell our fans how much I love them. They provide my livelihood. I don’t want to let them down. I’ll be there next summer, too, to play the festivals and kick some ass!”
SO, with a bit of luck, we get to enjoy new Savatage tunes in April 2024, as well as a tour in support of the album. In the meanwhile, we can enjoy these awesome re-releases, that were put together with so much love and attention for detail by earMUSIC.