Blog | The Vinyl Corner – Episode 16
Savatage Part 3
The entire Savatage musical catalog 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. From August 2021 earMUSIC started with the re-releases of these albums. 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 never been released before.
Also all the work is re-mastered especially for these releases. Since this band is still very popular and these are beautifully executed copies, I couldn’t resist to climb into the pen and put them in the spotlight. For The VINYL Corner, SAVATAGE special part 3, I will discuss the re-releases of ’Streets’, ‘Edge Of Thorns’ and ‘Handful Of Rain’.
STREETS – A ROCK OPERA
This episode of the VINYL corner starts with an absolute Savatage classic. Originally released in 1991, this album ‘Streets – A Rock Opera’ should have been the bands worldwide breakthrough. In a time that not every artist wanted to have a rock opera in their catalog, Savatage dared to take a step into new territories. Under the direction of Paul O’Neill the Oliva brothers, along with drummer Steve Wacholz and bassist Johnny Lee Middleton managed to create their first concept album. The album brought us absolute bangers like ,,Jesus Saves’’, ,,Tonight He Grins Again’’, ,,Ghost In The Ruins’’ and ,,Believe’’.
To me this record is still a masterpiece. Even more than 30 years after its original release it is still solid as a rock. The group’s first rock opera tells of a rock star who ultimately overcomes the demons of his drug-dealing past to achieve spiritual salvation. This Savatage classic was reissued as a Heavy weight Double LP Gatefold Edition on Black Vinyl, along with a Limited Collector’s Edition on Ocean Blue Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl and reissued with the original cover design, specially enhanced artwork.
Including a 12 pages LP booklet with extensive liner notes and the bonus song ,,Larry Elbows’’. As with the other liner notes, this again gives us a detailed glimpse into the band’s history at that time of their career.
After such a big and important effort in Savatage’s career, Jon made the move no one could have predicted. Driven by vocal performance issues, he stepped away from the band as a vocalist. However he would remain as a songwriter. After the biggest album yet, the band was challenged to find a singer that would be able to fill very big shoes, as Jon’s voice was such a characteristic piece of Savatage’s sound so far.
EDGE OF THORNS
The 1993 ‘Edge Of Thorns’ album is the band’s first album that features Zachary Stevens as lead vocalist. It would be the last album to feature the talents of guitarist Criss Oliva who died in a car accident in the year of release.
For me, personally, this album is a stepping stone that should have been an amazing new chapter for the band. Yes Zachary, has a different voice than Jon, but he knows to hit the right notes. Also the songs are of a very high level. Title track, ,,Edge of Thorns’’ and songs like ,,He Carves His Stone’’, ,,Labyrinths’’ and the amazing version of the UFO classic ,,Lights Out’’, are just some of the diamonds on this release. Just like ,,Sleep’’ which, yet again, uncovers a different side of the band. Savatage has continued to improve themselves, time and again, to an incredibly high standard without any quality loss.
‘Edge Of Thorns’ is available as a High Quality 45rpm 180g Double 12inch Black Vinyl LP reissue, along with a Limited Collector’s Edition on Sun Yellow Double Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl, spinning at 45rpm and reissued with the original cover design, specially enhanced artwork. Including a 12-pages LP booklet with extensive liner notes. Exclusive to the Limited Collector’s Edition is a deluxe art print showing the iconic album cover illustration.
HANDFUL OF RAIN
As I already mentioned, ‘Edge Of Thorns’ was Criss Oliva’s last album with Savatage, as he died in a car accident. Criss was both a unique guitarist and songwriter. AND, of course, he was the brother of Jon Oliva, who had not only lost his brother/ friend/ co-songwriter at that time. He had to decide what was going to happen with Savatage. Luckily for us he decided to put all his talent and grief into the songwriting of what would become ‘Handful Of Rain’.
Despite the fact that on the album, are band photos without Jon, this album is actually Jon Oliva’s effort only. He was the person who created this album [with the help of Paul O’Neill], played the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar tracks. Just the solo guitars were done by Alex Skolnick and Zack did the vocals.
This must have been the strangest, surreal time in the history of this band, but I am grateful that they did manage to create the album.
‘Handful Of Rain’ was the first album after Criss Oliva’s death. “None of us knew at that time if what we were doing was right, or if we should have just stopped”, says Jon Oliva. “We were offered four times the amount of money to do the live tribute than we got to do ‘Handful of Rain’, but we wanted to do ,,Alone You Breathe’’. Paul and I needed to release that song, for Criss’ sake. As weird as it sounds, that was the most important thing to us.”
1994’s ‘Handful Of Rain’ is dedicated to Criss Oliva and contains some true Savatage treasures. Title track ,,Handful Of Rain’’, ,,Chance’’ and the ultimate tribute to Criss ,,Alone You Breathe’’ are some of the highlights on this record.
Almost three decades after its original release, ‘Handful Of Rain’ became available on the finest vinyl. Reissued as a 180g Black LP Gatefold Edition, along with a Limited Collector’s Edition on Transparent Blue Vinyl. Both editions are mastered for vinyl and reissued with the original cover design and specially enhanced artwork, including a 12-pages LP booklet with extensive liner notes. Exclusive to the Limited LP Collector’s Edition is a deluxe LP slipmat with the album cover art.
So for the next edition of The VINYL Corner, SAVATAGE special part 4, I will discuss the re-releases of Savatage’s last albums in their catalog. ‘Dead Winter Dead’, ‘The Wake Of Magellan’ and ‘Poets And Madmen’
To be continued….
All photos by Raymond Helebrand