Awhile back, I announced that I had acquired a copy of Lifting Shadows: The Authorized Biography of Dream Theater by Rich Wilson and intended to review it, though I suspected it would be useless from a functional standpoint. Having actually read the book, I stand by this statement–if you’re a hardcore Dream Theater fan, you likely pre-ordered the book as soon as you learned of its existence; if you’re not, you will no doubt look at the price tag (A total of $83 to ship to the US) and wonder “Who in their right mind would pay that much for this book?!”
Well, right mind or not, I paid that much for this book. Or more accurately, I paid that much for these books–Lifting Shadows is actually two books. The first, Images, is essentially a 175-page picture book of the band’s career, starting in high school and ending in late 2007 with the release of their newest album, Systematic Chaos. A companion CD is also in this book, taking selected tracks from various rarities/fan club releases/etc the band has released. The second book, Words, is the story “proper” of the band, again, essentially starting with the core of the band in high school and continuing to effectively the present day.
Despite the overall lack of the usual excesses of Rock N’ Roll, the story of the band itself is nonetheless captivating. One thing I personally found fascinating was how much of a part label politics play in the making of an album–the band’s issues with their label in making Falling into Infinity have been documented elsewhere, but I found it amusing that the band were pressured to hurry up and release Awake so that their label’s financial bottom line would look good for the quarter. As is said in the book, “It’s a wonder albums ever get made”.
There are two things that bothered me about the book (Besides the price tag, that is). The first is something that the author couldn’t really help–while pretty much everyone involved in the band, past or present, had something to say about their time in the band for the book (Charlie Dominici and Derek Sherinian being the obvious ones, but also figures from the pre-DT days, and one-time DT vocalist Steve Stone), the early part of the book in particular suffers somewhat from the absence of Kevin Moore. This isn’t Wilson’s fault; Moore has wanted nothing to do with his past since leaving Dream Theater, repeatedly declining offers to appear at special DT shows. Nonetheless, maybe because of his silence over the years, it would definitely have been nice to get his side of the story on things, in particular one story James LaBrie told about one show where they had agreed to start wailing on a heckler. James dove down and started pounding the guy, and Kevin…stayed right behind his keyboards. The second thing that annoyed me about the book were various typos. Not factual errors, by any means, but little things like misplaced punctuation, misspellings, etc. that would occasionally make me stop and go “wha?” Granted, there are times I’ve made some pretty bizarre typos here on this site, but then you’re not paying a huge amount of money to read it.
Overall, Lifting Shadows is very good from a story standpoint. But, unless you’re a superfan of Dream Theater (In which case you likely already own this), it’s simply not $70 good, even taking into account the cool case with the Dream Theater symbol it comes in.