That said, the band covered five tracks and a medley here. You have Stargazer, Take Your Fingers From My Hair, the aforementioned Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Odyssey, and To Tame a Land, standing alongside the mid-Sheer Heart Attack medley of Tenement Funster, Flick of the Wrist, and Lily of the Valley. Believe it or not, fans and non-fans, they're actually all pretty solid.
Let's start off making it seem like we're going to go in order, then, shall we? Yeah, that sounds logical. We start with the Rainbow cover (Stargazer). By now, most people have heard the original, off of Rising; it's a phenomenal performance in its original version, and surely Dream Theater can't top it, can they?! Well, I wouldn't say they top it, but they do equal it. That, in and of itself, is a feat, but there is help in terms of making this possible; Dream Theater are, of course, a band that is used to tossing us giant songs, and the original "Stargazer" was among the mightiest of giants, even at its fairly short length (for an epic, I mean). The performance is incredible, and Jordan Rudess -- constantly someone that I have to scratch my head at because of the sounds he gives us from his synth -- selects fairly tasteful tones, resulting in something that sounds like... Uriah Heep organs, up until the end section.
The problem is, the basicmost form of this statement -- "Sounds good and is well-performed" -- can be repeated throughout this review for everything. Everything sounds good and is well-performed. Not that the band ever really performs badly in studio, sometimes they just have really ugly sounds. Rudess is far from a bad musician, but sometimes you just have to gripe about the tones. Fortunately, he dodges anything too abominable throughout and sticks to skillful playing. The drums sometimes sound a spot 'flat' in some places, not being so punchy, which reminds me, oddly, of Take Cover's mastering. I found myself enjoying James LaBrie's vocals on this disc more than on the actual album, for some reason.
In any case, I'd never heard the originals of either the Dixie Dregs (Odyssey) or the Zebra (Take Your Fingers From My Hair) covers, but they're both good performances, which earns them their requisite points. I'm familiar with Steve Morse (the Dregs' founding guitarist)'s work through Deep Purple, and if indeed that lives up to the contend of "Odyssey," then this is definitely a fine cover; hell, even if the Dregs work is better than e.g. Purpendicular's material...
So, let's get to the other three, containing the ones that nonfans of DT might get more cheesed off about. First and foremost we have the one that I was thoroughly ready to shit bricks on, the cover of King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2. Fortunately, it is performed well, and the guitar tone even sounds like it was re-tuned from the original album. I must confess to having one tiny complaint about this, though, and that is that the guitar tone doesn't really sound right when it's by itself. The parts where the guitar is unaccompanied make me actually want to turn the track off sometimes, but I know they're short enough that I don't. The arrangement is pretty faithful and, of course, it's well-performed, and being an instrumental, it's impossible to find a way to complain about James LaBrie's voice, unless you're one of the rare people (note that this isn't a piss-take at him, it's just what I've observed as truth) who really can't get enough of his voice.
Next up, we have the Queen medley cover, Tenement Funster/Flick Of The Wrist/Lily Of The Valley. I won't say much about the change in tone, except that it actually works. I was apprehensive about the (Portnoy-provided) growling, but it works very well, actually, considering the rest of the song's drop in tone. Whoever does the higher backing vocals here should really be commended, actually, because they sound like something from an actual Queen record, or at least close.
Last but not least, we have an Iron Maiden cover, To Tame A Land. A large portion of the song is devoted to John (Petrucci)'s guitar solo, which means that it can't be too bad by default, pretty much, and indeed, it comes off well. I have but one complaint to voice, though; wasn't this cover already released? I think it would be nice to see something that they hadn't covered yet, something maybe more obscure. Surely they know a couple of other bands that are rather unknown, beyond just Zebra, right?
Of course, it's not completely necessary, but I already have Maiden Heaven (I think that's where I found the "To Tame a Land" cover before), and I do like to get as much new stuff for my money as I can. Still, that's four hits and two walks ("Larks' Tongues" loses a few points because some of the sound is a little smelly, and "To Tame a Land" gets a little taken off the edges because of the I-think-I-have-this-already factor), and with decent sound and nothing to complain about in the performances, I don't think it's unfair of me to rate this an 8.5/10 -- not perfect but far from bad. Wouldn't mind having things like this for other future DT albums.