Dream Theater

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Dream Theater: (left to right) John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess and John Myung

Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed by three students at the Berklee College of Music in the mid-1980s. In the twenty years since their inception, they have become the most commercially successful progressive band since the height of progressive rock in the mid-1970s, despite being relatively unknown in mainstream pop and rock circles. Their highest selling album, 1992's Images and Words, was awarded a gold record and is consistently named as a seminal progressive metal release, although it only reached #61 on the Billboard 200 charts.

The band is well-known for the technical proficiency of each instrumentalist, winning many awards from music magazines; but for the same reason, they are often seen by critics as a prototypical "pomp" rock group with a penchant for self-indulgence, needlessly escapist subject matter and overlong musical passages. In spite of this, they are highly respected by many of rock and metal's biggest names, leading to collaborations between Dream Theater members and many other well known musicians. In a famous example, guitarist John Petrucci was named as the third player on the G3 tour with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, following in the footsteps of Eric Johnson, Robert Fripp, Yngwie Malmsteen and other influential guitarists.

Dream Theater are also noted for their musical versatility and the many different genres their own music incorporates, which has made it possible for them to perform with a very diverse range of acts. Some of their more notable touring partners include Yes, Marillion, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Joe Satriani, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation, Queensr’che, Megadeth, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden.



Current members

Former members

Progressive metal pioneers

Dream Theater, along with counterparts Queensr’che and Fates Warning, are credited with reviving progressive music into critical and commercial success in the late '80s and early 1990s after the genre had spent almost a decade in decline. Heavyweights of prog such as Yes and Genesis had moved toward a straightforward pop-rock sound in the early '80s, and neo-prog acts like Marillion and IQ were popular, but were seen to be less progressive than their '70s counterparts. It was not until Dream Theater and others climbed radio charts in the early '90s that truly progressive music was once again seen as a genuinely popular genre of music.

The progressive rock bands of the '70s and '80s had a profound influence on the compositional structure of Dream Theater's music, but modern acts like Metallica and Iron Maiden had a more pronounced sonic effect, lending Dream Theater their heaviness and wailing vocal style. The unique mix of '70s progressive rock and '80s heavy metal, previously unheard of prior to the formation of Queensr’che and Fates Warning, was given the name progressive metal. Dream Theater are seen as a major pioneer of that genre despite forming slightly later than both Queensr’che and Fates Warning, and they are responsible for triggering a sharp incline in the number of progressive metal bands being formed through the '90s and 2000s.

Today, they stand as the one of the most important and commercially successful progressive metal groups in the genre's existence. While Queensr’che moved towards straightforward rock after the success of their album Empire (and its hit song "Silent Lucidity"), and Fates Warning struggled to forge a significant commercial following, Dream Theater influenced many modern progressive metal bands while at the same time consistently climbing the rock charts. Bands like Spock's Beard, Pain of Salvation and even Tool owe part of their success to the groundbreaking work of Dream Theater throughout the '80s and '90s.


Main article: History of Dream Theater

1986 - 1990

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Founding members John Myung, Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci in 1986

Dream Theater was formed in 1986 by guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy while studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Kevin Moore, a high school band-mate of Petrucci's, was recruited to play keyboards and Chris Collins was enlisted as vocalist.

The quintet settled on the name Majesty for their newly-formed group (a name inspired by Portnoy's description of the closing section of "Bastille Day" by Rush), and the three Berklee attendees dropped out to concentrate on the band.

In November 1986, after a few months of writing and performing together, Chris Collins left the band because of creative differences with the other members. After a year of trying to find a replacement, Charlie Dominici, who was far older and more experienced than anyone else in the band, successfully auditioned for the group. With the stability that Dominici's appointment brought to Majesty, they began playing more shows in and around the New York City area, and gained a considerable amount of exposure for a band that had not yet released an album.

Their first major recording project was The Majesty Demos, a collection of ideas and demos that were released in 1987. The initial run of 1,000 sold out within six months, and dubbed copies of the cassette spread like wildfire through the progressive metal scene all over the world.

Shortly after the release of the demos, they were forced to change their name when another band named Majesty threatened legal action. Various names were trialled until Portnoy's father suggested the name Dream Theater, which was subsequently settled upon.

They signed their first record contract, with Mechanic (a division of MCA), in 1988 and set out to record their debut album.

When Dream and Day Unite was released in 1989 to far less fanfare than was anticipated. Mechanic ended up breaking the majority of the financial promises they had made to the band prior to signing their contract, so they were restricted to playing around NYC. The promotional tour for the album consisted of just five concerts, all of which were in New York or Rhode IslandTemplate:Ref.

After the fourth of these gigs, Dominici was fired because of personal and creative differences between him and the rest of the band. Shortly after, however, Marillion asked Dream Theater to open for them at a gig at the Ritz in New York, so Dominici was given the opportunity to perform one last time. It would be a further two years before Dream Theater had another full-time singer.

1991 - 1994

Following Dominici's firing, Dream Theater fought successfully to be released from their contract with Mechanic, and set about auditioning singers and writing material for their next album. In the time until they had secured a replacement vocalist, they wrote the majority of the music for what would become their second album, Images and Words.

In their search for a new singer they auditioned over 200 people, among them former Fates Warning frontman John Arch, but all were turned down for various reasons. In 1991 a tape arrived from Canadian singer James LaBrie, who was immediately flown to New York for a proper audition. After a short jam session he was hired as full-time singer.

For the next few months, the band resumed gigging, and worked on vocal parts for all the music that they had written to that point. ATCO Records (now EastWest) signed Dream Theater to a seven album contract on the strength of their reputation and a three song demo (later made available as "The ATCO Demos" through the Dream Theater fan club).

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The cover of Dream Theater's Images and Words album

The first album to be released under their new record contract was Images and Words in 1992. The song "Pull Me Under" gained a lot of radio airplay, and as a result the label commissioned a video clip for its promotion, which had high MTV rotation.

The success of "Pull Me Under", combined with relentless touring throughout the U.S. and Japan, caused Images and Words to achieve gold record certification in the States and platinum in Japan. A tour of Europe followed in 1993, which included a show at London's famed Marquee jazz club. That show was recorded and released as Live at the Marquee, Dream Theater's first official live album. Additionally, a video compilation of their Japanese concerts (mixed in with some documentary-style footage of the off-stage portion of the tour) was released as Images and Words: Live in Tokyo.

Keen to work on fresh material, Dream Theater retreated to the studio in May 1994. The 1994 sessions were the first in which Dream Theater as a whole wrote music together that was specifically for an album.

Awake, Dream Theater's third studio album, was released in October 1994 in a hail of controversy among established fans. Shortly before the album was mixed, Moore announced to the rest of the band that he wished to concentrate on his own musical interests and would be quitting Dream Theater. This rocked a band that had enjoyed just two years of stability after a tumultuous first half-decade, but Moore was no longer interested in the life of a touring musician nor the brand of progressive metal Dream Theater performed, so the two parties went their separate ways.

As a result of that news, the band had to scramble to find a replacement keyboardist instead of jumping head-first into touring mode.

Jordan Rudess, an up-and-coming keyboardist who was relatively unknown to that point, was invited to play a trial performance with Dream Theater in the hopes that he would join the band. The gig went well, but Rudess decided to join The Dixie Dregs as a touring member instead of Dream Theater, and Derek Sherinian was brought on as a hired-gun instead. By the conclusion of the Awake promotional tour, Sherinian was Dream Theater's full-time keyboardist.

1995 - 1998

After a petition from fans to EastWest Records, the group recorded their previously unreleased song "A Change of Seasons" and distributed it as an EP with a collection of live cover tracks. After a short run of small "one-off" concerts to promote the EP, Dream Theater entered the studio once more to write their next album.

In all, almost two CDs worth of material was written including a 20 minute long follow-up to the Images and Words song "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper". The label, however, did not allow the release of a double album because they felt that a 140-minute record would not be digestable by the general public, so half the songs had to be cut.

In addition to, and as a function of, pressuring the band into adopting a more mainstream sound, EastWest recruited writer/producer Desmond Child to work with Petrucci on re-writing the lyrics to his demo "You Or Me". The whole band substantially reworked the music to that song, and it appeared on the album as "You Not Me" in a form that was barely reminiscent of the original.

The material that made it onto the album proper was released as Falling Into Infinity, which received a mixed reception from traditional Dream Theater fans. Despite the album containing some very progressive-sounding songs, tracks like "Hollow Years" and "You Not Me" prompted some to believe it was the dawn of a new, mainstream-sounding Dream Theater, just as the release of Empire had previously heralded the same shift for Queensr’che. The album was both a critical and commercial disappointment.

In recent years, the album has been rehabilitated to an extent, and interest was rekindled when Portnoy indicated that the unused songs - including more traditionally progressive cuts such as "Raise the Knife" - would be released through Portnoy's YtseJam Records.

During the European leg of the Falling Into Infinity world tour, two shows were recorded for a live album entitled Once In A LIVEtime, in France and The Netherlands. The album was released at around the same time as the video 5 Years in a LIVEtime, which chronicled the time from when Kevin Moore left the band right up to the Falling Into Infinity promotional tour.

In 1997, Magna Carta Records' Mike Varney invited Portnoy to assemble a progressive 'supergroup' to work on an album, which would become the first in a long string of side-projects for the members of Dream Theater. The lineup that was eventually settled on consisted of Portnoy on drums, Petrucci on guitar, Tony Levin on bass, and Jordan Rudess, who had finished with the Dixie Dregs by that time, on keyboards. The band assumed the name Liquid Tension Experiment, and would act as a medium through which Portnoy and Petrucci could once again court Rudess to join them in Dream Theater. They extended an invitation for him to join them in 1999, and he accepted the offer to become the third full-time Dream Theater keyboardist. Unfortunately for Sherinian, this meant that he was out of a job.

1999 onward

Missing image

Armed with yet another new member, Dream Theater entered BearTracks Studio once again to write and record their next album. Perhaps as a response to the backlash over Falling Into Infinity, this time their record label gave the band complete freedom with their music. The follow-up to "Metropolis Part 1" off Images and Words, which was written during the Falling Into Infinity sessions (but not used on that album), was taken off the shelf as the first composition for them to work on.

They decided to expand the 20-minute song into a complete concept album, with the story revolving around themes such as reincarnation, murder and betrayal. To avoid stirring up the fan base, a tight veil of secrecy enveloped the writing and recording process. The only things fans knew prior to its release were a tracklist that had been leaked against the band's wishes, and a release date. They knew nothing of the title, the music, or even the fact that it would be a concept album.

In 1999, Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory was released to high critical acclaim. It was hailed as Dream Theater's masterpiece by many fans and critics alike, despite only reaching #73 on the chartsTemplate:Ref.

A massive world tour followed, taking over a year to complete and visiting more countries than they had ever toured before.

For one extra special show, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, actors were hired to play characters in the story, and a gospel choir was enlisted to perform in some sections of the show. One actor played the part of the hypnotherapist, and gospel singer Theresa Thomason sang the part of the female main character, Victoria.

This show, the last North American date of the tour, was recorded for the band's first DVD release. After many technical delays, Dream Theater fans finally got their hands on the DVD, entitled Metropolis 2000, in early 2001. Shortly after its release, the band announced that an audio version of the concert, with the entire four-hour long setlist (most of which had to be cut from the DVD to save space), would be released shortly thereafter.

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The covers of Live at the Marquee and Live Scenes From New York, notice the silhouette of the World Trade Center within the flames on the right

The cover for the CD version of the concert, titled Live Scenes From New York, showed one of Dream Theater's early logos (the Images And Words-era burning heart, modelled on the Sacred Heart) modified to show an apple (as in Big Apple) instead of the heart, and the New York skyline, including the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in the flame above it. In an unfortunate coincidence, the album was released on the same date as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. The album was immediately recalled, but many copies were snapped up by Dream Theater collectors as a very rare piece of Dream Theater's history. It was re-released with revised artwork a short time later.

Dream Theater once again entered BearTracks Studios to record their sixth studio album. Four years after they first petitioned EastWest to allow them to release a double album, they finally got their chance with Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The first disc consisted of five tracks of 5-13 minutes in length, and the second disc was devoted entirely to the 42-minute title track, which is to date the longest song Dream Theater have written.

Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence ended up being received very well by critics and the press. It was the most publicized of Dream Theater's albums since Awake, debuting on the Billboard charts at #46Template:Ref and the Billboard Internet charts at #1Template:Ref.

Throughout the next year and a half they toured the world once more, with an expanded live show including a select few special "album cover" gigs (see Cover songs section, below), in which they played Metallica's Master of Puppets and Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast in their entirety.

At the completion of their promotional tour and a short break, Dream Theater entered the studio to write and record what would become Train of Thought, their heaviest album to that point. The album was a critical success, but it had a polarizing effect, alienating a fair proportion of Dream Theater's fans who enjoyed the traditional progressive rock influence from bands such as Yes or King Crimson more than Dream Theater's modern muses like Tool and Metallica. Regardless, it expanded the band's fan base into new territory, that of mainstream heavy metal and nu-metal.

Their next move was to release another live CD/DVD combination, this time recorded at the famous Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on their Train of Thought world tour. Live at Budokan was released on October 5, 2004, and further propelled Dream Theater's reputation as one of the premier live acts in progressive metal.

Upon the completion of their Train of Thought promotional tour, Dream Theater entered the Hit Factory studios in NYC to record their eighth album. As it turned out, they would be the last group ever to record in that famous studio, and after they wrapped up their final session, the lights were turned off at the studio forever.

The new album, Octavarium, was released on June 7, 2005Template:Ref. The album is the last under their seven album deal with Elektra Records. Their plans for the future are currently unknown.

Concert reputation

Throughout their career, Dream Theater's live shows have gradually become bigger, longer, more diverse, less restrictive and more fun. Early in their career, a Dream Theater show was not considerably different than that of any other progressive metal band, but today one can never be totally sure what to expect from their gigs.

The most obvious example of this is their rotational setlist policy. That is, every single night of every tour has its setlist devised by Portnoy using a meticulous process that ensures it is completely unique. Factors such as setlists from previous cities are taken into account to ensure that people who see Dream Theater multiple times within the same area will not see the same songs performed twice, and even the setlist from the last time the band were in a particular city is taken into account for the benefit of fans who see the band on successive toursTemplate:Ref.

For this to be possible, the band must prepare themselves to play the majority of their catalogue at any stage depending on what Portnoy decides to play for that night. This also requires the employment of a very complex lighting system that loads pre-set light movements based on the setlist, which is actually entered into the system.

Missing image
Greg Chick, an audience member, performing Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" on stage with Dream Theater

Length is another unique element of Dream Theater concerts. Their full world tours, since Six Degree of Inner Turbulence, have predominantly been so-called "Evening with..." tours, in which the band performs for at least three hours with an intermission and no opening act. The show that was recorded for Live Scenes From New York was nearly four hours in length, and resulted in Portnoy almost being hospitalizedTemplate:Ref.

There is also a significant amount of humor, casualness, and improvisation attached to a Dream Theater concert. It is not unheard of, for example, for a member of the audience to be picked out at random to perform on stage (an example of which can be seen during Portnoy's drum solo on the Live at Budokan DVD). There have also been impromptu renditions of "Happy Birthday" when a member of the band or crew have a birthday corresponding to a tour date. This normally results in a birthday cake being thrown over the person.

During Derek Sherinian's time with the band, at selected shows, the band members all swapped instruments and performed an encore as the fictional "Nightmare Cinema" (the approximate opposite of "Dream Theater"). They usually performed a cover of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers", and, on one occasion, Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution".

Similarly, at very few shows, Sherinian, Petrucci and Portnoy would take the stage together under the name "Nicky Lemons and the Migraine Brothers". Sherinian, wearing a feather boa and novelty sunglasses, would perform a song called "I Don't Like You" with Petrucci and Portnoy backing.

Logo and imagery

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The Dream Theater wordmark and Majesty symbol.

Early on in their career, Dream Theater adopted a custom logo (known as the Majesty symbol) and wordmark which has appeared on the vast majority of their promotional material since, with at least one of the official marks appearing on the front cover of every major release to date, with the exception of Once in a LIVEtime. Even after the band dropped the Majesty name the symbol remained as their official mark, and it is viewed by the Dream Theater fan community in much the same way as the four symbols of each member of Led Zeppelin are embraced by fans of that band. It is common to see people with Majesty symbol tattoos at Dream Theater concerts.

The Majesty symbol is derived from Mary Queen of Scots' markTemplate:Ref, which was re-worked by Charlie Dominici for use on the album artwork for When Dream and Day UniteTemplate:Ref.

The fact that the wordmark did not appear on the covers of Falling Into Infinity and Once in a LIVEtime was interpreted by some fans as evidence that the band had sold out and strayed from their roots, but by the time it had reclaimed its place on the cover of Scenes From a Memory the unhappiness was largely forgotten. It has since appeared on every subsequent release.

Bootleg culture

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Mike Portnoy started an official bootlegs series in response to Dream Theater fans' affinity for live versions of their concerts. Shown here is an offical bootleg of their October 28, 1995 concert in Tokyo, Japan

Dream Theater are without question one of the most actively bootlegged bands in the progressive metal genre. Since their very first gigs in New York as Majesty, fans have recorded almost every single show that Dream Theater have played (occasionally there are three or four versions of a single concert), and some very elaborate and professional recordings have been released.

However, not every member in the band tolerates the release of Dream Theater bootlegs. Portnoy is definitely the most pro-bootlegging member, since he was an avid collector of many bootlegs in his younger days and keeps his own personal archive of Dream Theater material. But both Petrucci and LaBrie have voiced opposition to people recording their concerts. Petrucci takes issue with bootleggers because he prefers audience members to concentrate on the musicians on stage, and not the level adjustments on their recording device. LaBrie, on the other hand, has an opinion that is quite common among musicians and performers: that bootlegging takes ownership and control over Dream Theater's performances away from the band themselves and into the hands of the public. Myung has expressed mild opposition to bootlegging, but in some interviews has mentioned that he does not particularly take great issue with it.

Regardless of their personal opinions, each member of the band still autographs any bootleg that is presented to them for a signature, so their opposition is not as fervent as that of some musicians. This is possibly best exemplified by the fact that Dream Theater have launched a series of official bootlegs through YtseJam Records, spearheaded by Portnoy.

Cover songs

Main article: List of songs covered by Dream Theater

Even though they have been well-known for covering other artists' work throughout the entirety of their career, Dream Theater took it to another level during the promotional tour for Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. At three special gigs, one each in Barcelona, Chicago and New York City, they covered Metallica's Master of Puppets album in its entirety after a full set of Dream Theater material. This came as a complete shock to fans as there was no sign that this was to occur, other than it being announced that the gigs involved, which were the second of a two-night stand in each city, would be "extra special".

Portnoy devised this "album cover" as the first in a series of gigs to be played as tributes to bands that had been influencial in the formation and development of Dream Theater. The covers set divided many fans who attended the shows, with some people saying that they went to a Dream Theater concert to see original music and not another artist's work. Others, however, said that it was a bonus and not a replacement for a normal Dream Theater concert, since an ordinary gig had been played the night before. The next time an album cover gig was to occur this negativity was more subdued, since most fans knew what was to occur at the gig and were aware that they would not be seeing an entire night of Dream Theater material.

On the next leg of the tour they covered Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast and received a similar reaction to Master of Puppets, although it was already known that a cover was to be performed that night because the tour itinery included two successive gigs in a single city. Mike Portnoy says that he has three more cover shows planned, but refuses to reveal when they will occur, or what albums will be coveredTemplate:Ref. There is much debate in Dream Theater fan circles about what albums will be covered, and even what genre those albums will fall under, but general consensus is that it is inevitable that at least one '70s progressive rock album will be covered, and possibly an album from a modern band like Tool or Radiohead.


The most complete Dream Theater discography, including bootlegs, promos and compilations can be seen on the Dream Theater French Fan Club (http://www.yourmajesty.net) discography sections.
Studio albums
Studio EPs
Live albums


Awards and certificates

RIAA Gold and Platinum certification
See also: RIAA certification

Source (http://www.riaa.com/gp/database/default.asp): search for "Dream Theater".

Keyboard Magazine

Jordan Rudess has been awarded the following Keyboard Magazine Reader's Poll awards:


  • Best New Talent
Modern Drummer

Mike Portnoy has won the following Modern Drummer magazine Reader's Poll awards:


  • Best Up & Coming Talent


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Best Recorded Performance (Awake)


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Best Recorded Performance (A Change of Seasons)


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Best Recorded Performance (Falling Into Infinity)


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Best Recorded Performance (Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory)
  • Best Clinician
  • Best Educational Video/DVD


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Best Recorded Performance (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)
  • Best Clinician
  • Best Educational Video/DVD


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer
  • Hall of Fame Inductee


  • Best Progressive Rock Drummer


  1. Template:Note See the MikePortnoy.com tourography (http://www.mikeportnoy.com/dates/tourography.asp?menu=dates&tour=4) for details on these concerts.
  2. Template:Note Details on the chart performance of Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory can be seen at DreamTheater.net (http://www.dreamtheater.net/archive_dreamtheater.php?y=2002#billboard).
  3. Template:Note More information on the chart performance of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence can be found at Billboard.com (http://www.billboard.com/bb/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1318180) and DreamTheater.net (http://www.dreamtheater.net/archive_dreamtheater.php?y=2002#billboard).
  4. Template:Note DreamTheater.net (http://www.dreamtheater.net/archive_dreamtheater.php?y=2002#billboard) reported that Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence had reached #1 on the Billboard Internet Charts.
  5. Template:Note See the Earplugs Required interview with Mike Portnoy (http://www.earplugsrequired.com/bands/dreamtheater/dreamtheatermike.html) for an explanation of the setlist system (approximately half-way down the page).
  6. Template:Note This situation is explained in the commentary track on the Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York DVD.
  7. Template:Note The mark used by Mary Queen of Scots can be seen through Dream Theater.net (http://www.dreamtheater.net/pics/marysymb.jpg).
  8. Template:Note Dominici was responsible for editing the Majesty Symbol in its current form. See DTFAQ.com (http://www.dtfaq.com/question/29).
  9. Template:Note In his FAQ list (http://www.mikeportnoy.com/about/mpfaq/showquestion.asp?fldAuto=353), Mike Portnoy mentions that he has five albums picked out for Dream Theater to cover. Two of those, Master of Puppets and The Number of the Beast, have already been played.


  • Bredius, Mark. Dream Theater - The Official Site (http://www.dreamtheater.net). (Retrieved February-April, 2005.)
  • Dixon, Brad et al. DTFAQ.com - Dream Theater FAQ (http://www.dtfaq.com). (Retrieved February-April, 2005.)
  • Hansen, Scott & Portnoy, Mike. Dream Theater Tourography (http://www.mikeportnoy.com/dates/tourography.asp?menu=dates). (Retrieved February-April, 2005.)
  • King, Brian. (2003). "JaM Progductions! Interview with John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy". Theater of Dreams 29, pp. 14-20.
  • Hansen, Scott. (2003). "James LaBrie: As this man thinks". Theater of Dreams 27/28, pp. 26-30.

External links

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