James LaBrie

Elements of Persuasion

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Clichés have a way of being overused, but some of them are so darn accurate that it's hard not to come back to them again and again. One such cliché is, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." That cliché applies to politics and economics, and it most certainly applies to music; James LaBrie's third solo project, Elements of Persuasion, is a perfect example. This 2005 release worships, cherishes and adores rock's past without being totally enslaved by it, and like a lot of the neo-soulsters who have managed to link the '60s and '70s with the '90s and 2000s (Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, among others), LaBrie has no problem drawing on different eras for inspiration. But the Dream Theater vocalist has nothing to do with R&B; his turf is hard rock, metal and progressive rock, and Elements of Persuasion is an album with both pre-Nevermind and post-Nevermind components. There is no getting around the abundance of '70s and '80s influences that assert themselves on this disc -- influences ranging from Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest and Queensrÿche to the elaborate progressive rock of Yes, Kansas and Rush. But instead of being totally retro, Elements of Persuasion also draws on the chug-chug riffs and downtuned guitars of alternative rock metal, grunge and post-grunge; this is a CD that can make you think of Geddy Lee or Rob Halford one minute, and Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Incubus or Powerman 5000 the next (which isn't unlike R. Kelly showing us what the Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye have in common with Snoop Dogg and the Notorious B.I.G.). This ambitious effort is slightly uneven; some of LaBrie's ideas work better than others. But overall, Elements of Persuasion is a pleasing, well-crafted demonstration of how a rocker can benefit creatively from the Baby Boomer generation as well as its Gen-X offspring.

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