EMI/Capitol must have decided to get back into the game when Queensrÿche scored big with both their Operation: Mindcrime II and the deluxe CD package that featured them performing both volumes live at the Moore Theater in Seattle (Mindcrime at the Moore). Both those records were solid, even inspiring; they showcased the band at their very tightest and unhinged from their own legacy -- despite the fact that founding guitarist Chris DeGarmo was no longer a part of the group and had been replaced by Mike Stone -- they performed as if they were seasoned professionals who, at the same time, had become hungry newcomers again. They recorded the second Mindcrime studio album using the same technology as the original Operation: Mindcrime disc released more than a decade earlier, making the works sound of a piece. Played live it was a seamless concept recording, grand, bombastic, and full of tight twists and turns, as well as a great story line courtesy of Geoff Tate. What would any major label do in the wake of an unexpected success by a band it had let go years earlier? First they redo the catalog and add bonus material, then comes compilation time. It's what they all do.
Sign of the Times: The Best of Queensrÿche comes in two different editions: single and double disc. The double-disc version contains the toughest 17 cuts covering the gamut of the band's career until the time they left EMI, plus one cut from Mindcrime II, "Queen of the Reich," and "The Lady Wore Black," from the band's debut EP in beautifully remastered stereo. There's the title cut and "Take Hold of the Flame" from The Warning, the band's first album. Operation: Mindcrime's "Eyes of a Stranger" and "I Don't Believe in Love" are included, as is "All the Promises" from Mindcrime II (a record EMI didn't release). "Real World" comes courtesy of the soundtrack to the flick The Last Action Hero (and was included as a bonus track on the remaster of Promised Land, which also boasts "Bridge" and "I Am I.") Of course "Silent Lucidity" is present (the band's biggest hit), and the awesome-for-different-reasons "Jet City Woman" and "Another Rainy Night (Without You)," all from Empire (let's face it, the band could write slow and mid-tempo power ballads). There are a couple of cuts come from Hear in the Now Frontier, and one from Q2K.
Disc two is a rarities package. It contains demos for "Take Hold of the Flame," "Walk in the Shadows," and "Before the Storm," all performed by Tate's immediate precursor to Queensrÿche, Myth. There are three unreleased demos from the session for The Warning, along with the bonus cuts included on the reissues for Rage for Order, Empire -- yes, "Scarborough Fair" is here -- "Hear in the Now Frontier" and "Promised Land." "Delia Brown" from the MTV Unplugged appearance is included and welcomed, along with the live "Silent Lucidity." The final cut is an unreleased track written by DeGarmo called "Justified." Why it never made a Queensrÿche album proper is anybody's guess, because even in this version (a bit rough) it is as good as anything they did together, which is saying a lot. This set is for the hardcore fan who has everything else, but truth be told, you are only getting seven cuts you may not have owned already and have to have, but you get a double-disc to score them. Think about it long and hard. It seems that, as an economic choice, this would be difficult to figure out. The music is solid, there are no dead dogs here, nothing is unworthy of hearing: but why two different versions of a best of? ~Thom Jurek