After a gap of more than a month, I’m back with the fourth installment in this series about my favourite rock and metal concept albums. After covering the works of Coheed & Cambria, Rush and Queensrÿche, here’s a relatively less famous album titled III Sides to Every Story by the hard rock band Extreme. This intelligent and accomplished album was a follow-up to their highly successful 1990 release Pornograffiti, but it arrived in late 1992 when the grunge movement was in full swing and therefore didn’t benefit from the exposure it deserved.
Album: III Sides to Every Story (1992)
Narrative genre: Politics, philosophy and faith
Best songs: Warheads, Rest in Peace, Seven Sundays, Our Father, Stop the World, Everything Under the Sun (Rise ‘N Shine, Am I Ever Gonna Change and Who Cares?)
What makes it special: The album has three sections, titled “Yours”, “Mine” and “The Truth”. Each one showcases different musical styles and themes.
The first section “Yours”, is straight up rock, with some elements of rock opera in the vocal delivery of a couple of songs. It takes a satirical look at the military-industrial complex, governance and racism. The section starts off strong with the outstanding Warheads and Rest in Peace before getting to two slightly weaker tracks that are generic hard rock without being exceptional. I would classify Cupid’s Dead also as generic, but it is saved by an extended instrumental passage that kicks in at the 3 minute mark and lasts for more than 2 minutes. The last song in the section, Peacemaker Die ends with an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech.
The second section “Mine” is more introspective and has a distinctively different sound. The first track Seven Sundays, opens with a languid vocal and piano passage (the keyboards are played by guitarist Nuno Bettencourt). These songs cover a wide range of topics from love to relationships to individuality to religion. I really like the lyrics and music of Our Father which is about a child longing for his father’s presence and very much unlike the songs that macho rock bands typically compose.
The third section “The Truth” is an extended prog rock suite titled Everything Under the Sun that runs for about 20 minutes. This section is really why this album is in my list. The first part of the suite, titled Rise ‘N Shine uses orchestral arrangements, acoustic guitars and harmonizing vocals to create an evocative feel. The second part Am I Ever Gonna Change switches to a stronger guitar-driven sound, but enhanced at key points with a string section; while the guitar chords sound bright and optimistic, the monologue-style lyrics are introspective and self-critical; it’s a strange combination, but somehow it works. The final 7-minute part titled Who Cares? has a rock opera sound, switching from a bombastic horns-based intro to pensive keyboard chords to an extended guitar lead, while Gary Cherone’s vocals explore themes of faith and fate.
Overall, the album has a clean sound, not dense or layered like the other songs and albums in this series. It’s a real pity that this album came out at a time when the world was going crazy over Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam; it never received the exposure and acclaim it deserved. But the band members often cite it as their best work and I think so too.