Section 3 - The Albums
Part 2
   

Handful Of Rain
1994
  The Press Line Up:
  • Zak Stevens - Vocals
  • Alex Skolnick - guitar
  • Steve Wacholz - drums
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
The Studio Line Up:
  • Jon Oliva - guitar, bass, keys, drums
  • Zak Stevens - lead vocals
  • Alex Skolnick - lead guitar
The Touring Line Up:
  • Zak Stevens - lead vocals
  • Jon Oliva - rhythm guitar, keys and vocals
  • Alex Skolnick - lead guitar
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
  • Jeff Plate - drums
The first album after Crissís tragic death was a catharsis for Jon. After his brotherís death Jon got antsy and decided to work it off on the studio. Most importantly Jon and Paul wrote their tribute to Criss, "Alone You Breathe". The tour for this album saw Jon joining Zak, Alex, Jeff and Johnny playing rhythm guitar and keys.
 
Q: Who really played what on this album?
A: When Jon went into the studio he asked the others to join him. However at this point Steve still did not want to be in the band, and Johnny was still to grief stricken to get back into the studio. Jon needing to get a lot out of his system decided not to wait for the others. He went in and recorded drums, bass (on 7 tracks), scratch vocals and guitars. Jon was keeping himself going by recording the album despite the nagging questions as to whether the band would go on. Jon's nearly singlehanded efforts on the disc were largely therapeutic considering the fallout after Criss' death. Zak then came in did the lead vocals. Alex came in late in the process in recorded the leads, but left most of Jonís rhythm work intact. When it came time for the press shots Jon couldnít legally be included and Steve was brought in to retain the image of the "classic" Savatage. This clip from an interview in Minneapolis, MN 10/15/94 should explain.
 
Someone: [Drummer Steve Wacholz] played on the album, though, right?
Jon: "No, he didn't. I did. Doc did the photo shoot and the video, though."
 
Q: How was Alex Skolnick chosen?
A: Alex had been on the same label as Savatage in his previous band Testament. Alex was felt to have the capabilities to play Crissís parts and he already knew the band form touring with them in 1990 on the Testament/Savatage/Nuclear Assault tour.
 
Q: Why did Steve appear in the Handful of Rain video but not do the tour?
A: To keep up the press image Steve was brought in to play on the video. When Steve was asked to do the tour he asked for a ridiculous amount of money, way more then Savatage could afford to pay and way more than he deserved for just playing on a tour. It was then decided to bring in Jeff Plate, who played with Zak Stevens in the Band Wicked Witch before he had joined Savatage. Jeff fit in very well with the guys and has hasnít left since!!!
 
Q: How was Jeff Plate chosen?
A: In his own words: "April '94, after 2 years of no contact with Zak, we speak and out of the blue he asks me if I want to join Savatage....no audition, just come to Florida and meet the guys. HOR was being recorded, Oliva was doing the drums. I was flown down for a photo shoot, met everyone, all is good. I was told to go home and start learning everything. Quit my job, spent 6 hours nearly everyday rehearsing as much music as I could find. In the meantime, the overseas labels were concerned about the member changes in the band,which was totally understandable, especially after losing Criss. So, they brought Steve in, new photo shoot, video, he's back in the band....and they conveniently chose to not tell me this. I lost all contact with Zak, Johnny, the office, none of my phone calls were returned the entire month of June. Tim Mallere, drummer for Overkill, good friend of mine who used to live here in my town, told me what was going on after hearing about it through his management. Nice..., my introduction into how things are run around here. After a last effort, stern message to Zak, he finally returned my call and I was told to hang in there, Steve wasn't sticking for whatever reason, so I did. I was called at the beginning of September, I was back in. And somehow my picture ended up with Steve's name on the SPV jacket. I still can't understand how that mistake was made. Who was proofing this? We all seemed to get a laugh out of it. The rest is history... "
 
Q: Why did Alex change a lot of Crissís solos when he played them live?
A: Jon had told Alex to handle the solos anyway he wanted to, so Alex decide to change them around. Unfortunately a large portion of the fan based didnít appreciate this! One person was especially annoyed, Chris Caffery. Chris vowed to come back to Savatage and play the solos the way the were played by Criss. Chris made good on his vow.
 
Q: What is the song 'Handful of Rain' about?
A: It's about reaching for something you can't grasp fully. A goal, a dream, a hope. Specifically, if you were in hell--desperate, lost, and looking for a moment of hope--you'd give anything for a respite (a handful of rain). The song was inspired by a real bar in New York City, incidentally the same "Old City Bar" later visited on the first TSO disc. The extra lyric printed in the liner notes (but not actually included in the song except on the Japanese and Australian pressings) demonstrates this meaning a great deal.
 
Q: What is 'Chance' about?
A: Chance is about a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during World War II who, in the vein of Schindler's List, defied government orders by signing exit visas for thousands of Jewish refugees -- refugees who otherwise would have been sent to concentration camps. The song examines his thoughts as people were lining up in front of the embassy. He had the chance to do the right thing, and he did.
 
To quote the CD single liner notes:
Said Savatage producer Paul O'Neill, "It's about a man who saw a chance to do the right thing, and took it." In 1939, Sempo Sugihara wrote visas for more than eight thousand people who might have otherwise lost their lives in the Holocaust. O'Neill adds that though he was permanently removed from government service and "spent the rest of his life struggling to make a living," Sugihara "never regretted his decision."
 
Unique in both content and structure, "CHANCE" features an intense layering of harmonies at the song's end which according to O'Neill marks the first use of five-part countermelody in the history of rock. The multiple voices represent "the arguments within Sempo's own mind" before he committed himself to action.
 
Q: What is 'Stare Into The Sun' about?
A: It documents the decline and fall of an urban neighborhood. It was inspired when Paul O'Neill saw raw CNN footage of the 1991 L.A. riots, which included a shot of a 70ish black man watching the carnage. This song explores what may have been going through his mind at the time. The lyrics consider his reflections on the building of his neighborhood and its sudden destruction at the hands of its own residents.
 
Q: What is 'Castles Burning' about?
A: It is about the murder of a crusading anti-organized crime attorney in Italy.
 
Q: What is 'Watching You Fall' about?
A: Watching You Fall is about the war in Bosnia. Said singer Zak Stevens, "We've been watching it on TV, but no one's doing anything about it."
 
Q: What is 'Symmetry' about?
A: Symmetry addresses suicide among musicians.
 
Q: In 'Alone You Breathe', the lyrics make it sound like Criss Oliva had a hand in his own death. Was that the case?
A: Not even close. Check out this newspaper clipping: Tampa Times - Saturday, September 17 1994
THE REGION
Tampa man sentenced in DUI death of rock guitarist
Garth McNamee was in Tampa court Friday to be sentenced on his seventh and most serious drinking and driving offence - DUI manslaughter. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Claudia Isom sentenced the 39 year old Tampa man to five years in prison to be followed by 10 years probation and 200 hours of community service working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. McNamee killed 30 year old Christopher "Criss" Oliva in October 1993 when he smashed head on into Oliva's 1982 Mazda as McNamee tried to pass another car on U.S. 301. Oliva's wife suffered severe head injuries and multiple trauma in the crash. Oliva played guitar for the nationally known rock group Savatage, which released six albums on the Atlantic label before his death. He and his wife were on the way to Livestock 4, an annual Zephyr Hills music festival, at the time of the crash. Oliva was attending as a spectator.
SEVENTH OFFENSE for this dude.

reissues of
Sirens & TDAC
1994
  These two reissues each contain two "lost tracks". DAC contains "Fighting For Your Love", an early draft of the FFTR tune "Crying For Love" and a live version of Sirens recorded in Germany in 1990, which incidentally is the same recording as that on the German bootleg, "Defenders of the Faith."
 
Sirens contains two extra songs that sound more POTN-era than S/DAC. The first--a ballad--is titled "Lady in Disguise" and shares some lyrics with the FFTR tune of the same name, but is totally different in melody. It has a really decent hook, incidentally. The second track is called "The Message" and is a standard Savatage rocker. All of the "lost" studio tracks feature Jon Oliva on bass and were self produced. They are from sessions after bass player Keith Collins left the band in 1985 but prior to current bass player Johnny Lee Middleton's arrival on 'Fight For The Rock' (1986).
 
Both albums are on Metal Blade. The liner notes say the tracks were remastered by Eddie Schreyer at Future Disc. The entire disc seems to have far better fidelity than the original combo Sirens/Dungeons CD released on Combat Records.

Dead Winter Dead
1995
  Band Members:
  • Zak Stevens - lead vocals
  • Jon Oliva - keys, vocals
  • Al Pitrelli - guitar
  • Chris Caffery - guitar
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
  • Jeff Plate - drums
This album featured the return of Chris Caffery. Alex opted not to stay around for the next album in order to concentrate on his solo band. So Jon took Jeff from the HoR tour, and brought in his old friend, former member and Dr Butcher member to join the band. They decided they needed two guitarists so Al Pitrelli was brought in as well. This was also the band second concept album. The storyline dealt with the war in Bosnia and the affect it had on both factions.
 
Q: Why does Jon picture not appear on the American release of the album?
A: Due to legal reasons Jon was not allowed to pictured with the group on the domestic release. He was a full member, and does appear in the pictures on the album on all the foreign releases.
 
Q: How did Chris rejoin the band?
A: Chris was (and still is) very close friends with Jon, and had recorded the Doctor Butcher record with him. Chris was brought in to do some overdubs for Japan Live 1994 CD, so when Alex quit, Chris was the obvious choice.
 
Q: Why was Al Pitrelli brought in?
A: It was decided by management and Atlantic that they should have a well-known guitar player for this record. Al had already played for many bands(see next question) and was known and well respected to the music world.
 
Q: What other bands has Al played with?
A: Al had played on many albums due to the fact that he was primarily a hired gun. He was Alice Coopers guitarist on the "Trash The World Tour" in 1990. He was also a member of former Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Sniderís band Widowmaker. He appears on both their releases "Blood and Bullets" and "Standby For Pain". He also appeared on Asiaís Aqua and two Randy Coven records.
 
Q: Why didn't Gary Smith continue to do cover art for the band?
A: Several reasons. Primarily, the label wanted to choose the cover art for DWD; also, Gary Smith himself was working on other projects. The band has not worked with him much since Criss died (Criss had his guitars painted by Smith).
 
Q: What classical piece served as the basis for "Mozart and Madness"?
A: Mozart's 25th Symphony.

The Wake Of Magellan
1997
  Band Members:
  • Zak Stevens - lead vocals
  • Jon Oliva - keys, vocals
  • Al Pitrelli - guitar
  • Chris Caffery - guitar
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
  • Jeff Plate - drums
The first album to have the same line up as the last since HOTMK in 1987. Once again Savatage decided to write a rock opera, this time detailing the fictional character of Magellanís ancestor in the 20th century and the real story of Marask Dubarai. This time the album was a real group effort featuring co-writing credits by Caffery, Pitrelli and Middleton along with Oliva and OíNeil.
 
Q: Why did the US version of TWOM have bonus tracks?
A: TWOM was not released in the US until 1998, so 3 bonus tracks were added to compensate, acoustic versions of Somewhere In Time/Alone You Breath, Sleep and Jonís version of the Streets outtake Stay.
 
Q: Why wasnít the original version of Stay used as the bonus track?
A: The only copy of the real version of Stay is on audiocassette, not really suitable for release. It was decided that it be better that this song see the light of day in a new version rather than never being heard by the public.
 
Q: On the "Thank You" list of TWOM, the band thanks Dream Theater. Why?
A: Derek Sherinian and Al Pitrelli were in Ethyl Mertz together. Al and Derek also went to college together and both toured with Alice Cooper for the "Trashes the World" Tour. Al and John Petrucci also played together on a Japanese release called "Guitar Battle"

reissues of
POTN, FFTR, HOTMK, GB, Streets & EOT
1997
  Q: What are the bonus tracks on these discs? Are the albums remastered?
A: These six reissues each contain one bonus acoustic track. POTN contains an acoustic version of "Sleep" with Jon Oliva on vocals; FFTR contains an acoustic version of "If I Go Away" with Zak on vocals; HOTMK contains an acoustic unreleased Streets-era track entitled "Stay"; GB contains an acoustic version of "All That I Bleed", reportedly also with Jon on vocals; Streets contains a rerecorded acoustic unreleased Streets-era track entitled "Desiree"; and finally EOT contains an acoustic version of "Believe" with Zak on vocals. None of the albums has been remastered.

Poets And Madmen
2001
  Studio Lineup:
  • Jon Oliva: keys, lead vocals
  • Chris Caffery - guitars
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
  • Jeff Plate - drums
  • Al Pitrelli - additional guitars
  • Bob Kinkel - additional keys, background vocals
  • John West - background vocals
Touring Lineup:
  • Damond Jiniya - vocals
  • Jon Oliva - keys, vocals
  • Chris Caffery - guitars
  • Jack Frost - guitars
  • Jeff Waters - guitars (Summer 2002)
  • Johnny Lee Middleton - bass
  • Jeff Plate - drums
Guitarist Chris Caffery has kept visitors of the Savatage Message Boards at www.savatage.com well filled in as the process of assembling the new album has proceeded. The album is slated to contain 11 tracks (approx. 1 hour of material) plus additional bonus tracks, depending on the country of issue.
 
About band lineup/tour info on this album Jon sings lead on all of the songs. Caffery has been playing almost all guitars on the disc since (as most of you already know) Al Pitrelli departed to take the lead guitar position in Megadeth. Pitrelli recorded some solos while he was still a member of Savatage. A few of them were used on Poets And Madmen. This album's cover is done by the same illustrator who produced the Dead Winter Dead, Wake of Magellan and all three Trans-Siberian Orchestra covers, Edgar Jerins.
 
Q: Which solos on P&M are played by Al Pitrelli?
A: The outro of Stay With Me A While, the main solo of Morphine Child, the main solo of The Rumor, the first part of the main solo in Commissar & the outro of Commissar.
 
Q: When was Jesus Saves, the bonus-track of some Poets And Madmen editions, recorded?
A: It was recorded in Neu-Isenburg in Germany on 10/27/1997.
 
Q: Was Kevin Carter a real person?
A: Yes, he was a real person. The Poets And Madmen story is fiction, except everything that is said about Kevin Carter.
 
Q: Is Jack Frost his real name or a stage name?
A: It's a stage name. His real name is a well kept secret ;-) ;-)
 

<< back