Streets - A Rock Opera (often shortened to Streets) is a concept album by Savatage, dealing with the rise and fall of the musician DT Jesus. It was originally released in October 1991 on Atlantic Records. The album took almost a year to record, with pre-production beginning in October 1990. This would be the last Savatage album founder Jon Oliva would perform vocals on until the 2001 release of Poets and Madmen although he would remain active with the band as a composer and keyboard player.
The story features a fallen rock star called DT Jesus (DT is short for either De-Tox or Down-Town), who has hit hard times. He is a drug dealer as the story begins. DT Jesus is just another lowlife on the streets of New York City. Streets explains the story behind DT Jesus and his rise to fame again and his second fall.
The concept of Streets is based on a book written by Paul O'Neill that was written many years prior to Paul's involvement with the band. Streets was never meant to be an autobiography. In fact, it was written in 1979 as a Broadway play and stored in a drawer at Paul O'Neill's home until Criss Oliva found it and suggested it be Savatage's next album. It is considered coincidental that the life of lead vocalist Jon Oliva mirrored that of the main character DT Jesus at the time.
Had the title track of their previous album not been completed in time, Savatage would have liked to call the record Gutter Ballet, as the original play written by O'Neill was called Gutter Ballet. But the inclusion of the song on their previous record meant this was not going to happen. Instead, the band wanted to call the album Ghost in the Ruins. O'Neill said that "Streets was OK too", but Jon Oliva disliked the fact that A Rock Opera was tagged onto the title. Oliva has said he has only introduced any performance of the album simply as "Streets". Eventually, an album entitled Ghost in the Ruins was released in 1995 as a tribute to Criss Oliva.
During a 2007 tour, Jon Oliva's new project, Jon Oliva's Pain performed some of the album, in album running order, as a special surprise to audiences. Oliva himself noted on stage that some of the songs performed had never been performed live to an audience before.
On the original LP release, "St. Patrick's" and "If I Go Away" were omitted from the track listing.
The above track listing refers to the length of the original release. On the 2002 re-release by SPV, the album is reduced to 12 tracks, with "Tonight He Grins Again" & "Strange Reality", "You're Alive" & "Sammy and Tex", "Agony and Ecstacy" & "Heal My Soul" and "Somewhere in Time" & "Believe" being merged into single tracks.
The album was originally due to be a double CD record, but record label Atlantic Records did not like the idea, so some songs were dropped from the record, whilst others were re-written over the years and eventually formed parts of songs on Edge of Thorns. Among the songs that were dropped were "DT Jesus", a song was later released on the From the Gutter to the Stage compilation, "Desiree" (which was later released on the 1997 Edel re-release of the album), "Stay" (which involves the otherwise unknown character of Duke and was supposed to follow on from "Ghost in the Ruins"), "Tonight I Would Be King", "Sanctuary" (itself a rework of the Gutter Ballet out-take "Target"), and "Beyond Broadway". "Larry Elbows" (referred to by some as "the 17th track"), formed part of a version of "Before I Hang" on Jon Oliva's Pain's album Global Warning along with the song's original version, which was released as a demo version on the Silver Anniversary re-release of The Dungeons Are Calling EP.
Originally the album would contain more spoken tracks than the one used for the introduction for Jesus Saves (which was a reworking of DT Jesus after Atlantic did not like the original version, and was recorded with only Jon and Criss in the studio, much like Gutter Ballet). The band has expressed no desire to re-release the album as a double CD as originally intended, partly because the only recordings that remain are on audio cassette of the master tapes, and partly because most of the original ideas for the songs were used in later works.
Songs like "Jesus Saves" and "Ghost in the Ruins" were "rocked up", said O'Neill, while many others, including "Believe", "Heal My Soul" (which is based on a traditional Welsh lullaby, "Suo Gân"), and "A Little Too Far", all appear in the same version intended for their Broadway performances. Other tracks like "Streets" and "Strange Reality" were written expressly for the rock opera. "Heal My Soul" was re-recorded by Savatage's off-shoot musical project, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, on a 2007 Wal-Mart CD sampler. "Believe" was covered by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on their 2009 album Night Castle.
The band recorded a music video for the song "Jesus Saves" which received some airplay on MTV, and featured long time Savatage cover artist Gary Smith playing the role of DT Jesus. A video was filmed for "New York City Don't Mean Nothing", but that video has been "lost" and as of 2009 has never been aired.
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