Fifteen years! That’s how long Parallels sat gathering dust on the shelf after I purchased it. Oh, I listened to it once or twice when it first came out; just enough to deem it unimpressive. The dust that gathered on the cd cleared up a bit each of the dozen times I moved from apartment to apartment over the next 15 years, but I never played it during that period – not once. Finally, about a year ago, I made my first acquaintance with an 80GB Ipod, and decided I had enough room to dump nearly all of my cd collection onto it without worrying that some of the music was unlistenable pap (Does anyone want my Radio Active Cats album? Anyone? Please, I tried to sell it back to the used cd store where I bought it – something I never do except in the most extreme of cases – but the counter clerk just laughed claiming he’d never have sold me something as awful as R.A.C.).
Last winter, I carried that magical ipod with me for a long stay in the Ethiopian highlands. Many months of foggy days and frigid nights spent in near isolation provided me with a wonderful opportunity to re-explore my music collection. By April, I’d begun scraping the bottom of the barrel – and that’s where I found Parallels. I sure didn’t expect much from it, and on first listen, I was not especially impressed – `meandering songs that seemed to go nowhere’ was my conclusion. Still, something I heard told me to give it a second chance, and about a week later, I listened to that little voice in my head and dutifully played Parallels again.
Suddenly, it was like puzzle pieces that had been lying in a heap in a corner of the basement came together and formed a beautiful picture. I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty of Parallels – a mournful, yet uplifting, song cycle where every note seems perfectly chosen. I felt a certain `giddiness’ at having discovered a lost classic in my music collection that was sure to continue growing on me for months, perhaps years, to come. Repeated listens over the remainder of my stay in the highlands revealed an album that combined clinical musical precision with exceptional emotional weight to an extent I’d never heard before. From the galloping bass line of `Point of View’ to the soaring vocals of `Life in Still Water’, Parallels is never less than satisfying, achieving a level of consistency and emotional resonance shared by very few albums in my collection. And to think Parallels had been sitting unplayed on the shelf for 15 years before my new ipod gave it the opportunity to capture my attention.
Upon my return from Ethiopia about a month ago, I ordered a copy of Parallels for my sister whom I was sure would love it (she does) and set to work building up a collection of Fates Warning cds for myself. I doubt any of their other albums will have the same staggering effect on me as Parallels but I sure look forward to exploring the remainder of Fates Warning’s catalogue nevertheless. I hope that my rediscovery of Parallels will strike a chord with others, either by inspiring people to buy Parallels and experience this special album or by inspiring them to give some of the albums long-buried in their collections a second chance. The next album that captures your imagination might just be one that has been sitting neglected on a shelf in your home or in the deepest recesses of your ipod. Unless your entire collection consists of albums by the Radio Active Cats, that is. If you find yourself in that alarming situation, you’ll need to go out and buy some new albums immediately – preferably starting with Parallels.