"Learning to Live": while I find it great overall (possibly the song with the best lyrics), I don't like the keyboard sound at the beginning on the studio version and I find that the edited version from OIAL is better than the original one, which says it could have been trimmed off a little to begin with.
Same producer though, David Prater, who Mike Portnoy has been very critical of since. I can understand the disdain for the drums on I&W but Seasons sounds really good. I love all the cool keyboard sounds Derek brought to the band. Adds a totally new dimension to the music.
IMO Dream Theater's production didn't become great until after Awake, reaching a peak with Scenes and Six Degrees.
On Images, the drums stand out too much while the rest is kinda quiet. Then again, Petrucci's lead sound is pretty damn good.
Seasons has a more pleasant drum sound but the guitars sound thinner and more scooped.
The three are strong songs, top 10 contenders all of them but none of those would I put in my top 3.
Like I said, I made some kind of peace with ACOS, loving certain parts, being seriously bored with others, but I accept that while it is overrated, it has some merit and I don't particularily mind the fact it's in the top 3. I still love Jordan, but Derek should have stayed with the band longer.
However, combined with that abhorrent abomination of Learning to Carouselambra 2 and the overplayed cliché of Met (though I still like that one somewhat), this is indeed a sickening sight.
Apart from Images & Words, none of their albums have the perfect production, but they never had an outright bad production either. Even their worst produced releases are still good. Compare that to Metallica whose best produced album is "tolerable" IMO.
I think the mix on SC is actually really good. It's a tad flat but you can hear the instruments very clearly. Just lacks punch, but that's partly because the lack of dynamics suck the life out of the music.