"Liquid Trio Experiment " (Magna Carta; 2007)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

No, that’s not Liquid Tension Experiment. But you’d be close. While recording the second Liquid Tension Experiment album in 1998, the fearsome foursome found themselves down to three (hence, the name of this band) as the subtraction of John Petrucci left Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, and Mike Portnoy with ample studio recording time, but no particular songs to play. The resulting trio continued to jam and record its efforts. The original master tapes were lost, but DAT tapes recorded everything and that is the source for the aptly titled “Spontaneous Combustion.”

Recording improvisations were not uncharted territory for Mssrs Portnoy, Rudess, and Levin. The epic “Two Minute Warning” from the band’s debut was impressive and served notice that the talent of LTE was impeccable.  That track alone probably gave the trio ample confidence to jam and record in the fairly unpredictable circumstances that resulted in this recording.

Like I do for most improvisational efforts I had to absorb “Spontaneous Combustion” in bits and pieces – a song here, a song there, slowly but surely letting each track sink into the ol’ aging cerebellum. The best part about these types of improvisation recordings is that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Listeners have to keep reminding themselves that these songs were not carefully constructed and planned out for mass consumption. 

The worst part is the long time it takes for the repetitive spins required to extract the gems – the lack of guitars simply left me without an instantly likeable sonic handle to grab a hold of. And, yet, often the musical and sonic “gems” are just parts of a song, not the entire song. But that’s OK; it’s all right to work a little bit to hear the really good stuff – because in many ways Liquid Trio Experiment are musicians par excellence.

As you might expect with three virtuosos, variety defines most of the tracks. Some songs are dominated by bass, others by keyboards, and others by drums. It’s hard to be definitive about such things, but it sounds like the trio tried to be equitable and fair. The best track, in my opinion, is “Fire Dance” which has a likeable melody and great balance between the three instruments. If you listen closely enough you can hear snippets that ended up being the impetus for tracks that made the final version of the second Liquid Tension Experiment disc – happy hunting!

“Spontaneous Combustion” was produced by Mike Portnoy. Obviously, the sound recording is a bit rough at times, but given the DAT source everything is pretty solid and listenable from a production standpoint.

Liquid Trio Experiment is Jordan Rudess on keyboards, Tony Levin on bass, and Mike Portnoy on drums.

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"Liquid Trio Experiment " (Magna Carta; 2007)

Reviewed by Snidermann

This experiment is a failure.  Topsy-turvy melodic sound all played on different instruments at all kinds of tempos. They call it music, I call it noise.  More power to them, but this is definitely not for me.

Liquid Trio Experiment is Jordan Rudess on keyboards, Tony Levin on bass, and Mike Portnoy on drums.

For more information visit

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Revised: 28 Nov 2021 13:23:28 -0500 .