"The Road Home" (Magna Carta; 2007)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Jordan Rudess’ back story involves switching his primary keyboard style from classical to rock, struggling through solo projects and the occasional joint effort, followed by the dual career rocket boosters in the form of Liquid Tension Experiment and Dream Theater. Although this long road to success has resulted in lending stability to the keyboard position in Dream Theater, progressive rock’s heaviest and most talented band, Rudess still finds time to record and release solo projects.

Rudess’ latest solo project is a covers/tribute album called “The Road Home.” “The Road Home” features Rudess tackling some of progressive rock’s best known songs. Heavy weights such as Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and Emerson Lake & Palmer receive treatment on “The Road Home.” I say this is a tribute album as Rudess’ intent was to revisit the songs and artists that were important in making the switch in his musical career to progressive rock. But within that “tribute” is an artistic statement as Rudess alters the arrangements and adds his own melodic flourishes. This is not a standard, by-the-numbers cover album.

Genesis, famous the world over for their pop masterpieces from the 80s, started out in the 70s as an almost equally famous prog-rock band. Rudess tackles Genesis’ early gem “Dance On A Volcano.” This (now)  upbeat rocker really gives Rudess and company a chance to show off their chops.

Rudess takes on Yes’ “Sound Chaser” and finds ways to make this multifaceted piece shine.

Rudess includes Gentle Giant, often referenced, but infrequently heard, in the form of “Just the Same.” With this track one can hear all the earmarks of what makes progressive rock so great – Rudess heightens the awareness with his own interpretation of this legendary song.

Rudess creates his own epic tribute in the form of a piano medley. The medley contains, in order, bits of Yes’ “Soon,” Genesis’ “Supper’s  Ready,” King Crimson’s “I Talk to the Wind,” and Yes’ “And You and I.” The piano medley is magnificent tour de force that demonstrates Rudess’ skills mostly in the form of solo classical piano. This quieter piece allows Rudess to “show-off” a little without overdoing it.

I found Rudess’ take on “Tarkus” to be the album’s biggest delight and especially intriguing to my ears. Although apocalyptic in nature, the dynamics of the songs remind listeners just how a well-written song that lasts more than twenty-two minutes can seem like a revelatory journey rather than an exercise in excess.

“The Road Home” was produced and arranged by Jordan Rudess.

Jordan Rudess is joined by Rod Morgenstein on drums, Marco Sfogli on guitar, Ed Wynne on guitar, Ricky Garcia on guitar, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar, Neal Morse on vocals, Nick D’Virgillo on vocals, Kip Winger on vocals, Bert Baldwin on vocals, and Steven Wilson on vocals.

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"Prime Cuts" (Magna Carta; 2006)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

As a fan of Dream Theater I, like many other people, was a bit surprised by the inclusion of the relatively unknown and unheralded keyboardist Jordan Rudess on the Liquid Tension Experiment project many years ago. Eight plus years later, anyone with a slight appreciation of progressive rock knows exactly who Jordan Rudess is through his stellar work with Dream Theater, solo projects, assorted musical projects with other artists, and tribute albums since that time.

“Prime Cuts” is a part of a series of albums offered by the Magna Carta label that present artists who have worked with the label on various solo efforts and tribute albums. I wouldn’t necessarily consider the “Prime Cuts” series to be similar to a “greatest hits” package, but more of an anthology of an artist’s work on the Magna Carta label.

The “Prime Cuts” disc highlighting Jordan Rudess’ work features six solo tracks, one track under the Rod Morgenstein banner, two Liquid Tension Experiment tracks, and one Liquid Tension Experiment remix by Vapourspace. All of the ten tracks carefully show the range of talent that Rudess brings to his musical projects. Full-bore aggressive progressive rock is represented by the aforementioned Liquid Tension Experiment. Classical piano is in the spotlight from the “Steinway to Heaven” tribute album and the emotionally satisfying “4NYC” project; you can hear the prodigious talent that is so natural to Rudess as well as the fact that he studied at Julliard at a young age. Keyboard/drum interplay sounding like a full band is heard via the Rod Morgenstein project while a variety of keyboard styles are found on the selections from Rudess’ solo projects. Electronica post-production treatment via Vapourspace, even if it the final result isn’t a direct product of Rudess’ work, is an intriguing addition.

Instrumental tracks dominate “Prime Cuts” and I think that’s what most Jordan Rudess fans are looking for in an album like this. The two vocal tracks are reasonably OK and certainly accentuate the anthology-like aspects of the disc.

“Prime Cuts” is a good representation of Rudess’ talents. The variety of sounds and styles presented on Jordan Rudess’ “Prime Cuts” makes the disc a satisfying listen.

Jordan Rudess’ “Prime Cuts” features a wealth of musical talent including, but not limited to, John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, Kip Winger, Simon Phillips, Mark Wood, Robert Berry, Marc Bonilla, Terry Bozzio, Jerry Goodman, Tony Levin, and Rod Morgenstein.

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"Feeding the Wheel" (Magna Carta; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

When I finally heard Jordan Rudess on the Liquid Tension Experiment debut I finally realized what a talented and skilled keyboardist he was. When Rudess joined Dream Theater I was hoping he would add to and complement the Dream Theater sound - no disappointment there, to say the least. With interest I began to listen to Rudess' solo effort, "Feeding The Wheel," and what insights it might offer into the artist that I’ve heard for a few years now complementing others.

Rudess and his virtuoso skill delve deep into whatever past influences and future inclinations might take him. Without a doubt, the keyboards dominate the proceedings on "Feeding The Wheel" (unlike the former Dream Theater keyboardist’s solo disc "Inertia" in which the guitar and keys shared equal billing). As such you get the full spectrum of Rudess' ivory-tinkling skills up front and center. So, "Feeding The Wheel" won’t rock your socks off, but it will give you a finer appreciation for the overall impact that keyboards have on progressive rock, prog metal, and rock'n'roll. Rudess' otherworldly approach to keyboards marries well with his fascination with astronomy. Even the cover art looks like it would make a great cover for a sci-fi novel.

Of course, I'm going to favor the 'heavier' songs and the songs that don’t rely solely on the keyboard. "Revolving Door" has an up-tempo interplay between the guitars and keyboards. "Crack The Meter" (see my comment later on) is one of the songs where the guitar can be heard loud and clear that really caught my interest.

"Quantum Soup" snakes its way through a variety of tempos and moods. The Steely Dan-on-steroids track "Dreaming In Titanium" is cool while the spacey "Center Of The Sphere" (tribal drumming and all) makes its mark by bringing interstellar travel right into your own living room before vamping and crashing into "Crack The Meter." Another interstellar journey is provided courtesy of "Headspace" while classical piano makes for interesting interpretation on "Interstices."

"Feeding The Wheel" is a great purchase for fans of progressive rock and music fans that appreciate good music no matter what instrument is being played. There really is something for every music fan on "Feeding The Wheel" and it is a testament to Rudess that he can pull it all off without embarrassing himself.

Jordan Rudess is joined by Steve Morse, Terry Bozzio, John Petrucci, Billy Sheehan, Mark Wood, Eugene Friesen, Barry Carl, Peter Ernst, and Bert Baldwin.

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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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Copyright © 2007 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
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