Reviewed by MJBrady on 23 Aug 2008
While Jordan Rudess continues to create opinions on whether or not his style compliments the band Dream Theater, there is no questioning what kind of talent this man possesses. Rudess releases this cd as a tribute of sorts. He has made adaptations to some of progressive rock's classic pieces, Genesis - Dance on a Volcano, Yes - Sound Chaser, Gentle Giant - Just the Same, Tarkus - ELP. He also does a piano solo medley that conjures the voices of progressive rocks past. Each song features it's own line-up, so a song by song review is perhaps a requirement for such a released:
Dance on A Volcano - Rudess, Rod Mprganstein - drums, Marco Sfogli - Guitars, With Neal Morse on Vocals. As all of these songs are, the renditions are only partially faithful to the originals. Which for me is what I would have preferred, as I truely believe that Rudess and his musical companions have added new life to some of these songs, and also put a personal touch on them, enough so as to make them seem like new songs all over again. Morse has that inescapable vocal tone, and so, while his voice makes you think of Spock's Beard, Tranatlantic, or his solo material, he really does a nice job with this song, but the stars of the song really are the musicians, Marco Sfogli, the Italian guitarist has been getting some recognition, both for his work on James LaBrie's - Elements of Persuasion as well as the phenominal fusion cd Ego, by Italian keyboard sensation Alex Argento. Also, I have to say, Rod Morganstein has to be recognized here for such fatastic precision drummer, he is on all songs, but to say he meets the challenge of covering these songs, he does it with added flair, these are not conventional pieces, but songs that featured some of the former originators most demanding pieces musically, Rod really makes them happen in his personal way, exceptional work here. Of course Rudess as always impresses, not only how he adapts to the essense of the song, but his uses of unique sounds really open the senses, yes he can play, but he also seems to have a keen ear for how to create effects and sounds that will really captivate the senses.
Sound Chaser - This classic Yes piece found on Yes' classic Relayer album from 1974, again not faithful to the original completely, there are some open space moments for Rudess and the guitarists to solo, far different from what you remember on Relayer, but again, it has become it's own song with these adaptations, and allows these talented musicians some space to stretch out. Nick Virgilio does a great job of singing, his voice is somewhat underrated imo, he has a nice tonal quality and great range. Rudess really does the Moraz stuff well, In a way I am surprised he didn't opt for one of the earlier Wakeman pieces from Close to Edge, maybe next time?
Just the Same - This Gentle Giant song was recorded in 1975 on the Freehand album. interesting choice for vocalists here in Kip Winger, but hey, that guy is a great musician, and his voice should be heard doing progressive music more, no doubt having collaborated with Morganstein on his own solo albums made him a great choice for this song. Cool guitar solos here by Ron Thal and Ed Wynne, which brings me to say, that Jordan Rudess does allow the freedom for each of his guests to compliment the music, he doesn't try to steal the show so to speak. Nice to see that Rudess pays homage to one of the more complex progressive bands from the early era, and doing such a great job of twisting the original into a new and refreshing piece of music, I might say I like the original better simply for the vocal harmonies that are GG signatures, while Kip Winger sings the vocals quite well, having the 4 part GG harmonies might have complimented this song even more.
JR piano medley - Nothing really to say on this except that Mr. Rudess displays his amazing skills on solo piano, he manages to evoke many shadow themes from the greats, no question the classic progressive rock fan will hear these themes, yet you have to give him credit for putting his dazzling skills along with them, this sounds like something one would hear at a Van Cliburn competition, really fantastic dexterity and complete mastery of the full range of the piano here, all while bringing familiar themes along with the display of technique.
Piece of the Pi - This cd would not be complete without a Rudess composition, and it's a great one at that, taking you through a masterful sound adventure of complexity, sound, atmosphere, and just flat out great technique. It's a short little piece at just over 3 minutes, but packed with intensity and some really cool sounds that will get your senses opened up.
Tarkus - Seems like a fitting song to finish with, being ELP is really the only keyboard dominant band featured on this cd. Rudess does well to get his organ sounds just right, but again he strays out into his own, but as always, in a good way. I love all the originals of these songs, but I also like what he is doing with them as much, the familiarity is there, yet it's like getting a remastered and energized punch added to the classics. This is the longest song on the cd at over 20 minutes, but wow, no filler, and no less than 4 vocalists share the parts.
I really like this rendition, like the other pieces, his playful enhancements are very enjoyable to hear, I know many are not into his use of keyboard tones, but I cannot hear one good reason for that, everything he does on this cd, except for the fact he is doing covers, has nothing but creativity attacched to it, I am sure this cd will get regular rotations for years to come, in fact, it has a way of making me delve back into those golden oldies as well, so, there is an infectious quality to it.