Sound: Jordan Rudess' ode to his Progressive heroes is both faithful to the originals, and dripping with originality. Rudess', keyboardist for Progressive band Dream Theater, latest solo album contains covers of classic Prog songs, as well as an original track entitles "Piece Of The Pi", which showcases not only his technical ability, but his songwriting ability as well. He gives tribute to Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer on this album, and adds his own arrangements to the classic songs to make for a very interesting listen. Jordan collaborates with artists such as Rod Morgenstein (with whom he played with in Dixie Dregs), Kip Winger, Ron "Bumblefoot" Tahl, and Neal Morse, among others. I will briefly list the tracks, they are as follows:
01. Dance On A Volcano (Genesis) - Neal Morse gives a strong vocal performance on this cover, and it's a fitting album opener. Not as track as some other tracks, but holds up well.
02. Sound Chaser (Yes) - a good cover of the Yes classic, but lacks the originality of the other tracks.
03. Just The Same (Gentle Giant) - a personal favorite, this was a great song to cover. Kip Winger's vocals are great, and Jordan's Continuum piece adds an extra layer to this song that makes it a stand-out.
04. JR Piano Medley (includes melodies from Soon, Supper's Ready, I Talk To The Wind, And You And I. In order: Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes) - the highlight of the album. The songs transition seamlessly into each other and Jordan's original arrangements makes this a cut above most covers. The rendition of snippets of Genesis' epic "Supper's Ready" is the highlight of the medley.
05. Piece Of The Pi (Jordan Rudess) - while it is the weakest track on the album, it is refreshingly different from his work in Dream Theater, and is enjoyable in itself.
06. Tarkus (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer) - a full-length cover of ELP's epic. It is masterfully executed, with Ricky Garcia and Ron Tahl's guitar work being a stand-out. Morgenstein's drum work remains powerful throughout.
Overall a great listen. // 9
Lyrics: Because it is made up of mostly covers, I will not go into too much detail with the lyrics, but rather the singer's execution. Kip Winger and Neal Morse both do great jobs on their tracks, as does Steven Wilson. Nick D'Virgilio and Bert Baldwin do faithful retellings of "Sound Chaser" and "I Talk To The Wind", respectively. The weakest vocals on the album are those of Rudess himself, taking away just a bit on "I Talk To The Wind". There are no absolutely mind-blowing vocal performances on this record, but these don't require the hitting of a high F# (a la "Learning To Live"). The vocals and the vocalists fit the songs quite well, and execute them with ease. // 8
Overall Impression: I'm going to avoid the usual comparisons of Rudess to Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian, as this not a Dream Theater album. A great homage to classic Progressive Rock, this is a must for the die-hard Prog fan, and makes a nice introduction for those who are not familiar with the genre. Fans of Rudess will throughly enjoy it. While it is not outstanding, it is overall a great album. // 8