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Jordan Rudess - The Road Home CD (album) cover

THE ROAD HOME

Jordan Rudess

 

Crossover Prog

3.24 | 71 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Keyboard speed merchant Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater; The Dregs) assembled an impressive guest list for his '07 covers album, paying enthusiastic tribute to the Prog Rock heroes of our collective adolescence. Neal Morse and Nick D'Virgilio from Spock's Beard were both on hand; so were Ed Wynne (of Ozric Tentacles) and the ubiquitous Steve Wilson, plus several other players who weren't Tony Levin (the celebrated Stick Man must have had another dozen sessions scheduled that day...)

The good news here is the material itself. Honestly, who among us wouldn't leap at the chance to hear this all-star roster rummaging through the back catalogues of Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and ELP? That instant familiarity is the ace up the album's sleeve: no effort is required to get into the music, especially when so little apparent effort went into the actual arrangements.

And that's the not-so-good news. These new versions are often uncomfortably close to the originals, typically adding little interpretation beyond (of course!) a surplus of virtuoso soloing. Otherwise the structure of each selection is more or less intact, and too bad: a challenging song like "Sound Chaser" is crying out for an unexpected facelift.

"You better start doing it right", sings Neal Morse in "Dance On a Volcano", and it's a pity Rudess didn't take that admonition more to heart. Jon Anderson's mournful ballad "Soon", performed here as part of an extended solo piano medley, is a model of ostentatious over- embellishment, leading directly into a flamboyant abbreviation of "Supper's Ready", located on a scale of keyboard tackiness somewhere between Rick Wakeman and Liberace, minus only the candelabra. And the extended solo guitar spot during "Free Hand" only shows how resistant the music of Gentle Giant is to this kind of adaptation.

It's all fun stuff to be sure, and totally self-indulgent in a not altogether bad way: these guys have serious chops, and aren't ashamed to show them off. But it's too bad even a small crumb of subtlety wasn't included in their instrumental menu. With a little more nuance and a lot less grandstanding, Rudess and company might have touched real magic.

Still: it would be hard for anyone who grew up with this music not to respond to the dynamic production, and all the performance machismo. At its worst the album presents little more than a clinical display of cold virtuosity. But at its best it's an affectionate, often forthright stroll down memory lane.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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