The Road Home
Earmarked for a brilliant career as a classical pianist, Rudess was seduced by prog rock’s siren song and found his musical identity. “I remember hearing Gentle Giant’s Free Hand for the first time,” says an über-exuberant Rudess. “I totally, absolutely got into the song ‘Just the Same’. It is kind of like an anthem for me -- a song of freedom and personal rebellion.”
With his new solo record, The Road Home, the synth/piano giant dives headlong into a canon of music that inspired joyous upheaval and unprecedented creative discovery in his life. “I felt recording songs that were meaningful to me then – and now -- would be fun and challenging at the same time,” Rudess says. “[Prog] changed my life, for sure, and took me off the purely classical path and firmly committed me to this other road of discovery.”
Rudess’ willingness to stretch the boundaries of technique and explore sonic textures in a variety of expansive compositions has made the former classical pianist the heir apparent to an elite prog-rock keyboard monarchy endowed with such superior stock as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Patrick Moraz, and Tony Banks.
The Road Home is both homage and crowning achievement in prog rock’s great exploratory tradition. Just as Emerson rearranged Tchaikovsky, Rodrigo, Janacek, Copland, Mussorgsky and “Lux” Lewis, Rudess decodes established classics while sculpting his own distinctive style.
With the help of today’s leading prog talents (including friend/musical partner, Dixie Dregs drummer Rod Morgenstein), Rudess re-envisions Genesis’ 1976 jolting, jiggery-pokery gem “Dance on a Volcano” (with former Spock’s Beard frontman Neal Morse on vocals); ELP’s apocalyptic epic “Tarkus” (featuring Kip Winger and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson); Yes’ fusion-esque, Minimoog/electric piano extravaganza “Sound Chaser” (from the oft-overlooked Relayer record); and the aforementioned “Just the Same.”
As the kicker, a seamless piano medley fuses bits of the Jon Anderson vocal showpiece “Soon”, Crimson’s gentle, supernatural “I Talk to the Wind” (with vocals by Rudess), Yes’ “And You And I”, and Genesis’ sprawling “Supper’s Ready.”
Don’t be fooled. The Road Home is not a ham-handedly mashed together tribute record: it’s a genuine product of personal inspiration. “I wanted to play the right pieces and play the parts that I felt were really important to the composition,” says Rudess, who penned the original “A Piece of the p” for The Road Home. “I also added my own sections that aren’t there at all [in the original songs]. So there is a lot of originality even within these new arrangements.”
What people are saying
Mike Portnoy, drummer of Dream Theater says:
"A PROG MASTERPIECE!!! You've taken these songs to a whole new level, yet totally respected the original compositions. One of my favorite CD's of 2007!"
Jon Anderson, singer of Yes says:
"'Soon' is one of those magical songs that popped in to my head one day on tour, to hear Jordan dancing around the melody is a joy, such wistful playing"
Keith Emerson, keyboardist from ELP says:
My father, by way of encouragement, often said to me “You’ll never make any money writing music other people can’t sing or play.” As I never wrote this conceptual piece to make money, I wish he were still around to hear Jordan Rudess and his fine musicians’ version of Tarkus; taking a composition I am proud of to another level. Unlike Aki Kuroda’s marvelous classical treatment of the same piece, Jordan’s version spits cordite, making Tesla Coils run for cover - so you better duck listening to this one! He takes no prisoners, and handles it head on, even the solos. Rather like George Lewis’s orchestration of the Miles Davis’s solo on the original “So What,” Jordan sometimes utilizes my improvised solos of the original recording, something I find both remarkable and disturbing at the same time. “Stones Of Years” complete with Tarkus cannon shots in the solo brought a smile to my face, while I just had to admire his piano modulations on the same piece that are absolutely beautiful. Undoubtedly, throughout, Jordan’s keys shine along with his band and when he “mixes” it on Aquatarkus, it’s then that he makes it his own.
Derek Schulman, singer from Gentle Giant says:
So... With finger pops and de-tuned piano syncopation, Jordan Rudess does Gentle Giant!!! What a concept!!! I was waiting with my toes curled, expecting the worst, but found myself smiling with slightly amused satisfaction, that these guys not only pulled this off, but made more of the song than Gentle Giant as a band did. Congratulations to Jordan and his cronies for doing the band and the song justice... we are very appreciative and honored. The one thing that must be said though: This song would definitely be voted off American Idol immediately... thank god for that.