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Rudess, Jordan: The Road Home

The Road Home, the latest solo release from Dream Theater keyboard player Jordan Rudess, is indeed that, a chance for this musician to go home so to speak, and revisit his prog rock roots. In other words, in what seems to be the trend these days, this is a classic prog covers album, in which Rudess pays great homage to some of these staples, but injects his own spin on them as well.

The Genesis song "Dance On A Volcano" gets a royal treatment, with Neal Morse contributing vocals and Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie) on guitars. Rod Morgenstein, who plays drums on the entire album, puts in a fine performance on this one, but it's the tasty keyboard work from Rudess that ultimately steals the show. "Sound Chaser", the fusiony Yes classic from Relayer, is one of the tunes where Rudess really throws in some of his own flair. Although the arrangement is the same, he adds in a lot of different sounds and textures, making for an intriguing listen. Nick D'Virgilio and Kip Winger provide the vocals on this one, and guitarists Ricky Garcia & Ed Wynne both throw in some metal-ish solos, which might or might not work for some listeners. Gentle Giant's "Just the Same" is a musical tour-de-force, very close to the original in every aspect, with a cool guitar solo from Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, but I question using Kip Winger as a vocalist here, as his breathy, husky voice really seems out of place on this majestic track. Rudess' piano medley is just a joy, as he touches on "Soon" by Yes, "Supper's Ready" by Genesis, the gorgeous "I Talk To the Wind" from King Crimson (in which he sings on as well), and then segues right into "And You and I" from Yes. Lovely stuff, and perhaps the highlight of the album. "Piece of the Pi" is an original song from Rudess, basically a wild keyboard excursion that covers all the bases, as he hits on many of the styles of the players from the bands that these songs come from, yet adds his own personality into it. Of ourse, what would a prog covers album from a keyboard player be without a tribute to ELP, and Rudess tackles the most monstrous song from their discography, the mighty "Tarkus". Featuring vocals from Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson and Kip Winger, this one, as you can imagine, is a wild ride from start to finish.

While it's up for debate the longevity factor of releases like this, there's no denying how much fun they are to listen to the first few times around. Along with Erik Norlander's similar outing earlier this year, chalk up another covers winner from one of prog's ace keyboard masters.

Track Listing
1. ) Dance On A Volcano
2. ) Sound Chaser
3. ) Just the Same
4. ) JR piano medley: Soon / Supper s Ready / I Talk to the Wind / And You and I
5. ) Piece of the Pi
6. ) Tarkus

Added: September 30th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Jordan Rudess Website
Hits: 8302
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Rudess, Jordan: The Road Home
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-30 14:24:49
My Score:

It's funny to hear all those negative opinions on Jordan Rudess being a mechanical player. That's the reason most people who don't like post-Moore era give when asked why they don't like Jordan Rudess. Well, those who discredit his playing will have to give The Road Home a close listen, and see how soulful a player Rudess truly is. Maybe then they'll also go back to his other solo albums and discover how unique his compositions are. He is not just a technical musician with no understanding of songwriting. On the contrary, to Rudess composition comes first; technique is just applied to express the necessary feelings.

On this tribute album, Rudess covers songs from some of prog's greatest bands, including Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and ELP. The CD starts with the Genesis track "Dance on a Volcano", sung by former Spock's Beard vocalist Neal Morse. It's weird cause Morse sounds totally different from what he did in Spock's Beard or Transatlantic. Laden with various sound effects by Rudess, the song is mostly played true to its original form, but you can see how bits and pieces of Rudess' vision have been injected here and there. Guitar virtuoso Marco Sfogli (James Labrie, John Macaluso & Union Radio) plays a smooth, somewhat unexptected solo here while Rudess' long-time friend Rod Morgenstein is on drums through the whole album. His fills on this track are amazing, and Rudess closes the piece in grand fashion.

In the middle part of Yes' "Sound Chaser", the atmosphere becomes so dense and heavy that I can't help but think no one else could have interpreted this piece so well except Jordan Rudess. One can notice how much he's been influenced by greats such as Rick Wakeman, Patrick Moraz, and Tony Banks, but there is still something in Rudess' playing that gives him his own flair. With Nick D'Virgilio and Kip Winger on vocals, this track lends itself to modern-day soundscapes as well, but there is still plenty of vintage keyboard material present here.

Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson appears on "Tarkus", along with Kip Winger and guitar god Ron Thal, among others. At over 22 minutes, this is the centrepiece of the album, and the track that sees the most variations from Rudess. His synth lines are simply gorgeous here, as is the tenacious drumming. The busy keyboard run in the beginning is my favourite, not only on this song but possibly the whole record. Ricky Garcia's guitar solo laidback and natural; it fits the flow perfectly. I had no idea he was capable of so many diverse styles, and hearing Steven Wilson on a vintage prog tune is great as well.

Over three minutes, "Piece of the Pi" is an original song by Jordan Rudess. It is a perfect amalgamation of the 70's and current prog music scene, as it feels like vintage prog played and recorded on today's equipment. It's a fun, playful tune, slightly similar to the stupifying solo material Rudess does on stage. I always thought it'd be great if he recorded something in this vein, and he's finally done it. On the piano medley, where he touches on songs like "Sons", "Supper's Ready", "I Talk to the Wind", and "And You and I", you'll hear him try some vocals as well. I am somewhat surprised he chose the King Crimson song out of all these pieces, but he pulls it off -- it's good to hear his voice finally.

Of course many will still continue to be displeased just because they think Rudess is an awful musician with just the chops and no heart. If you're not one of those people, and actually like to hear his take on some of prog's greatest tunes, you can't pass this album up.

I wish all tribute albums were this refreshing.

Rudess, Jordan: The Road Home
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-08-28 21:15:40
My Score:

Jordan Rudess has found his Road Home through music. The versatile keyboard player that was once a classical pianist entered the world of progressive rock with Dream Theater many years ago and has never looked back, except on this album where he stops to reflect upon the music that got him where he is today.

Rudess is prog-metal royalty now and it is obvious to me after listening to The Road Home that his love for this music has not waned at all over the years; on the contrary, it feels strong and poignant. The keyboard wizard makes every track his own by improvising and adding his special touch to give each one the respect it deserves while making sure his stamp is left everywhere in between. There are six tracks on this CD with the classic ELP track "Tarkus" running for nearly 24 minutes alone; it's packed with long stretches of keyboard virtuosity. This is what you want to hear if you happen to love the original tracks and appreciate the talent and genius of Mr. Rudess.

It is only fitting that Rudess surrounds himself with others from the same category to pay tribute to the music he loves. Jordan gets some first rate assistance from the prog world's best such as singer Neal Morse, who does a terrific job with "Dance on a Volcano," then Kip Winger and Nick D Virgillio (Spock's Beard) trade off on vocals with "Sound Chaser" and Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree) contributes his fine vocalizations on "Stones of Years". On the instrumental side of the equation, the excellent drummer Rod Morgenstein (The Dixie Dregs, Winger) contributes heavily while Ricky Garcia and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Guns n' Roses) peel off some scorching guitar solos.
On "I Talk To The Wind" Jordan turns in a surprisingly good vocal treatment. It comes as a surprise of course as he normally performs instrumental pieces and does not contribute vocals on the Dream Theater albums. So overall there are plenty of instances that alert your senses while taking The Road Home with Jordan Rudess.

The album cover art is typically progressive and filled with fantasy, depicting Rudess following his path to the futuristic metropolis that sits in front of him with all its glorious architecture and power - much like the music he makes and the imagery it creates throughout this entire package. I could not have asked for a better solo project, and best of all it comes right from his very soul transported directly to your ears.

» Reader Comments:

Rudess, Jordan: The Road Home
Posted by Samrat J Patil on 2010-02-11 11:26:42
My Score:

YES, I agree to everything in the above review, except for the "longevity factor". I keep coming back again and again, and then again. This is a great album. I hate using superlatives, but it might be the best compilation I've ever heard so far. I'm at a phase where I get bored with 'the usual stuff' very fast (at the cost of sounding pretentious, but listeners to prog rock would understand), and that's how I got introduced to Dream Theatre and hence Mr. Rudess. And in my personal opinion, this compilation beats his previous work with DT, handsdown. Another good thing about this album is that, it's a great way to get introduced to bands like Genesis, Gentle Giant etc. And is mixed with a twist of exceptional guitar and keyboard solos, whacky time signatures and tempo changes...sure please every prog rock listener's palate, and for a long time indeed. A PERFECT 10!

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