In 2011 we reviewed Levin Torn White (see review), an album recorded by bassist and Chapman Stick player Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Liquid Tension Experiment), guitarist David Torn and drummer Alan White (Yes, ex-Circa:). Back then our reviewer wrote that you can listen to three very talented musicians who take you on a trip to the edges of fusion and prog rock and even beyond. At the same time he knew that this incredibly well-played music would only appeal to a minority of the prog community. Even people who like fusion might have had a hard time with this CD, but when you're in for an experiment and you can appreciate some of the above-mentioned bands or projects, Levin Torn White is a not to be missed album in your CD collection.
Thanks to producer Scott Schorr Mr. Levin got the opportunity to work with two other excellent musicians, namely drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats) and keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment). Being a lover of keyboard orientated music I was very curious to find out what these three musicians had recorded for Levin Minnemann Rudess. I was partly right by thinking that the musical direction of this album would be dominated by Jordan Rudess's keyboards. However, not only the keyboards are clearly present. Occasionally Minnemann's electric guitar and drums and Levin's cello, Stick or bass guitar have a leading role as well, but not as much as Mr. Rudess gets with his synthesizers, continuum, wizardly sounds and seaboard. I guess it's enough to have these three names on the cover of this CD.
Another aspect I expected was that the music would be the result of countless hours of improvisations, but that's partly true either. While listening to this album I heard compositions that were mainly worked out before they were recorded. Sure, a lot of stuff was included later on, but thanks to this way of working all of the fourteen tracks will keep your attention all the way. I'm not going to mention all these tracks separately, but I can tell you that they are all high-level, true progressive rock pieces. Some of them tend towards improvised material and go in the direction of the music you could find on the albums made by Liquid Tension Experiment. That's not so strange of course since both Rudess and Levin were once part of that project.
When the songs tend towards heavier music Dream Theater comes to mind. This isn't strange either having band member Jordan Rudess behind the keyboards and on drums Minnemann who applied for the job of Mike Portnoy, the former drummer of Dream Theater. However, it's above all Minnemann's heavy guitar parts that shift the music in the direction of prog metal. All of the songs are instrumental except for the last track Service Engine. I couldn't discover who sang on this piece, but it certainly sounds good.
People who'll buy the special edition of this album get an additional DVD, which is certainly worthwhile. The images and the music on this DVD are very entertaining. It starts with a video of Tony Levin and Jordan Rudess jamming in the latter's home studio. On the three songs they perform you can see Levin playing the Chapman Stick both with a bow and with his hands, while Rudess is playing the grand piano and a Korg synthesizer. Next is a funny video of Marco Minnemann being probably interviewed in his hotel room talking about his backgrounds, musical influences and this musical project. Besides he plays on his guitar and a small percussion instrument, and he had some time to introduce his pink plastic pig. Also funny is the interview that Levin and Rudess did with themselves talking about their bald heads, home studios and the new keyboard. The outtakes and additional footage of the three musicians are amusing as well. Finally you can hear a 24-bit version of the album plus a bonus track called Fossil Fool.
People who like progressive rock with a lot of solos will be entertained throughout with this fine album, and not only the fans of these three musicians. The high level of musicianship they demonstrate must be heard by everyone who likes technically skilled progressive rock. Highly recommended!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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