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Liquid Tension Experiment

Liquid Tension Experiment

Review by Gary Hill

This album by Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe), Jordan Rudess (Dregs, Rudess Morgenstein) and Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci (both of Dream Theater), much like the Black Light Syndrome CD by Bozzio, Levin, Stevens was written and recorded over the course of six days (with the exception of some keyboard and guitar overdubs). This album is in fact rather similar to Black Light Syndrome, but with the musical changes being a bit more dynamic and possessing a generally higher energy level. The album is primarily improvised, and has moments reminiscent of Dream Theater, King Crimson, Al Dimeola and others. Those who like Black Light Syndrome, and like high-energy music, will love this album.

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Track by Track Review
Paradigm Shift
The intro to this song is so high in energy that it actually feels as though it jumps in right in the middle of the song. It definitely grabs your attention right from the start. This tune is actually rather similar to the BLS material, while still containing some of the Dream Theater influences that one would expect from this lineup. Although a very definite rocker, Paradigm Shift contains some rather laid back passages focusing primarily on Levin`s musicianship and some fine drumming. This piece also contains a very nice eastern style passage near the end. The actual conclusion to the song is frantically energetic.
Osmosis
This short track has a somewhat Dimeolaish tone to it. Osmosis is certainly a very nice piece.
Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits is a high energy, jazzy number, again, to an extent in a Dimeola sort of mode, but it actually reminds one quite a bit of Kansas in places (although the Dimeola feeling is prevalent). This song has a very positive sense to it, and contains some definite Dream Theater leanings.
The Stretch
Some nice funky bass drives this brief piece. This one is probably the most Crimsonesque song on the album.
Freedom of Speech
Nice piano work opens this number, which does have a definite Dream Theater mode in the basic song structure, while still containing more of that Dimeola type leaning in many ways. At about the three minute mark, it takes a definite turn into some more heavily jazz influenced directions, with some great layering and some very interesting piano work. Of course, Levin`s bass work is, as always, very entertaining. This song is definitely one of the high points of this album. It also contains some quite remarkable classic sounding organ work. This is a very interesting track where everyone shines, perhaps even more than on the rest of the album. The conclusion is quite pretty and intensely satisfying.
Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure
This piece begins with some good drum and stick work. A short and quirky number featuring some unusual whistling, Chris and Kevin`s Excellent Adventure is very reminiscent of King Crimson`s Discipline period at times.
State of Grace
The intro here is a fairly regal guitar based sound, almost in a Joe Satriani vein, but with more feeling. Contains some very well done keyboard work, including some quite pretty piano music that makes up the conclusion to the song. This is clearly a lovely song.
Universal Mind
This song is another high-energy number, made to seem more high energy in contrast to the ending of State of Grace. Again, fans of Dimeola and Kansas should definitely like this song. This track is very strong and contains a classically influenced piano break (at times reminiscent of Rick Wakeman). This leads into some strong funk bass work. I could hear parts of this song showing up on a Dream Theater album (particularly some of the material towards the end of the tune). The actual conclusion to the piece contains some fun, twisted circus music.
Three Minute Warning
Taking up four tracks on the album and clocking in at 28:31, Three Minute Warning is certainly the magnum opus of this album. This song was recorded live in the studio in one take. In fact, the master tape ran out during the recording, but Mike Portnoy was also recording it on a DAT recorder, so the ending moments of the song are from that recording. Opening very slowly with stick and sparse drums and guitar (rather back in the mix), it builds into some very nice jazz influenced stylings. The song builds both in complexity and intensity until it drops back just a bit around the 71/2-minute mark of track 9. It breaks into some Crimsonesque sections about 1 minute into track 10, then sort of dissolves into chaos before rising triumphantly like the phoenix from the ashes. The modern jazz influenced modes here have a very nice groove. This song definitely keeps you on your toes with all the dramatic changes and twists. Three Minute Warning serves as a fine conclusion to a very fine album.
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