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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jordan Rudess

4NYC

Review by Gary Hill

Jordan Rudess writes in the liner notes to this CD that the concert from which much of the material on this disc is from was set to raise money for the Red Cross in the wake of September 11th, 2001. He states that upon doing that concert, he wanted to release it as a CD, but that he decided that the strongest material was that which he had improvised at the solo keyboard performance. Since there was not enough music of that type there for a whole album, he sat down in his studio to create the rest, still improvised. The resulting album is gentle, restful and soothing, and made up of roughly half songs from the live show and half studio.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
My Thoughts
This starts as a pretty classically tinged piano solo, and indeed continues in that format. It is quite evocative.
If I Could
Although according to the liner notes all the pieces were played on keyboards, much of this pretty melody sounds as if it were actually performed on the harp. This is a slowly building and transforming excursion that feels rather bitter sweet, yet somehow hopeful.
A Step Beyond
Starting as a tentative piano solo, after a time a sequenced rhythm takes the cut, and Rudess begins a jazzy piano exploration over top. Although that click track type backdrop is a bit lame, Rudess' playing is truly inspired. Spacey lines of keyboard textures wash gently out from time to time. It eventually wanders to the more potent and spacey arrangement, but still evocative piano brings it into the human realm. A final drop to nearly unaccompanied piano takes place, and this motif serves as the outro.
Outcast
Beautifully textured keys in dramatic tentative tones start this, and the piano begins weaving hints of a melody. The cut builds on these themes, becoming more electronic and lush as it carries on, but never losing the original mood or tone of the piece. This is rather powerful, and yet delicate. A considerably dramatic and potent movement appears later, ramping up the intensity of the song. It drops to haunting piano and keyboard created winds to end.
Lamb Chops
Rudess' daughter requested "Mary Had A Little Lamb", and this is his honoring of that request. It starts slow and tentative, almost childlike. He eventually weaves this into an inspired lullaby like approach for a time, and continues through the song working variations on that one theme. After a time he takes it honky tonk, then interpolates it with "Chopsticks". This is fun.
Within
This is another delicate keyboard excursion and has strong classical leanings.
One Voice
Synthesizer textures create a choir like mood to begin this, and it gradually begins to grow and coalesce very slowly. This has an angelic sort of texture and is another pretty and evocative tune.
Real Time
Piano serves as the voice for this instrumental wandering, another with strong classical leanings. It gets quite pretty and powerful as it carries forward.
Mourning After
Gentle and slow tones create the introduction here. Rudess builds on the introductory themes, expanding and intensifying them, again with that same harp like voice being prevalent. There are truly some beautiful melodies present here.
Darkness To Day
Beginning with streaks of atmospheric keys that almost feel like waves of sunlight streaming over the horizon, this builds gradually. With a highly classical tone, this feels as if it is being performed by a symphony. Gradually the intensity builds. The cut has a beauty, but also a sadness to it. Eventually piano enters, and a new melody, quite potent in texture comes forth, but the waves of string type keys take it back after a crescendo. Then the two work together for a while before the piano again dominates. After it runs through for a while, though, the waves of sound return to carry the composition to its conclusion with piano accompaniment.
Speed As Light
A keyboard rhythm, less cheesy than the one in "A Step Beyond" starts this, and as xylophonic keyboard voices move in, this feels like a jazzy excursion over the top of a conga beat. Then piano enters into the game, moving the number into a series of melodic explorations that are quite powerful and dynamic. It drops to just piano to carry it out to its conclusion. This is the most full arrangement of the CD, and is a great one.
On My World
Expressive piano starts this, another that has strong classical leanings. This has a lively tempo and carries forward well. It becomes more rock oriented as it progresses, then drops back towards the more sedate again. Rudess keeps introducing different melodies and moods and expanding and intensifying them to secure this as another strong track.
For You
Tentative keys, again rather like harp, start this. More traditional keyboard textures join as accents, and the piece slowly builds in intricate patterns. This gets considerable potent and involved, and serves as a good conclusion to the disc.
 
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