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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jordan Rudess


Review by Gary Hill

The bulk of this album consists of compositions Jordan Rudess created and performed with an orchestra. This isn’t solely classical music in nature, though. Yes, a lot of it is, but there are moments that feel more like jazz and others that are closer to rock. This is really an incredible album with a wide range of sounds, often in the same piece. This is one of my favorite instrumental albums of the year, really.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra: First Movement

This is an amazing piece of music. Sure, overall it’s classical. It’s also got some hints of jazz. At times it feels like movie soundtrack movie. I love the melodic drama of it and it’s a real energized powerhouse. It turns toward hard rock at times, too. I can’t imagine a better way to start this set. It does have more sedate segments even later and there are some hints of Spanish music in at least a couple of points. All in all, this is a dynamic and very powerful piece of music. It’s really amazing how much territory this thing covers. I can’t imagine anyone ever calling this “boring.”

Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra: Second Movement
Coming in much more sedate and beautiful, this is a nice respite from the bombast that closed the first movement. This gets more energized and powerful as it grows. It’s often more purely classical in nature than the opener was, at least in the early sections. They do get into some pretty rocking territory, though. It gets rather crazed and moves towards fusion or Rock In Opposition at times, in fact. There is some soaring guitar soloing (let me say that it sounds like guitar most of the time, but I think it’s probably keyboards) later in the piece, too, landing this one purely in progressive rock at that point. Sure, it’s symphonic, but it’s prog rock.
Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra: Third Movement
This comes in very much like a combination of jazz and Rock in Opposition. It’s got a powered up, rather crazed arrangement. This is another that gets into some seriously rock oriented territory through some keyboards that sound a lot like guitar. It’s a real powerhouse and a very dynamic and diverse ride, dropping into more purely symphonic territory at times, too. It has an almost Spanish jazz styled arrangement at one point, too. That resolves to something that almost feels like the best of ELO for a few moments before it shifts toward fusion. A killer classical meets jazz movement follows to take it to the end.
Screaming Head
Although this has more of a rock type construction, it’s still quite classical in terms of instrumentation. Guthrie Govan delivers some guitar soloing in this piece. Although this is a more straightforward journey, it still has some definite twists and turns. It drops to a more purely symphonic section at one point and also works back out towards some jazzy stuff from there.
Shouri Now
Combining jazz, classical and more, this is a powerhouse piano solo.
The Untouchable Truth
Another piano solo, this is delicate and intricate. It’s also quite beautiful and serves as a nice contrast to the ferocity of the previous number.
Over the Edge
We’re back into energetic classical territory with an orchestral treatment here. This is another powerhouse piece. There are some great twists and turns on this one. It’s quite dramatic.
A Pledge to You
Another piano solo closes the set. It’s gentle and very pretty. It is really a satisfying way to end this album.
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