There’s probably nothing more difficult in the world of rock music than creating a thoroughly interesting and moving full-length album without the aid of vocals. Perhaps three of the most qualified individuals to try it, though, are journeyman prog luminaries keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment), drummer Marco Minnemann (Necrophagist/Steven Wilson) and bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson/Peter Gabriel/Liquid Tension Experiment).
Levin Minnemann Rudess displays more brains than heart with its measured transitions and surgically precise execution. The result is a fascinating and whimsical yet concise exercise in groovy musicality and precision riffing. If you’re a Dream Theater fan, Rudess’ so-familiar keyboard tone may prove distracting on “Marcopolis,” at the top of the record. However, the second track’s emphasis on Levin’s keen bass playing propels the record into more comfortable unfamiliar territory.
The trio alternate taking the lead role in different tunes. The record may suffer on account of how many tracks there are. As individual pieces, the songs are dazzling, but it can be a challenge to listen to all 64 minutes straight through.
The greatest testament to the success of Levin Minneman Rudess is how each player gets the most out of his space in the mix. Levin never fails to turn out basslines that groove to the limit with a preponderance of tone variations that underscore the versatility of his bass or chapman stick. Minnemann is as musical as any drummer in the world, and he does an admirable job of tastefully layering rhythm guitars to give the songs a bit more atmosphere and punch. Rudess’ performance is dominant, though he may have been better served exorcising the Dream Theater synth tones from this record.
If you’re a prog nerd, you’ll get a lot out of Levin Minnemann Rudess. There’s no shortage of brilliant musicianship, of course, but this is a record that is most enjoyed one piece at a time.