So said the late Douglas Adams, but there are significant simian descendants who have moved on from digital watches, and they’re called keyboard players in prog rock bands…
Nearly indoctrinated by the Juilliard School of Performing Arts into being a classical music foot soldier, the Moog and its hirsute operatives set this young Padawan free with the ancient scriptures of Tarkus as delivered by the Jedi master himself, Obi Wan Keith Emerson. Throwing his ivory tinkling talent at The Dixie Dreggs, Liquid Tension Experiment, and finally the (second) call from burgeoning prog metal crossover band, the mighty Dream Theater.
Joining in time to record the acclaimed Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes from a Memory over 20 years ago, Jordan Rudess has added his wizardry in the keyboard department to every album since. The sounds he has achieved from his technologically advanced array has grown in equal proportions to his beard, adding yet another side to his sorcery. During the long trek there have been fifteen solo albums to add to the Odyssey, and maybe-autobiographical Wired For Madness is the latest. Recorded before, but released after DT’s Distance Over Time, this is the proggiest noise he has yet made. Or is it?
Let’s skip to Just Can’t Win. A blues pastiche with real brass, old chum Rod Morgenstein on drums and with a certain Joe Bonamassa ripping up two superb guitar solos with Jordan himself singing like the devil for his golden prize of the Greg Lake soundalike competition. Certainly, something is a little off-kilter in the time signature department, but this is still the blues! Third track Off The Ground is a poignant piano-led singer-songwriter type song that could be covered by Billy Joel, again sung with great aplomb by Jordan himself. Just For Today is another ballad in a similar vein, again underscoring the hitherto unknown vocal prowess of this enchanter.
So where’s the Prog? Well, It’s a bit like someone pointing up, you follow their gaze, and this 10-mile long spaceship is right above you – there’s the prog – climb aboard and start this massive journey. The tracks Wired For Madness – Part 1 and Part 2 together clock in at the half an hour mark and they are massive.
Every circuit in modern computer technology is deployed on these two epics from a different world, keyboard heaven with bass pulses, cinematic projections of every note yet found, guest guitarist’s (John Petrucci in this case) virtuoso solos literally battling with phaser on kill synth lines, a section of clarinet style vaudeville, back to grand piano, Danté Inferno‘s male voice choir, then suddenly 40 seconds of vocal… Phew! that was a ride.
Without his day time jobbing band to smother what he normally does, Jordan Rudess’s gig is exposed for what he does best, and we’re not talking minimalist here – Part 2 begins with shades of what Mike Oldfield did on Islands, and its in the creative use of sampling, but then back to the lunacy.
More song-based with Jordan again being the storyteller, there are sections which sound like extras from The Astonishing, but mostly Herculean sways of sound walling with planet destroying synthesizers and sequencers all held together by the galactic battleground drumming of Marco Minnemann, who nearly became Dream Theater’s new sticksman, and listening to this, the decision to employ Mike Mangini must have been a closely fought photo finish. Mad turns and twists reminiscent of Gentle Giant at their finest, but with an almost symphonic Genesis feel to keep it BIG.
Halfway through, Marjana Semkina (from the Russian band iamthemorning) adds a folky lilt to proceedings. Her contribution is repeated, before James LaBrie concludes this chronicle, singing “I have opened my eyes – am I dreaming? Dreaming that I will be FREE”. The two opening tracks are about technology improving our lives with the protagonist in question being made half robot.
More prog is dropped with Drop Twist. You’ll do yourself an injury trying to work out what meter it’s in. Suffice to say that if you unlocked the door and released a gang of murderous androids the footstep run to the airlock wouldn’t come close. Apparently, this piece was written for the music convention NAMM and it must have been an exciting stand to doodle past.
Perpetual Shine is jazz fusion from Tatooine’s Star Wars bar, hopefully completed before they all get shot, and it’s another album highlight in an album that only has highlights (if this kind of music is your cup of space tea).
Why I Dream wraps up this series of complex electronic noughts and ones, a song about a Tarot reader that due to the 5/8 and 6/8 rhythm, has a trad jazz feel to it (lots of fast piano), up until the Vinnie Moore and Jordan shoot out which brings it home to the rock it came from. Jordan’s vocals are more than acceptable and the harmonies provided by the Brothers Page work to perfection.
This album does exactly what it says on the tin: ‘Jordan Rudess Solo Album – WARNING: Contents may be Hot’. A potpourri, or should that be an intergalactic transporter, of everything he does – and does well – and probably not within his day job as one-fifth of Dream Theater. There is variety with a capital ‘V’ and every facet of this man has been explored. Keyboard mavericks and prog heads will love this, plus there is something for everyone, even people who still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
01. Wired for Madness – Part 1
a) Bring It On (5:20)
b) Out of Body (3:44)
c) Lost Control (2:46)
02. Wired for Madness – Part 2
a) Entering Delirium (0:30)
b) The Other Side (2:46)
c) Cosmic Chaos (5:46)
d) Angels in the Sky (2:05)
f) I’ll Be Waiting (2:37)
g) Human Kaleidoscope (5:49)
h) Infinite Overdose (3:10)
03. Off the Ground (4:51)
04. Drop Twist (4:10)
05. Perpetual Shine (4:30)
06. Just Can’t Win (4:34)
07. Just for Today (5:27)
08. Why I Dream (6:01)
Total Time – 64:02
Jordan Rudess – Vocals, Keyboards
Marco Minnemann – Drums
Rod Morgenstein – Drums
Elijah Wood – Drums
James LaBrie – Vocals
Marjana Semkina – Vocals
Brothers Page – Backing Vocals
Vinnie Moore – Guitars
Guthrie Govan – Guitars
Joe Bonamassa – Guitars
John Petrucci – Guitars
Alek Darson – Guitars
Jonas Reingold – Bass
Record Label: Music Theories Recordings
County of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 19th April 2019