TONY LEVIN – Prime Cuts


Magna Carta
Release Date: April 15, 2005

User Review
10/10 (1 vote)

For more than 30 years, Tony Levin has devoted himself to bottom-end bass lines, forming the foundation (as well as the ornaments!) to a diverse number of musical styles. With a range of bass instruments, he has taken the bass expression beyond limits and made a name for himself as one top of the line musician. With Prime Cuts, fans are introduced to some of his Magna Carta label efforts for the past 10 years or so.

The Music

There’s a certain challenge associated with compiling any part of the career of Levin’s magnitude onto one CD. Some will argue that the selection given here (taken from Magna Carta releases only) isn’t worthy. Still, the selection focuses on a very expressive side of his, perhaps more apparent here than on his efforts elsewhere.

The first and third tracks are both from his sessions with Liquid Tension Experiment (LTE), a superquartet initiated by Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). “Kindred Spirits” (from the first LTE album) is a groovy piece, loaded with dynamics, melody, and a display of Levin’s ability to go from one mode to another in a split second, while “Another Dimension” (from the second LTE album) once and for all shows off the energy-boosting tug-of-strings between Levin and John Petrucci (guitar, Dream Theater) as the song draws to an end. Both tracks display Levin’s brilliance and admirable integrity.

The second track, “T & T Vignette,” is a previously unreleased piece from the Magna Carta project Black Light Syndrome (with Terry Bozzio and Steve Stevens completing the awesome trio). This quite improvised piece shows a different side of this project, however, not the most interesting one. Same goes for the fourth track, “Dark Corners,” which is a remix from the Bozzio, Levin & Stevens’ Sonic Reidue From Vapourspace sessions. To be perfectly honest, this is 10 minutes of wasted time. The remix offers no particular credit to any of the three, and for sure is no flattering presentation of the music and magic moments Bozzio, Levin, and Stevens were able to conjure up on their albums. An obvious skip-button-track is this one …

With “Brother’s Keeper” from the Magellan album Hundred Year Flood, the album successfully fetches the listener’s attention again. Levin supplies a pounding, bottom-end groove, giving this piece its desired doomsday feel. Still, he leaves room for a much softer and melodic role during the late return of the song’s introductory theme.

Rounding it all off is “Endless,” another Bozzio, Levin, and Stevens track, this time from the Situation Dangerous album. Here Levin turns to the bowed upright electric bass as he takes on the lead from the beginning of this dreamy, slightly Oriental piece. However, the piece becomes fully loaded electric when the song appears to be over somewhere midway, and Levin gets to push a triplet groove beat, heating up Bozzio way beyond the boiling point!

The Bands

This compilation offers three different “bands,” with Tony Levin as the common denominator. Although unique himself, there is a distinct difference between the bands with which he has played. Magellan, of course, speaks for themselves, while LTE and the Bozzio, Levin, and Stevens patch up are mere projects, however, with a considerable musical outcome and both resulting in more than just one album.

Although Levin is the center of attraction, he never leaves his bandmates abandoned. All his contributions are unselfish and to the simple benefit of the greater good: the music. The same must be said about his bandmates on this compilation, as they are all in it for the art. Perhaps most interesting is his superb head-to-head racing with John Petrucci in “Another Dimension.” Levin puts so much spiritual power into Petrucci, that the latter must have been high for days after they put this on tape. Worth mentioning is also how he fuels locomotive Terry Bozzio in “Endless,” making it a vehicle you wouldn’t dare stop or race.

The Verdict

If for some reason you haven’t got any of the 5 outstanding albums/sessions these tracks are taken from, then shame on you! Go out and buy! As for this album in particular, there is basically only “T & T” offered new to the audience (since the disasterous “Dark Corners” is better left dead and buried), and it’s honestly hard to justify the purchase of a full album for the sake of these 2 minutes and 32 seconds. Still, if the originals are hard to come by, here’s a peephole into the works of the living icon, Tony Levin.


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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