Magna Carta
Release Date: June 10, 2005

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Mike Portnoy got a bundle of white sheets and a pile of crayons when Magna Carta’s Mike Varney invited him to form a supergroup with whomever he wanted back in 1998. The outcome, as everyone knows, was Liquid Tension Experiment, an experiment so successful it simply had to be continued — just one year later, part 2 was a fact and fans and friends would once again gather around their digital turntables with grins on their faces.

Since then, Portnoy has been involved in an amazing number of side projects, as well as recording and touring with Dream Theater, the band he once formed that made Progressive Rock (or Metal, for that matter) accepted and available to a whole new generation of music lovers worldwide. Prime Cuts is a “Best Of” album in a neat disguise from a few of his Magna Carta contributions.

The Music

Apart from the inspiring Liquid Tension Experiment (LTE) tracks, this album presents two tracks from Magna Carta’s first Rush tribute album, Working Man (1996), one track from the Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute Encores, Legends & Paradox (1999), and one from the Andy West Rama 1 project (2002). Not worth mentioning, however, is the Vapourspace remix of the LTE track “Another Dimension” …

Opening the show is “Mad March” from the Rama 1 album. Portnoy’s signature drumming is as always explicit, even though after he recorded this track, he came to know that Magna Carta had decided not to let him use material from the Liquid Tension Experiment albums on his 2002 Liquid Drum Theater DVD without receiving royalties. Portnoy later tried to withdraw from the Rama project, but ended up being used by Magna Carta to promote the album. Tough nuggets.

All the LTE tracks here are outstanding examples of Mike Portnoy’s energetic, dynamic, and poetic style. Just listen to the mighty groove in “Chris & Kevin’s Excellent Adventure,” or the expressive touch in “Freedom Of Speech,” or the erupting volcano he impersonates in “Acid Rain.” Portnoy bonds so tightly with his fellow musicians, they appear as one entity.

Portnoy’s joins forces with the Trent brothers (a.k.a. Magellan) in perhaps a little too sophisticated version of “Endless Enigma.” Still, you cannot help thinking why Portnoy isn’t a permanent Magellan member?

Finally, the two Rush tracks reveal Portnoy’s deep respect for Neil Peart, and also proves his ability to follow the path of this living legend. With “By-Tor And The Snow Dog,” his drum solo efforts are truly Rush tribute worthy.

The Bands

Portnoy has been fortunate enough to play with some of the greatest contemporary performers in modern Progressive Rock. All know he has paid for his fortune with sweat, pain, and hours away from home and family. We also know he is so much more than the band’s time keeper or metronome, as his expression lies far beyond the once common conception of “drums.”

The bands represented on Prime Cuts offer a new frame for Portnoy, especially when it comes to the super quartet Liquid Tension Experiment, where gentlemen John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Tony Levin were brought together on Portnoy’s request and in a matter of days managed to create a handful of magic moments.

The Verdict

Except for the disastrous Vapourspace rape of “Another Dimension,” this compilation holds 8 tracks of distinct musical integrity, and would be a must for anyone who for some bizarre reason has missed out on Mike Portnoy’s Dream Theater sideshow adventure. But…

The Facts

… it’s important to understand that Mike Portnoy’s Prime Cuts is released on initiative of Magna Carta only. Since the unfortunate argument with Magna Carta over rights over Mike Portnoy’s Liquid Drum Theater DVD, there has been “bad blood” between the two, and it’s not hard to understand the frustration Portnoy must feel over this release that was promoted with his name but without his consent.


  • 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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