Magna Carta
Release date: May 23, 2006

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Phenomenal keyboardist Jordan Rudess gained the attention of the Progressive Rock scene with his work on two Liquid Tension Experiment releases with Dream Theater’s John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. Of course, that work lead to Rudess getting his most visible job as the keyboardist with Dream Theater in 1999. That aside, Jordan is an accomplished solo recording artist, composer, producer, and performer, and has had the good fortune of recording with several musicians. It seems only fitting that the Magna Carta label features a collection of Rudess’ work on one of their “Prime Cuts” series. For those not familiar with Magna Carta’s “Prime Cuts” titles, the premise is simple. Take a selection of tracks that spotlights the works of one of the label’s highly active musicians, very much akin to a “Greatest Hits” collection, even out the production, and ship it. This time out Magna Carta are offering a selection of Jordan Rudess’ “finest works” via Jordan Rudess: Prime Cuts.

This release features ten tracks from Rudess’ extensive catalog. A few of the cuts feature performances by some well-known musicians in Marc Bonilla, Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin, Rod Morgenstein, John Petrucci, Simon Phillips, Mike Portnoy, Kip Winger, Mark Wood, and others. Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it? Based on the presence of the majority of these “guests,” most able-minded Progressive Rock music fans’ gut reaction would be to rush right out and purchase this platter.

Unfortunately, this “Prime Cuts” release has to be downgraded to “standard choice” for fans other then diehard Rudess fans. It’s not that the music isn’t a work of showmanship; the issue is in the track selection. The opener is “Universal Mind” from Liquid Tension Experiment, and adequately reflects the tempo and mood most Jordan Rudess (and Dream Theater fans) would expect. From this point, the tempo and mood slides downhill. The remaining tracks selected seem to highlight the more Classical and Baroque side of Rudess’ work, some almost to the point of falling into the New Age/John Tesh category.

There is a small amount of reprieve with a cover of ELP’s “Hoedown” with some eclectic violin by Jerry Goodman … but even this has a certain “Southern Twang” feel to it. The track “Beyond Tomorrow” (from Rudess’ Rhythm Of Time solo offering) has “Daniel J.” belting out a guitar solo with the fury of an Allan Holdsworth. There’s also the album closer “Feed The Wheel,” which is a mid-tempo Jazzy romp with Petrucci once again on guitar … but alas, these still aren’t enough to keep you awake through the more sullen moments of this collection.

One bright spot is the enjoyable bonus video, “In The Studio With Jordan Rudess,” which is a nice piece with Rudess as he gives his thoughts on some of his Magna Carta releases and projects. Some of the footage looks like it was culled during, and possibly left over, from the Rhythm In Time video footage. He also answers some fan questions to give fans some insight into his intellect, even though some of the “answers” are already touched upon in the FAQ section on his Web site.

Sadly, it’s difficult not to be able to recommend a Jordan Rudess release. The man is multi-faceted, as this “Prime Cuts” release proves. It’s just that this collection is probably not the side most Metal Express Radio listeners (and Dream Theater fans) will be interested in, compared to the awesome melodies and tempo of the missing “The Screaming Head” track. The CD is mostly sophisticated, artistic, and contains too many “mood tracks” … some best fitted as being usable as background music at a dinner party. The cuts chosen truly feature more of the Baroque side of Rudess and all of his grandeur (piano), and is probably best served, mainly, as a ballads release.


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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