LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT
Sony Music International - 14th April
John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin…well there is no point in talking about the quality of musicianship on the album then. Let’s go straight to the music…
LTE’s debut came in 1998, LTE2 arrived one year later and now, with a couple of live albums in the middle, we have LTE3, twenty-three years after that. Has it been worth waiting for? Absolutely. Is it as good as the first two? Yes and far better. Why? There’s no simple answer other than, ‘It just is’.
The intervening twenty-three years have given all of these already seasoned musicians, an extra twenty-three years to experiment, improvise, explore, create and even improve their own skills on (I’m guessing) 200 albums with a variety of genres in an almost uncountable amount of bands, some with their fellow musicians on this album but most without and it shows. Whereas other line-ups in other bands get together after a long absence – the apprehensive
‘Reunion album’ - the results are often pleasing but usually never quite match the dynamics of the earlier recordings but here, because there was never any intent on making it a permanent band anyway, each musician brings in just exactly what they have learned with no egos or thoughts of money or reigniting the flame.
It’s the arrangements on this album that truly make it a marvelous listen. The pieces are musically intricate with sections often stripped back to their bare minimum as well but it is the overall arrangements, the way the sections and the parts the instruments play in them that make this so pleasurable to the ear and I am going to single out just one as an example; their arrangement of George Gershwin’s, Rhapsody In Blue.
This has been performed by them on the two live albums mentioned above but not with the many dynamics that a studio can afford a quartet of this ability. The light and shade, highs and lows, the understanding of the piece is sublime and I hope that on future recordings (and also hopefully we won’t have to wait another twenty-three years for LTE4) they tackle another classical composition because they seem to have an uncanny ability to take a piece of classical music and make it their own; a feat only ever achieved before by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
There is a bonus disc with this release…55 minutes of stuff they didn’t use. Granted it’s not as good as the stuff on the actual album and I understand why they didn’t use it but wow! It’s quite astonishing to listen to and think that these guys rejected this material, performances and compositions that we mere mortals could only dream about concocting. That said, it’s a lesson about choosing the best material for a release rather than how good and technical the performances are; young bands take note and hats off to them for including it.
Going back to earlier in this review and my comment about their collective output over even the last decade, it would be hard to single out any of the quartet’s best performance on an album in that time but if you want a recommendation of how any of them can contribute to a piece of music without overplaying it, you can do no better than Liquid Tension 3.
Beating The Odds
The Passage Of Time
Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey
Rhapsody In Blue
Shades Of Hope
Key To The Imagination
Blink Of An Eye
Solid Resolution Theory
View From The Mountaintop
Your Beard Is Good
THE PRETTY RECKLESS - CD
DEATH BY ROCK AND ROLL
Sony Music International - Out now
The fourth in a series of occasional releases starting in 2010 by The Pretty Reckless comes five years after their previous release and is a rarity these days in that every track contributes something different and no track makes you want to hit the FF button. Welcome back to the days when albums were made with variety and textures and without filler.
The title track oddly enough, as great as it is, is my least favourite on the album but it is an obvious opener and commercial belter if not a bit cliché. That said, it did hit the top of the US Rock charts and I said in the opening paragraph though, without it, the album would not be complete and provides a very important part of the variety mentioned above. Playing through track by track, different elements of the band come into play in different ways and it all hangs together so well you hardly notice it…but then comes 25. This is a piece of music that takes Rock and Roll and the best James Bond themes by John Barry and mixes them together, topping it with a searing, tension building vocal from Taylor Monsen which then cuts to a brilliant middle-eight before dropping back into the main riff. After this, the album opens up fully with the laid-back Got So High, a quirky quicky called Broomsticks, a classic Metal song called Witches Burn (with some terrific guitar soloing) before closing out with two simply delightful acoustic driven tracks; the former of which Jon Bon Jovi will wish he wrote and the latter of which Neil Young will wish he had wrote.
There are so many great notable moments on this album and along with the aforementioned guitar playing by Ben Phillips (his solo in Harley Darling is unbelievably tasteful) the rhythm section of Jamie Perkins on drums and Mark Damon on bass have got this nailed. With so many styles on this album, it would be easy for those two guys to overplay or underplay their rolls but they haven’t. So, credit where credit is due, this is Taylor’s finest vocal performances to date but it’s the band as whole that really comes through.
Want more? Well aside from the BS2CD mastering on the Japanese edition, how about guest appearances from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron from Soundgarden. This is the sort of music that makes and evokes memories. Buy it and it will be sitting in your CD rack for years to come, pulled out for BBQs, a friend’s evenings in or sometime in the next couple of decades when you want to remember 2021.
Death By Rock And Roll
Only Love Can Save Me Now
And So It Went
Got So High
Standing At The Wall
Roan And Roll Heaven