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Jordan Rudess — The Road Home
Artist:
Jordan Rudess
Album:
The Road Home
Genre:
Progressive Rock/Fusion
Rating:
3.5 Stars
Bottom
Line:
Keyboards merely share the spotlight on this prog/fusion gourmet feast.

Many of our readers know Jordan Rudess from his superb playing in the progressive metal band, Dream Theater, while other readers know him from his solo records and recordings with other artists. And if you’re one of the small percentage of readers who don’t know the name, the short story is simply that Jordan is one of the greatest technical keyboard players of all time. Long-time J.R. fans will find The Road Home to be something of a change from his previous solo albums, and guitarists and drummers alike will find much to enjoy here.

The Road Home is primarily a collection of classic progressive rock tunes explored in a modern style. Songs from early Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, and ELP make up the majority of the album’s six tunes. Never fear — those six tracks provide over an hour’s worth of great music that offers a fresh sound mixed with a vintage vibe that at times evokes an ELP feel and at other times reminded us of the Alan Parsons Project (especially “Just The Same”).

As you might surmise, the keyboard playing on this record is nothing short of breathtaking, but don’t think of this as merely a keyboard lover’s album. Jordan is a great musician all around, and he knows how to play the right parts for the songs. He never steps on the outstanding guitar work provided by Marco Sfogli, Ed Wynne, Ricky Garcia, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai. Of course every once in a while, you’ll find yourself really studying the melody lines and wondering whether or not you’re listening to a guitar solo or Jordan ripping it up on the keyboards.

Drummers and percussion fans alike will rejoice at the superb performance by Rod Morgenstein who appears throughout the CD. The additional guest list on this record is extensive, and vocals are supplied beautifully on a few tunes by Kip Winger as well as Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson.

During our first few listens, we didn’t really notice the abundance of remade progressive rock tracks — Jordan really brought a great sound to songs like “Dance on a Volcano” and “Tarkus.” Whether you love jazz fusion or ‘70s progressive rock, The Road Home delivers music that you’ll listen to over and over again, picking up new morsels and crumbs with each pass through the CD.

Visit www.jordanrudess.com and download an MP3 of “Piece of the Pie,” one of Jordan’s original tunes on the CD, not to mention the only tune under eight minutes in length!

– SK

 
 
Chris Francis — Studs N' Sisters
Artist:
Chris Francis
Album:
Studs N’ Sisters
Genre:
Instrumental Guitar Rock
Rating:
3.5 Stars
Bottom
Line:

Melodic shredder with a sense of humor!

Hailing from England, Chris probably doesn’t realize that his comical CD introduction sounds alarmingly like the gecko from the Geiko insurance commercials! After that, it’s easier to make some comparisons to guitar heroes from the ‘80s.

Before we do that, let’s start by saying that this CD totally rocks (in an ‘80s hard rock sort of way). Now, to drop names and clarify that statement... are you a fan of Nuno Bettencourt? Slap some vocals on the title track and you’d have the missing song that Extreme never actually wrote, complete with a horn section! And when it’s time to be creative, Chris’ instrumental remake of Madonna’s “Material Girl” is really quite spectacular. In between, there are up-tempo rockers, acoustic ballads, and an endless parade of guitar pyrotechnics that bring back all sorts of memories of music made a few decades ago, but played and recorded without the cavernous reverb of days gone by.

Influences from Van Halen, Satch, and Vai are present, too, and Chris exhibits a fabulous range of Marshall-territory guitar tones throughout the beautifully recorded and produced album (Chris engineered and produced the record himself). Guitarist Blues Saraceno makes a cameo on two tracks, too, and the album is written as a concept piece anchored by cinematic movie themes. The stories associated with the songs were enjoyable to read, too. We’d suggest ordering a physical CD online rather than downloading the tunes from the iTunes Music Store.

Chris is an accomplished player and MI-London platinum award graduate. He won Guitarist Magazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” contest in 2000, and was runner up the previous year.

Unlike his obvious instrumental heroes, Chris did a particularly great job of focusing on the songs, writing catchy pop and rock hooks throughout, almost as if the songs were meant for a radio friendly band and then he said “Screw it! I want to shred all over this!”

Overall, if you’re a fan of instrumental rock guitarists, and you loved the technical masters of the ‘80s and ‘90s (he even channels some Alice in Chains here and there), Studs N' Sisters won’t disappoint. Chris is a serious talent that we expect will continue to gain notoriety as more players and listeners become aware of this great album.

Discover Chris at www.chrisfrancis.net.

– SK

 
 
 
   
             
             
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