REVIEW: LEVIN MINNEMANN RUDESS – “From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess”
Within the prog kingdom, there are different levels of genius; some are kings, others are princes, and then you have people like Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann, and Jordan Rudess, whom I like to respectfully call the jesters of prog. This is not to take away from their musicianship or years of experience – on the contrary, the fact that they can apply such creativity and groove to comical yet intricate melodies and rhythms places them in equal or higher regard to kings, in my eyes. But of course, all of these men are best known for their roles at the top of the progressive hierarchy, being involved in bands like King Crimson, Dream Theater, and The Aristocrats, respectively. With that in mind, let us explore the technical funk that is the trio’s second album, ‘From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess’.
Right off the bat, the album is off to a fun start, opening with a fast 5/4 groove. About half way through the first track, Rudess bursts into one of his shredding 80s keyboard solos that he’s so infamous for, which pretty much serves as a warning that there is a whole lot more of that to come. Following that is “Ready Set Sue”, which I immediately liked due to the percussive intro provided by Minnemann and Levin. This is also where it becomes clear that these guys would be very good at writing classic video game scores. All of the keyboard solos during this particular song are epic boss battle material.
Probably my favorite track on ‘From The Law Offices Of LMR’ is “Riff Splat”, which has a solid, catchy bass backbone throughout. The next two tracks are also up there in my books. “What Is The Meaning?” continues with the video game keyboard solo vibe, and the robotic repetition of the title hasn’t left my head since the first listen. “Marseille”, on the other hand, is a perfect example of how well these three legends work together. The relationship between the instruments is balanced and precise, while still maintaining a wonderful jazzy funk that I just can’t get enough of.
Then there is “Good Day Hearsay”, which begins with a simple, more classic rock type of riff, but quickly turns into some rapid, magical melodies and keyboard solos. While I initially found that track intro to be amusing, it was nothing to how comical “Witness” is, with its moments of whistling. There’s a reason I called them the jesters of prog, since not many people could pull these things off. Then we come to “Balloon”, and although every track on this album is solid, this is the weakest. It does provide a mellow break, however, and those who require a soundtrack as they lay beneath the stars will enjoy it.
“When The Gavel Falls” and “The Verdict” are definite highlights for me. Rudess incorporates a lot of fantastic piano work, which I much prefer to the 80s keyboard setting, followed by a brief drum solo by Minnemann that I wish had gone on longer. The shredding keys, the dirty bass, and the impeccable groove of the drums in “The Verdict” are quite impressive, and proves even further that, compositionally, these three are a match made in prog heaven.
The following two tracks go hand-in-hand, one flowing perfectly into the other. “Free Radicals” starts with what I can only call a Christmas-like guitar riff. Levin’s bass solo in the background is, of course, very tight, and the light piano gives way beautifully to the immediately intense atmosphere of “Magistrate”. “Shiloh’s Cat” didn’t stand out in comparison to the previous pieces, but I do welcome the gentle piano as a break from all of Rudess’s technical wankery. The last track, “The Tort”, is an enjoyable way to round off the album, featuring some particularly great drum fills.
‘From The Law Offices Of Levin Minnemann Rudess’ is a fantastic addition to any progressive or jazz fan’s collection. Marco Minnemann not only showcases his usual mind-blowing drum talents, with his striking rhythms and creative accents, but he also brings a lot to the table on the guitar. Jordan Rudess does what he does best, and adds a fast-paced magical element on keys. And Tony Levin? I think the master of the chapman stick has surpassed the point where he should need any explanation or redundant praise, but I shall say it anyway: he is amazing, providing a structured funk that should inspire anyone to pick up a bass. This album has old school prog components mixed with Rudess’s wizardly (and sometimes overwhelming) 80s keyboards, to create a new sub-genre, “jazz fusion Castlevania”. Even throughout all of those solos, they never fail to keep the sound clean and precise, with a technical groove that fits so well – not to mention that they really love their 5/4! Needless to say, I highly recommend Levin Minnemann Rudess and anything that they have to offer.