Rudess Morgenstein Project

Rudess Morgenstein Project

Domo Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The world of progressive rock has been filled with superstar collaborations in recent months. Back in November, we reviewed one such partnership between Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens, an album which knocked my socks off.

Another recent partnering has been that of noted keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dixie Dregs, Vinnie Moore, Dream Theater) and Rod Morgenstein (Winger, Dixie Dregs), whose musical brotherhood was cemented when power to all but Rudess's keyboard rig was lost at a Dregs concert -- resulting in an impromptu jam that left the crowd on its feet.

Their first album together, Rudess Morgenstein Project, often has me in disbelief that all I'm hearing is keyboards and drums, and is a satisfying but flawed album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The musicianship featured on this album is impeccable; two musical virtuosos pushing each other to new limits without sounding like they're showing off on their respective instruments. Morgenstein might be scoffed at for his membership in Winger, but make no mistake that his talents behind the drum kit are quite respectable.

And Rudess pulls sounds out of his keyboards that will leave your jaw scraping the floor. Believe it or not, with one minor exception, everything you hear is actually coming from a keyboard, not a guitar. (The one exception is an uncredited performance by Kip Winger at the end of "Masada," one of the masterpieces on this album.)

When Rudess and Morgenstein plow their rock roots, the results are incredible; such examples may be heard on "Sloth" and "Drop The Puck". Even a throwaway theme like that of "Cartoon Parade" has a light breeziness to it that will put a smile on your face.

And even when the music takes on a serious face, as it does on "Masada", "Odd Man Out" and "Never Again," Rudess and Morgenstein add their own unique touches to the music to keep it both original and entertaining.

So with all these strengths I've mentioned, how could I call Rudess Morgenstein Project flawed? Two reasons: time it takes to develop musical ideas and listener interest. Often, it takes more than a minute for the two to get past the intros and get to the point of their music - and even there, the heart of the song might still be some time away. I think this might tend to scare or bore a few listeners away from this disc - had the concepts been tightened up just a little bit, this disc would have been that much better.

In addition, it does sometimes get tiring to hear just keyboards and drums. Maybe next time, one of the two will be willing to throw a vocal in here and there, or even invite a guitarist or bassist to join their parade - something to fill out the sound a little more.

Rudess Morgenstein Project will surprise and startle fans and critics of bands these two have played with in the past, and given a little more musical development together, they could be one of the biggest names in progressive rock today. Until then, this disc will do nicely.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Domo Records, and is used for informational purposes only.