Jordan Rudess – Wired For Madness (2019)

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The Kenilworth Bakery in Queensland has a 1kg doughnut challenge. Pay $20 and if you finish it, you get your money back and your name is put on a silver tray and it goes on the wall. But, more about that later.

Being in a band no doubt means that there are certain boundaries that have to be respected when it comes to your involvement, the part you play and the opportunities that you have. John 5 (ex Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie) releases albums that showcase his considerable guitar skill. Richard Kruspe (Rammstein), with his band “Emigrate” gets to sing and flex his guitar muscle. Plus, with songs like “Emancipation” and an album called “Silent So Long”, there are hints that solo albums enable artists to break the shackles of normal band life.

Jordan is a member of “Dream Theatre” and “Liquid Tension Experiment”. He has boundless skills on any keyboard or piano and gives back to the music industry through keyboard apps, instruction books and online courses.

Guests on the album include drummer Marco Minnemann, Dream Theatre singer James LaBrie, guitarists Vinnie Moore, Guthrie Govan, Joe Bonamassa and Dream Theatre guitarist John Petrucci.

This album opens up with “Wired for Madness”, a 2 part, 10 track, 35 minute odyssey. It feels like a sci-fi journey, where the characters travel through experiences and landscapes as it tells the story of a person who wants to be as a computer, so that technology can enhance his existence.

Some of it would not be out of place in the cantina scenes of the Star Wars movies. The music shifts between styles, sometimes abruptly and other times seamlessly. Groove, funk and ragtime jazz are present. Often, guitars wail out, to be supplanted by Jordan’s skilful piano funk or groove. When lyrics surface, they add much to the mood. Female vocals enrich the experience and the track rounds off well, giving a sense of closure.

Off the Ground” is a ballad, rich in harmony and melody and the laid-back nature of the track is welcome after the heavy instrumentals used so far. Jordan’s singing on this track personalise it and show his vocal range.

“Just for Today” is another ballad that is like a break-up song. It reminds us to be present in the present.

“Drop Twist” and “Perpetual Shine” are tracks rich in funk and groove, returning to being heavy on instrumental interludes.

“Just Can’t Win” is a blues track, which excellently combines piano, guitar, drums and brass into a blues rock track that I really enjoyed.

“Why I Dream” is an excellent anchor to the album, a faster paced tack with a chorus that grabs you.

The album is an end-to-end experience in itself. You travel a journey of highs and lows and often find yourself making links to other music and experiences. There’s driving guitars, intricate keyboarding, rapid fire riffs and languishing licks. But some of it is just… odd. There are many quirky time signatures and the way that they transitioned between each other was sometimes dischordant.

There’s no denying Jordan’s ability and the production is outstanding. Like all solo projects, it can either be seen as self-indulgent, or as a showcase of considerable ability.

Back to the 1kg doughnut. Folks would look at it and think, “I could make it all the way through that.” All would enter with an open mind, enjoying the full on assault on their senses. Some would power all the way through, enjoying every moment. Others would get most of the way through, but then it would all be too much. Others would have a little bit, give up and save the rest for later.

This record is like that. I made it to the end, but a few times I wobbled a bit. If you enjoy hearing a fusion of different styles, served up in a layered instrumental style, with vocals used to season it, then this may well be a meal for you.

5/10

Review by Greg Noble

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