More than two decades after the release of its then most recent album, prog rock super group Liquid Tension Experiment officially returned Friday. The band – Mike Portnoy (drums), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), John Petrucci (guitar) Tony Levin (bass) – released its new aptly titled album Liquid Tension Experiment 3 Friday through InsideOut Music. The eight-song instrumental album spawned three singles ahead of its release. Those songs are but a glimpse into the album, too. The 61-minute presentation offers hints of the band’s existing catalog and something in another direction throughout, too. ‘Beating The Odds is just one of the songs featured in the recording that shows a new creative direction from the band in its latest outing. It will be discussed shortly. The band’s updated take on famed composer George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is another change in direction for the band in this outing. It will be discussed a little later. Showing even more, the change in direction in this record is ‘Chris and Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey,’ which comes just past the record’s midpoint. It will also be discussed later. Each note song proves the album’s growth, and in turn, engagement and entertainment. When they are considered along with songs, such as ‘Shades of Hope,’ ‘Hypersonic,’ ‘The Passage of Time,’ and the album’s two remaining songs, the whole makes the album in whole a work that is a welcome return for Liquid Tension Experiment and that is among the best of this year’s new rock albums.
Liquid Tension Experiment’s latest album, Liquid Tension Experiment 3, is a presentation that will appeal to the band’s established audience base. In the same note it will appeal to fans of the band’s members and their primary projects just as much. That is due in large part to the songs featured in this recording. The songs in question show evidence of songs from the band’s existing catalog as well as works that show some growth from the band. One of the most notable of the songs that exhibits that growth comes in the form of ‘Beating The Odds.’ The six-minute-plus composition is not the wildly energetic style composition that audiences have come to know from the band. Rather, it combines a variety of tones and influences, beginning with a very Rush style guitar intro to open the song. From there, listeners can hear distinct influence from Dream Theater’s early days prior to Portnoy’s departure from the band. At the same time, there is also a hint of Spock’s Beard influence through the combination of Rudess’ work on keyboards and Petrucci’s guitar performance. At times the influences remain separate, and at others join together for one unique whole. Through it all, the balance in the influences is handled expertly, a tribute to the record’s production. The end result of that controlled chaos is a work that brings out the best of the bands that have influenced this band’s members in one complete work that boasts its own standout identity as a prog-rock opus.
‘Beating The Odds’ is just one of the songs that serves to exhibit the growth from Liquid Tension Experiment in its latest album. The band’s updated take on George Gershwin’s timeless jazz classic, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is another clear example of the successful change in the band’s new album. It is a complete change of pace for the band, taking on a jazz classic instead of any rock composition. Gershwin’s original composition is present here. There is no denial of that fact. At the same, the song gets a nice change of pace in this rendition. Petrucci’s subtle guitar opening mimics the piano line that opens the original so well. The addition of the synthesized string arrangement at points throughout is a nice tribute to the original in its own right. It actually does well to sound like the real thing, even being synthesized. What’s more, the Joe Satriani-style approach that Petrucci takes along with his own style as the song progresses adds even more to the approach. Much the same can be said of Rudess’ keyboard performance throughout, and that of Portnoy. The whole of the group’s work here is such a rich presentation. It is a dramatic change of pace for the band this time out and such a successful risk. It is just one more example of what makes the album so successful. ‘Chris and Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey’ — which comes in the record’s second half — is yet another example of the album’s strength.
‘Chris and Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey’ is notable because it is so starkly unlike anything that these musicians have ever crafted collectively and with their primary acts. The whole thing starts off with Levin using what sounds like a bow on his bass, as if it was a standup bass. Portnoy’s accents on the toms sound random, but are in fact complimentary to Levin’s work. The subtle addition of the occasional keyboard effect makes for its own unique touch here. The whole experimental work immediately comes across as a distinctly avant-garde type composition, yet is still so engaging because of that experimental, free form type composition. It is another wonderful example of how much the band has branched out this time out and how that willingness to try something new has paid off. When it is considered with the other two songs examined here and the more familiar sound exhibited through other songs featured here, such as ‘Shades of Hope,’ ‘Hypersonic,’ ‘The Passage of Time,’ and the album’s two remaining songs, the whole of all of that content makes the album in whole a welcome return for Liquid Tension Experiment and an equally impressive new addition to this year’s list of top new rock records.
Liquid Tension Experiment’s first new album in more than two decades and first since the release of Spontaneous Combustion – released in 2007 (almost 15 years ago) by three quarters of LTE under the moniker of Liquid Tension Trio – is an impressive new offering from these musical mates. It proves that from start to finish with a solid combination of familiar content and plenty of material that takes chances and takes the band in new directions. Those newer songs are all examined here. When they are considered with the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes LTE 3 a work that every prog-rock fan will welcome. It is proof positive that good things really do come to those who wait. LTE 3 is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/ltexperiment.
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