Liquid Tension Experiment

Liquid Tension Experiment

Magna Carta Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In the world of progressive rock, jam sessions are now becoming the "in" thing. Starting a few months ago with the pairing of Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens (Black Light Syndrome), the process has been to take some of the hottest musicians around, throw them together for about a week, and see what they come up with.

This time around, Levin (does this man ever sleep?) pairs up with Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci of Dream Theater, as well as Jordan Rudess (fresh from his side project with Rod Morgenstein) - voila! - Liquid Tension Experiment was produced. And while the pure rock power is evident throughout this disc, it seems to lack some of the spontaneity that Black Light Syndrome simply oozed.

Maybe part of the difference is that Levin is again very much a background player on this project - but when he does come to the forefront, he shines brightly. Maybe it's because the interplay between Portnoy and Petrucci is so strong that this feels like a Dream Theater album at times. Maybe it's the in-your-face keyboards of Rudess which almost constantly are at the forefront of the music. Whatever the case, while the music is brilliant, the magic just isn't there this time around.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's stay positive for now - the music is incredible, and is enough to make anyone run for the stores to pick up albums featuring any of these musicians. The opening track "Paradigm Shift" is a sign of what is to come musically: strong, melodic performances which try to highlight each musician evenly and fairly. Surprisingly, more often than not the shorter pieces offer the larger glances into the musical strengths. Whether it is the goofing around of "Chris And Kevin's Excellent Adventure" or the musings on a bass theme of "Osmosis" or the wonderful weirdness of "The Stretch," Liquid Tension Experiment captures your ears and refuses to let go.

Even the 28-minute jam "Three Minute Warning" keeps your interest for each and every note - even at the point the original tape ran out and the backup DAT recording kicks in. For those listeners with neither the time nor the patience to listen to the whole enchilada at one sitting, the band kindly breaks this one up into five tracks for your enjoyment - kind of like being able to eat one slice of pie per evening. Then again, I've never been known to refuse pie...

But the most difficult thing about Liquid Tension Experiment is, ironically, its strength - when you lock four virtuosos in a studio, the end product is going to sound like four virtuosos playing together, and not always like a band. Sure, tracks like "Kindred Spirits" and "Paradigm Shift" capture the spirit. But often, it just fails to jell, like on "Universal Mind," which features a little of the musical "circus" that Rudess used on Rudess Morgenstein Project. This time around, one wonders why this was even added on to the end of the track - it would have been better to chop off a minute of running time.

Yet it is the virtuoso aspect that makes Liquid Tension Experiment that attractive - including the guitar-keyboard duet of "State Of Grace," a track which often shines in its own beauty.

I'm a fan of supergroups as much as the next person, and Liquid Tension Experiment is a very worthwhile listen (as well as a wonderful addition to your collection, right next to the Dream Theater and Dixie Dregs discs). But one wonders if the concept of progressive supergroups might already be wearing thin.

Rating: B

User Rating: C


© 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 Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.