Levin Minnemann Rudess Special Edition

The term supergroup gets a bad rap—but with good reason. Often, it’s applied to a collective of hot-shot all-star musicians who look pretty good together on paper, but the resulting music usually proves the individual parts are actually greater than the sum. Discerning listeners tend to cast a wary eye, er, ear toward such lineup mashups—unless the pedigree is an impeccably progressive one intent on exploring the cosmos of composition to achieve a common sonic goal.

Case in point: Levin Minnemann Rudess, a relentless rollercoaster ride of instrumental push-pull experimentation from bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UKZ), and keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Dixie Dregs). The intention of producer Scott Schorr was to match the feel of classic mid-period albums from Yes, Genesis, and Rush, and the 14 songs on LMR sidle right on up to that storied prog wheelhouse, opening up the palette in the process. And while LMR might sound like a mix made in improv heaven, the album is in fact tightly constructed, with Minnemann supplying Levin with the bed tracks—sometimes complete with guitar, bass, and drum patterns—to follow or rearrange himself, with Rudess then adding his own textures and washes in all the right places.

214levin.box.jpg“Twitch” does just that, with Minnemann’s deft cymbal and snare work moving from left to right and Rudess’ kinetic keyboard lines burbling and skittering throughout the track. “Frumious Banderfunk” features some furious Zappaesque keyboard runs, with Levin’s endgame solo bass noodlings serving as a tasty outro. “Orbiter” opens with Levin’s channel-panned leads and low-end lines, setting the table for Minnemann to keep a tight pocket for Rudess’ sweeping keyboards to fly around.

The Special Edition of LMR includes a DVD with downloadable 24-bit wav files of the entire album and 70 minutes of bonus footage. You’ll see Levin and Rudess jam together, with Levin tapping, soloing, and even bringing out the bow on his Chapman Stick while Rudess adds symphonic, choral passages on his Korg and later shreds a few mean solos after a couple of knob twists on his Kronos. Meanwhile, Minnemann shows off some decent guitar chops and thrashes away on practice drum pads in a hotel room. These are the building blocks that show why LMR shares such dynamically intuitive interplay.

What’s in a name? When it comes to Levin Minnemann Rudess, ascribing the supergroup mantle is clearly an honor, not a burden.

Label: Lazy Bones Recordings
Audio Formats: 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD); 48-kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo (DVD)
Number of Tracks: 14
Length: 1:04:49 (CD); 1:11:31 (DVD)
Producers: Scott Schorr, Tony Levin
Engineers: Scott Schorr, Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann, Jordan Rudess