Album Review: Levin Minnemann Rudess – From the Law Offices Of

It speaks volumeslmr of a band when a musician’s side project surpasses it in quality. Such a case in the prog world is Transatlantic, which blew away The Flower Kings, Marillion and Dream Theater with their 2009 release The Whirlwind at a time where the parent bands weren’t faring all that too well. The same can be said of Levin Minnemann Rudess, well, at least a third of it – From the Law Offices Of is the trio’s second prog / jazz fusion showcase which flaunts the instrumental creativity and energy that many prog bands – namely Dream Theater – so sorely lack nowadays.

With Rudess on keyboards, his noodling is unrestrained and harks back to the heyday of his solo albums such as Rhythm of Time and Feeding the Wheel with eccentric solos and electronic blips. Joined by bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson, Stick Men), who provides the backbone of the group with subtle yet groovy riffs, and drummer and guitarist Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats) whose rhythms and melodies are equally as enticing – the three make a formidable trio. Rudess’ pairing with Marco Minnemann is especially interesting as it points to what Dream Theater could have been if Portnoy’s replacement was this pair of M’s over their current in Mike Mangini – but this dead horse has been beaten enough, so let’s move on.

The album rarely grinds to a slow pace during the long run of technical proficiency – yet opener ‘Back to the Machine’s music video reflects just how clustered and chaotic the album can be, with rapid progressions leaving finer, short-lived riffs in the dust. It’s all very whimsical yet dangerously borders on being capricious. The main exception here is the irritatingly catchy tune in ‘Witness’, with the whistling melody being backed by conflicting eerie guitar chords – definitely the most memorable part of the album, which thankfully is reintroduced later in the song after a chain of improvisations.

‘Balloon’, the most restrained track, reminds of ‘Hourglass’ from Levin and Rudess’ past collaboration Liquid Tension Experiment, yet sadly doesn’t reach the emotional intensity. Speaking of which, From the Law Offices Of, despite its consistency, rarely gets your jaw dropping or heart melting. The closest it gets is the smooth lounge-esque jazz track ‘Shiloh’s Cat’, with its smooth sax solo and moving guitarwork; the album’s peak in its mildly wavering second half.

If From the Law Offices Of had the concision of Liquid Tension Experiment, it could have been just as spectacular. It’s a little too scatterbrained to be on par with ‘When the Water Breaks’, yet not daring enough to compare to ‘Three Minute Warning’ – but nonetheless it’s a fun, interesting album that doesn’t bore for a second. It is by no means any of the trio’s most significant work, but it’s definitely one you should listen to.

Favourite tracks: ‘Witness’ and ‘Shiloh’s Cat’

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