This review starts from the end: LTE3, Liquid Tension Experiment‘s third release, is doneefenitely of the best album of 2021. After all, what do you wanna say to these 4 bad guys who composed it, you know, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess (both playing for Dream Theater), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater and lots of collaborations such as The Winery Dogs, Haken and Transatlantic) and Tony Levin (King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, just to name a few)?
Listening this album, the most amazing thing is that it’s been secretly composed and recorded in just two weeks, during last summer, over 20 years after their last work. And this is certainly amazing, because you can think they could be a little rusty and they needed to re-experience feeling, but none of this happened! These 4 giants met in NY, took up their instruments, turned on amplifiers and they started playing, exactly where they left off.
Just after pushing “play”, the frenetic opening track, Hypersonic, starts with an unrelenting blistering barrage of guitar and drums that picks up speed as it goes along. This is not a song, but a real show, put in place by dynamic duo Portnoy-Petrucci (maybe benefitted from their collaboration during recording sessions of Petrucci’s last solo album “Terminal Velocity”), both in a great shape, in an alternation of riffs, solos and high-level virtuosities. It’s been 20 years that we’ve been waiting for the new LTE album and suddenly it’s like to be back in late ’90s, when Mike played drums for DT.
The following track, Beating the Odds, takes the listener more further back in time and now it’s the turn of Rudess’ keyboards to steal the scene, with their joyful and vintage sound, accurately accompanied from his band mate’s guitar.
Mood is totally changed with Liquid Evolution, the shortest track, a sort of 3-minutes “intermezzo” dominated by Far-East sounds into a jazz atmosphere, very enjoyable to listen, like oxygen after previous time spent holding your breathe.
Journey starts again very quickly with The Passage of Time, the first of 4 fully composed tracks (as in the previous releases), which characterize LTE3, including 2 duets, 1 on-the-fly jam and 1 meticolous arranged cover. This track is essentially balanced, even if based on a “classic” structure and each band component gives his contribution without distinguinshing from the others. Definitely, a 100% LTE track, in which the only flaw is maybe the lacking of a touch of creativity.
Creativity really comes up with Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey, an avant-garde track, following an ideal path started with Chris & Kevin’s Excellent Adventure (from “LTE”) and Chris & Kevin’s Bogus Journey (from “Spontaneous Combustion”, recorded from the band without Petrucci – band was renamed Liquid Trio Experiment in that occasion): Tony Levin is the star, with his hypnotic and psychedelic bass, wonderfully supported by Portnoy.
And now, a real coup de théâtre, that is George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue cover, played as a progressive rock song. This cover is well known to LTE’s fanbase, since it’s present into “Liquid Tension Experiment Live in LA” recorded in 2008. Okay, this is a cover, but this is totally a re-interpretation: Petrucci&friends have succeeded in giving new life to this masterpiece, famous for its creativity and avant-garde – don’t forget that this song was created a century ago! – re-inventing each part and using different instruments in a powerful and persuasive way (just think of opening clarinet, replaced from Tony Levin’s chapman stick).
Shades of Hope is the opportunity to see the other duet on scene, Rudess/Petrucci, meaning piano/guitar, woven into a very good ballad, based more on emotions than on technique, favoured from a special chemistry between these 2 artists, so strong that this song was recorded in one take.
Closing the album is Key to the Imagination, 13 minutes of pure composition marked LTE, with its rhythm changes, its succession of notes and instruments, solos and improvisations, to enjoy all in one breathe, in this orchestral suite, similar to Overture (“Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”).
Saying it again, LTE3 is one of the best album of 2021, no ifs, no buts. A concentration of skill and technique to be enjoyed for a total of 60 minutes (2 hours, including bonus disc with jam-sessions), a perfect example of absolute and spontaneous ability at the same time, considering the fact that, using Tony Levin’s words, “the only pressure was ordering dinner”.
2. Beating the Odds
3. Liquid Evolution
4. The Passage of Time
5. Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey
6. Rhapsody in Blue
7. Shades of Hope
8. Key to the Imagination
1. Blink of an Eye
2. Solid Resolution Theory
3. View from the Mountaintop
4. Your Beard Is Good
5. Ya Mon
LTE3 is available as:
– Digital album (2CD)
– Gatefold 2LP+CD
– Limited Edition 2CD Digipak
– Limited Edition 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook
– Limited Edition Deluxe hot pink 3LP+2CD+Blu-ray Box Set (including 4 artcards + 1 poster – Blu-ray version contains mix 5.1 surround with visual and an interview with the band)
Italian version of the review HERE
MIKE PORTNOY: OFFICIAL SITE – FACEBOOK – INSTAGRAM
JOHN PETRUCCI: OFFICIAL SITE – FACEBOOK – INSTAGRAM
JORDAN RUDESS: OFFICIAL SITE – FACEBOOK – INSTAGRAM
TONY LEVIN: OFFICIAL SITE – FACEBOOK – INSTAGRAM