Would instrumental progressive rock fusion by any other name sound as sweet? When it comes to the new album by Levin Minnemann Rudess, former Liquid Tension Experiment band mate and progressive metal demigod John Petrucci had a thing or two to say on the subject. (Don’t worry Jordan… this is coming from a guy who was once in a metal band called Majesty! Sounds like a Queen tribute band…)
Call them LMR, Levin Minnemann Rudess, or Lemur… these three prog masters have returned with a dynamic, inventive, and at times whimsical new album of serious prog that doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the Law Offices of… is the sophomore release from this extremely talented side project. Their first album, simply titled LMR, was released in 2013 to critical acclaim. Since then, many in the prog world have been waiting patiently to see whether LMR would be a one-off project. Luckily it wasn’t!
LMR began as a collaboration between prog legend Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel/King Crimson/Stick Men/former Liquid Tension Experiment/former… um… everything?) on bass and Chapman Stick and the prolific and talented drummer/multi-instrumentalist Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats/Steven Wilson/Joe Satriani) on drums and guitar. The duo were later joined by keyboard wizard extraordinaire, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater/former Liquid Tension Experiment), and the line-up was complete.
To call this group a trio is a bit misleading. Sure, there are three musicians. But Minnemann contributes a substantial amount of guitar on the album, demonstrating impressive aptitude on the instrument. Minnemann’s fretwork combined with Levin’s Chapman Stick playing and Rudess’ ability to make his keyboard squeal like a lead guitar really fills out the sound beyond your typical keyboard/bass/drums instrumentation and makes the comparison to Liquid Tension Experiment—another project with both Levin and Rudess—a very natural one. There is certainly plenty for LTE fans to enjoy on this album. But make no mistake, LMR is not an imitation group out to make Liquid Tension Experiment 3, or even worse, another Liquid Trio Experiment album. LMR are forging their own brand of compelling instrumental prog that is more fusion-oriented.
The album opens with “Back to the Machine,” a high-energy track with a distinctly Frank Zappa sound, due in large part to Rudess’ keyboards. The track reminds me a lot of the song “Lucky Charms” off the Ultrazone album by Zappa’s guitar protégé, Steve Vai. It features a repeated, driving riff on the guitar and bass, along with a blistering synth solo from Rudess. This song falls more on the progressive rock end of the spectrum, with less of the jazz fusion elements that feature more prominently elsewhere on the album.
On the jazz fusion side of things, there are tracks like “Marseille” with its clean piano, airy chord progression, and high energy drumming. The synth solo on this track reminds me of some of the jazzier 70s eclectic prog bands like UK or Happy The Man. “Shiloh’s Cat” veers away from prog in favor of a more traditional jazz fusion approach. The drums clock a hard 4/4 without Minnemann’s typical complex fills. Each member gets a chance to carry the melody, which moves around between keyboard, guitar, and bass. In contrast, “Good Day Hearsay” features a distinct jazz fusion approach of a heavier kind that reminds me of Derek Sherinian’s fusion-oriented solo work. The track features some very heavy synth soloing from Rudess that merges jazz fusion elements with sounds that would be perfectly at home on a progressive metal album.
The album definitely has elements that sound like the respective bands of the individual musicians. Shades of Crimson come through on songs like “Riff Splat” and “The Tort,” which tap into a more experimental sound. These songs employ heavily distorted, syncopated riffing on the bass and guitar, complex time signatures, and atonality. Fans of Dream Theater will of course hear familiar sounds in the keyboard department. Rudess makes use of a wide array of keyboard voices throughout the album that bear his signature sound— ranging from clean piano to a wide array of synth leads, textures, and other “wizardly sounds.” The quirkiness of the album also bears similarity with Minnemann’s solo work.
So, what’s the verdict? From the Law Offices Of… demonstrates an undeniable chemistry between the musicians that will most likely hit the spot for fans of instrumental progressive rock and heavy modern jazz fusion. The compositions are well structured and avoid the pitfall of directionless meandering that is all too common in this genre, while still offering a playful creativity. Once again, LMR have created an impressive album that is well worth a listen – or, you might say, just another day at the office for these three.
Purchase their album on Amazon, on iTunes, or through their record label, Lazy Bones Recordings. The physical CD comes with 3 bonus tracks. A deluxe edition CD + DVD format is also available with additional bonus material including demos, DIY videos, and an unreleased solo track from each member.
Tony Levin: Basses, Chapman Stick, Cello
Marco Minnemann: Drums, Guitar
Jordan Rudess: Keyboards, Continuum, GeoShred, Wizardly Sounds, Seaboard