Rudess is best known as the keyboardist of Dream Theater, one of my all time favorite progressive metal bands. Rudess joined Dream Theater in 1999 becoming an integral part of the band. Since then, Dream Theater has produced some of their best material, and their performances have gone from great to outstanding. One of the characteristics about Dream Theater I admire is how each member has his own career and projects outside of the band.
Notes on a Dream is Rudess’s new solo project comprised mostly of Dream Theater ballads arranged for solo keyboard. Rudess has successfully stripped away the edgy, “metalness” of Dream Theater by revealing the harmonies and melodies the band is known for. He has effectively fused elements of classical, jazz and rock.
The following is the list of arrangements. I have included the albums on which each track originally appeared:
- Through Her Eyes (From Metropolis II: Scenes from a Memory)
- Lifting Shadows Off a Dream (From Awake)
- The Silent Man (From Awake)
- Another Day (From Images and Words)
- Hollow Years (From Falling Into Infinity)
- The Spirit Carries On (From Metropolis II: Scenes from a Memory)
- Speak to Me (no album)
- The Answers Lies Within (From Octavarium)
- Vacant (From Octavarium)
Each arrangement is a musical interpretation that maintains the harmonic and melodic texture but delivers a refreshing perspective for each song. Any true Dream Theater fan will recognize the song once the melody enters.
“Speak to me” and “Another Day” are the two tracks I found the most interesting and moving. Although “Speak to Me” has yet to appear on an album, it has landed on a few bootlegs. The “Speak to Me” arrangement captured the original song in spirit and beauty. I enjoy the original, but I especially love this arrangement. The ending drifts into an atonal journey with no clear harmonic resolution; a fascinating way to end a beautiful song.
In classic Dream Theater form, “Another Day” begins with an improvisatory opening. Only until the melody from “Another Day” enters does the listener recognize it is a Dream Theater ballad rather than an original composition.
Rudess’s musical diversity is heard on the three original compositions, which are a departure from the musical language of the Dream Theater arrangements. “Perpetuum Mobile” is in the style of a Johann Sebastian Bach contrapuntal keyboard work but uses contemporary harmonic language. “The Grand Escapement” combines the musical language of George Gershwin, Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartok. This experimental piece is a side of Rudess rarely heard. “Collision Points” is a short, energetic work driven by complex syncopated patterns.
The only criticism I have about the album is that I would have preferred to hear it on a Steinway rather than on a home studio keyboard.
All in all, Notes on a Dream is worth every moment and serves as a window into a modern Mozart’s spirit.