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10 Albums that changed Jordan Rudess’ life

Keyboardist Jordan Rudess has been a full-time member of prog gods Dream Theater since 1999. Here are the albums that influenced him.

Keyboardist Jordan Rudess has been a full-time member of prog gods Dream Theater since the recording of the band’s 1999 album, “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.” He is also part of the progressive-rock supergroup known as Liquid Tension Experiment and was once a member of The Dixie Dregs. In September, Rudess released the song “Krump,” which was an electronica “single” released on iTunes. And, Rudess has collaborated with artists from David Bowie to Kip Winger.

The band Dream Theater remains as popular as ever in the world of progressive rock, but it experienced some uncertainty in 2010 after the departure of superstar drummer Mike Portnoy. Portnoy’s replacement has been chosen and is supposed to be announced by press time. The band expects to go into the studio at the beginning of the year to produce its 11th studio album.

Emerson Lake And Palmer

This album came into my life at a very important time. I was training to become a classical pianist at the Juilliard School in New York City, and a friend brought this over for me to listen to. I played this album over and over again, because for the first time in my life, I became aware of just how powerful a keyboard sound could be!

Years later I recorded my own version of “Tarkus” for my solo album, “The Road Home,” and actually have the honor of getting a big thumbs up from Keith Emerson himself!

Trick Of The Tail

Genesis represents what I call the glory rock side of prog rock and this album is the most glorious to me! There are a couple of elements in their sound that became huge influences in my own music. The first being the beautiful harmonic sense that Tony Banks has. An example of this is the kind of chordal movement in the song “Squonk,” where the chords often change over a constant bass note. The other is that all-encompassing glory vibe that their music especially had on that album!

Gentle Giant
Free Hand

This album changed my world in the same way that Bach influenced me classically. I had never heard such glorious counterpoint in rock music before. That mixed with their amazing sense of rhythm! All the ultra-cool meter changes, played by great instrumentalists, mixed together with some really cool keyboard playing, was a formula that I could not resist. After hearing “Free Hand,” I went back and listened to many of their albums and became a lifetime fan! There is never a time when I sit down to compose when the Gentle Giant influence is not with me!

Close To The Edge

When I think of Yes’ music, I think of laser lights flying by my head and astral visions from another space and time. I’ve spent more time tripping out to “Close to The Edge” than almost every other album ever created. I’m a big Jon Anderson fan, and his voice always was my ticket out to a magical musical zone. I would stack this album up with some of the others on this list and keep it right next to my turntable, so it was never far from my reach. I guess it was the combination of all the amazing musicians, mixed with a touch of wizardry, that kinda blew my mind.

Tangerine Dream

When I got my MiniMoog, I gravitated toward the otherworldy-type sounds that I could create on it. “Phaedra” appealed to a similar place in my brain that no other classical music or rock music could get to. There is an organic quality they captured on that album that makes it stand up strongly to the test of time. Giving that album a spin would literally take me for a sonic cosmic ride. It was the first time I heard synthesizers and sequencers used to this incredible effect!

Rick Wakeman
Six Wives Of Henry The VIII

Rick Wakeman is one of my keyboard heroes. This album really turned me on to the sound of the MiniMoog. “Six Wives” is also a great mixture of classical and rock that I had never heard before. After spending some time with this album, I posted pictures all over my bedroom wall of MiniMoogs. I knew I had to have one! The album also was a keyboardists dream because he had so much cool gear. Hearing all of the Moogs, Mellotrons, harpsichords and Hammonds on this one incredible album made this album so important in my life.

King Crimson
Court Of The Crimson King

There was so much about this album that struck me and continues to stay with me through all the years. From the beautiful sound of Greg Lake’s voice, through to the majesty of those chords on the title track. From the extremely gentle songs, like “I Talk to the Wind” to the madness of “21st Century Schizoid Man” make this album is a total classic and influenced my musical path greatly!

Jimi Hendrix
Electric Ladyland

Jimi Hendrix taught me the meaning of cool, and whenever I play my instruments, I think of him. Nobody has ever been quite that cool, but it’s important to try!! I’ve never heard anyone else use the wah-wah effect on a guitar like that!

“Electric Ladyland” was the Hendrix album that really affected me the most of any of his work. Jimi tapped into something mysterious and cosmic on this one, and I constantly go back to this source and drink from its waters.

Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of The Moon

Pink Floyd
Dark Side Of The Moon

From beginning to end, this album is undeniably about as classic as an album can be. The smooth, spaciness of the vocals, along with the universal quality to the words and music, all the way to the quirky and classic Floydian spoken words, all play a role in making this an album one that changed my life and influenced me so much. Never did the “Wizard of Oz” thing with it, though!


Aphex Twin
Come to Daddy

This opened up a new chapter in my life. When I heard this, I knew my sonic world was going to explode again! I think it was the “Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” track that blew my mind. It started me on a search to find out how that particular bouncing sound was made! It seems like so many of the new sonic tools that companies have developed through the years since that album’s release all try to make possible what Aphex Twin did on that album! I believe that he really started the whole IDM movement!

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