As if you couldn’t tell from the cover art, Jordan Rudess’ Feeding the Wheel is an embarrassing mess. Resembling the score for some overtly earnest ’80s sci-fi movie, Feeding the Wheel is something you’d laugh at if it wasn’t so bad. Completely without charm or originality, this album is exactly what you’d expect from someone who has a space station and a flaming brain on his cover. At its best moments, Feeding the Wheel is mostly derivative. At its worst, it’s just downright stupid (sometimes recalling the keyboard “music” that Ross on Friends sometimes makes). It is, however, never good.
“The Voice” opens the album, and a booming voice tells you “At the moment of your birth, you took your place on the great wheel.” That’s actually pretty comical, although it’s almost certain it wasn’t meant to be. “Quantum Soup”, the first official track on the album, goes on for what undoubtedly will feel like days. Long and silly, this initial track sets the tone for Feeding the Wheel. Unfortunately for everyone, there’s still about 50 more minutes to sit through.
Rudess’ style of overstated keyboards and whirling planetarium sounds is hard to take, and the artlessness of his compositions does not help matters any. The tiresome obviousness of “Shifting Sands” to the exaggerated theatrics of “Revolving Door” (especially when the laughable “rapping” randomly appears in the middle) only go to prove how dully uninspired Feeding the Wheel is. It sounds like every dumb piece of background music you’ve ever heard while wandering around in your local science museum.
The long song lengths don’t help Rudess’ cause much, either, since all the tracks wear themselves out before they’re finished. The only exciting track here is the minute-and-a-half “Center of the Sphere” because it doesn’t drive its ideas into the ground. All the rest of these tracks seem pieced together or repetitive. Rudess’ message is either all too abundantly clear or almost completely nonexistent, and it’s pretty pointless either way.
“Interstices” fortunately breaks pace from the synthesized keyboard sounds and introduces an actual piano. While Rudess’ actual composition skills and raw playing are perhaps not the best, it is a welcome break from the rest of Feeding the Wheel and gives a glimpse of possible actual talent. If you make it that far, after “Interstices”, it’s easy to wonder why Rudess doesn’t just merely play piano instead of creating these other pretentious and monotonous pieces of music.
“Feed the Wheel” the end will make you abandon any hope you had for Feeding the Wheel (if you had any at all). With the same cut and paste approach as the majority of the album, it sounds a bit sloppy. While you can be grateful for the fact it’s not as long as “Quantum Soup”, at over seven minutes, it’s still an exhaustingly dull end for the album. Once the track finishes, the voice from the beginning appears again and shares its “wisdom” for about three more minutes. It’s a pretty amusing way to close out Feed the Wheel, although, once again, it probably wasn’t intended to be.
Jordan Rudess’ Feeding the Wheel may have some value as a humorous novelty, but it’s barely worth even that. If you do listen, just make sure no one else is around, or you may have too many questions to answer about your taste in music. But, really, just save yourself the trouble and don’t listen to it at all.