Derek Sherinian is a fine creative and accomplished keyboard player who’s CV includes stints with Kiss, Alice Cooper and Billy Idol, to name but three. He was also a member of Dream Theater and has made eight solo albums, which are usually made in tandem with Simon Phillips, who has an even more impressive CV, with the likes of Judas Piest, Jeff Beck and, latterly, Toto. Simon also had his own group, Protocol, who have released five albums thus far in a similar fusion type style.
Derek and Simon both share a love of fusion, which mixes jazz and rock elements together in a shimmering stew of musical chops. Normally Derek uses a whole slew of well know guitarists, which is definitely interesting, especially as he tends to play a more supportive role rather than be keyboard heavy and laden. He is very much a team player, whose aim is for the music to be the star rather than his own chops. Simon is of a similar persuasion and he is content to be a solid rock from which others can soar!
Well that is certainly the case here, this album features four good musicians who have played together previously and enjoy each others company and playing. The band is Derek Sherinian (keyboards), Simon Phillips (drums), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (two necked guitar) and Ric Fierabracci (bass). These four can definitely play up a veritable storm, this album was recorded at The Grape in Ventura, California on August 29th, 2022 and this live album is the result of that rather unique show.
The album has eleven tracks, three taken from ‘The Vortex’, three from ‘The Phoenix’, one from ‘Inertia’ and one from ‘Mythology’ . Of the two additional tracks, Barnacus is a drum solo from Simon Phillips.
Most of these tracks replicate their studio incarnations without really adding very much or varying from what was originally created. Which kind of begs the question ‘Why?’, what is the point of all this? Ye, its all very listenable, technically accomplished and exciting but it is ultimately one that falls short by offering nothing very new or different to what is already known and already available. Also, I think they missed an opportunity to include the filming that took place that evening, as that would be a good addition and offer some added value to this album.
The music that is here is excellent extremely well recorded and delivered but, for the reasons stated, probably won’t get heavy rotation with me because, much as I like Derek’s music, on this occasion I wanted something more. What is different, I suppose, is that these four musicians are replicating parts played by others, like The Vortex, which ŵas recorded with Steve Stevens on guitar and Tony Franklin on bass. Here those parts are played to perfection by Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Ric Fierabracci respectively. This makes it interesting to compare the versions also, live, it is very slightly longer in length, although what the additional sixteen seconds are is not easily ascertainable, I guess it could be at the start of the track with the crowd noise?
Empyrean Sky gives opportunities for Derek to really lay down some strong Hammond Organ tones, which he does remarkably well, and his interplay with Bumblefoot is exciting, if a tad brief. In fact several of these tracks would have benefitted from a more expansive time to allow further improvisation and room to explore the material more fully. Temple of Helios is another example of where extension would have greatly improved the track. This truncation is frustrating when a band as talented as the guys are are held back and unnecessarily restrained from really letting fly.
Whether there were time constraints or something else is not clear and I guess we’ll never know but, aside from that, this album deserves more than it delivers, it’s good, whereas it could have been so much more, it is a real missed opportunity by Inside Out.
Still, what is here is very good, I just wish it was either a double CD or had a DVD of the events with rehearsals and interviews and other extras added for completeness. So, again, my question is Why?
Released 25th August, 2023.
Order the album here: