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Sherinian, Derek: Oceana

Master keyboard player Derek Sherinian has played with a wide variety of major league acts over the years, from Dream Theater, KISS, Alice Cooper, Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Idol, and of course his current band Black Country Communion, but it's in his fusion band Planet X and his solo albums where he really gets to strut his stuff. His latest solo outing Oceana sees Sherinian delivering a wealth of instrumental metallic fusion tunes that are as memorable as they are jaw dropping. As always, he's brought on board a host of guest stars, including Steve Lukather, Simon Philips, Joe Bonamassa, Tony LacAlpine, Tony Franklin, Steve Stevens, Doug Aldrich, and Jimmy Johnson.

On opener "Five Elements", Sherinian and MacAlpine do their best Jan Hammer/Jeff Beck impression from the classic Wired album, as this one is a fusion lovers dream come true, complete with funky rhythms and sizzling synth/guitar exchanges. The two, along with Philips and Johnson, conjure more of the same, though even heavier, and the raucous "Mercury", while Lukather shows up on the jazzy gem "Mullholland" to provide plenty of tasty guitar mayhem. 'Luke' is again at center stage on the dreamy & atmospheric "Euphoria", a gorgeous piece featuring some scorching yet melodic guitar solos and ethereal keyboards. Perhaps the most stunning track here though is the ripping "Ghost Runner", a wild, almost Wired styled leftover, with Steve Stevens and Sherinian trading molten shards of fusion licks in the grand Hammer/Beck tradition. Whitesnake's Aldrich appears on the funk metal track "El Camino Diablo", which features plenty of crunchy metal riffs and squealing solos, and Black Country Communion bandmate Bonamassa contributes some fine Larry Carlton styled solos to the jazz/blues number "I Heard That". Mr. Lukather teams up with Sherinian again for the final two cuts, "Seven Sins" and "Oceana", showing once again why he is one of the most respected and talented guitarists out there today. His solos are dripping with emotion, sizzling tone, and impeccable technique, and combined with Derek's tasty keys and the nimble bass playing of Franklin & Johnson, make these two scorchers at the back end of the CD well worth waiting for.

The production from Sherinian & Philips is superb, and to be honest, it's hard to pick a favorite track here, as all are complete winners. If you are looking for one of the hottest instrumental jazz/prog/metal fusion album this year, look no further, as Derek Sherinian has done it again.

Track Listing
01. Five Elements
02. Mercury 7
03. Mulholland
04. Euphoria
05. Ghost Runner
06. El Camino Diablo
07. I Heard That
08. Seven Sins
09. Oceana

Added: September 17th 2011
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 4415
Language: english

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Sherinian, Derek: Oceana
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-09-17 15:31:59
My Score:

After 2009's disappointing Molecular Heinosity, which relied too heavily on the guest guitarists' chops and disregarded songwriting quality, Derek Sherinian returns with a strong effort. Thankfully, long-time drummer Simon Phillips is back as well, not only co-writing but also producing the album.

Unlike the previous effort, Oceana is a very cohesive piece of work. The songs don't jump from complex metal numbers to fusion back to metal and then hard rock. Simon Phillips' touch is all over the disc and Steve Lukather has also returned. Lukather plays on three tracks, of which "Mulholland" juxtaposes hard-hitting drums with smooth, liquidy guitar phrases punctuated by Sherinian's jazz-infliced synth touches. "Euphoria" is the only slow-paced track and features Lukather's full, warm, and distinct guitar tone. He lays down a beautiful solo which resolves over the song's repeated central theme. However, "Seven Sins" is both Lukather's and the album's highlight. It starts out with somewhat cheesy 80s pop synths, but quickly develops a searing melody with mind-blowing drum fills and an extended bass solo, which is eventually concluded by a floating keyboard arrangement and an addictive solo. Derek is at his most expressive on this one.

The first two tracks with Tony MacAlpine actually recall his recent solo album, so be sure to check it out if you enjoy them. These songs are also somewhat inter-related, as they both repeat the same melody played in a different key. This lends them a great sense of unity, and unlike the songs with Lukather, Sherinian quickly joins MacAlpine for dexterous unison solos. Of course, the songs are very different structurally: the first one is more shred-intensive while "Mercury 7" is jazzier and informed by a weird-sounding bass line. Speaking of jazz, much of the album brings to mind Jeff Beck (think Wired), and I actually listened to both records back to back and it worked perfectly. This is not surprising, given two key members, Phillips and Lukather, have contributed to this album. Derek Sherinian should forever work with this duo on his solo material.

One of the newcomers is guitar god Doug Aldrich, who is featured on the Deep Purple-like "El Camino Diablo." His groove-locked riffs and Phillips' super-tight drumming are underlined by vintage Hammond organs that recall Uriah Heep at their finest moment. The bluesy sweep of "I Heard That" actually had me check the booklet because of the very different guitar playing. It turned out to be Sherinian's band mate from Black Country Communion, Joe Bonamassa. His soloing is quite different from the others; he opts for a very blues-oriented style and lends the song flair and intensity. You must check out both Black Country Communion discs if you want to hear them in a more straightforward yet grooving format.

Unfortunately, one of the Steve Stevens tracks, "Ghost Runner," is way too eclectic and does not fully utilize Stevens' talents, given his amazing work. It's supposed to rock hard, but Stevens' guitar part is unnecessarily long and repetitive (but the drums are fantastic), and by the time he and Sherinian exchange melodies much of the song's charm is lost. Luckily, the closing title track is a solid piece, in which Stevens supplies some of his finest guitar melodies alongside bassist Tony Franklin.

Ultimately, Oceana is a great return to form, much like Sherinian's earlier albums. Though it is primarily a fusion disc, there are blistering riffs, sweeping synths with multiple tones, and a tight, grooving rhythm section to enjoy here. It does not quite match the intensity of, say, Inertia, but it is still one of the year's best instrumental efforts.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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