Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist. There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything. So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release. The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing. That is to say the order of the songs. The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album. The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes. All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.
The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing. The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips. The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show. The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged. That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful. It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft. The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.
Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing. The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album. That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success. Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record. And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation. Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others. Their talents are well shared throughout the record. The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works. Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song. And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible. Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title. It establishes quite the eerie vibe. The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses. It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated. The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks. Sherinian and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.
The who’s who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing. Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here. And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue. The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album. This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine. Lalaina outlines the album in his own words. Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina. Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol). He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album. There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola. One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here. But it will most definitely have listeners laughing. It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records. More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.