Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Keeps Rolling With Miles Davis Live At Montreux 1991

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment proved throughout 2012 why it is one of the leaders in live recordings.  There was not one bad recording from this company throughout the year.  Now with the start of a new year, Eagle Rock has picked right back up where it left off.  It started the year in big fashion with the release of Deep Purple Live in Paris 1975.  Now only a couple months later, Eagle Rock has released yet another top notch release in the form of Miles Davis Live at Montreux 1991.

Miles Davis’ performance at Montreux in 1991 was not the first visit that the legendary trumpet player had made to the equally legendary music festival.  It would though, be his last.  Only months after this performance, Davis sadly passed away.  Two years ago, Davis’ complete performances were culled for a complete box set also released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.  While two years may not seem like that much time, it actually is.  It is very easy for just such a box set to go out of print in that time.  As a result of that possibility, audiences now get to re-live one of the most iconic of Davis’ performances at Montreux on DVD and Blu-ray.  Considering that this concert has already been released as part of a larger box set, one is left to question what makes this single disc performance worth one’s time.  The answer is simple.  Over two decades have passed since this concert was originally recorded.  The footage recorded for that show has stood the test of time quite well.  Both the video and audio are outstanding.  And the set list chosen for the performance is just as impressive.  Together, all three make this a performance that any Miles Davis aficionado will enjoy.

This final performance by Miles Davis at the Montreux Jazz Festival featured not just Miles but also the Gil Evans Orchestra and another legend in his own right, Quincy Jones.  The control that the entire group has throughout each song really comes through so expertly thanks to the audio mixing done to give new birth to this performance.  And even at twenty-plus years old, the footage looks extraordinary, as if it hadn’t aged a day.  That is a tribute to those who worked so painstakingly to transfer the video from VHS to DVD and now Blu-ray.  While it may not have been entirely intended, one of the most interesting moments in this performance, speaking of footage, comes as Davis and company perform ‘Blues for Pablo.’  The way that the light trails off of Davis’ trumpet as he plays makes for such an incredible experience.  It makes the trumpet look almost as if it’s smoking.  And as slow as this song is, it simply makes for an incredible added element to the song.  Given, the way the light reflects and moves with Davis and his instrument was not an intended effect.  That was just the effect of the video recording equipment at the time.  But the mood of the song makes it such a fitting effect.  It adds a whole extra level to the song that can’t really be put into words.  Of course, it is just one of so many great numbers in this set.  Audiences that know Davis’ body of work will also enjoy the equally smooth ‘Summertime.’

‘Summertime’ is more up-tempo in this performance.  But it still doesn’t lose its originally bluesy feel.  Again this exemplifies the talent and professionalism of Davis, Jones, and the Gil Evans Orchestra.  It still stands out as another of the performance’s best numbers.  And it’s but one of so many that audiences will enjoy.

As if the numbers in this set list aren’t enough for viewers, audiences are also treated to an extra bonus as the now late founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, Claude Nobs, and others get their chance to share their memories of Miles and his influence on themselves and the music world as a whole.  Audiences will laugh at Nobs’ story of how he and Davis first met and what some of Davis’ first words to Nobs were.  Also sharing in the memories are Stanley Clarke, Jean Luc Ponty, and Al Di Meola.  For those who might not know, this trio of gentlemen played a big role through the years in bringing Miles Davis’ works to the masses, re-mastering them for the numerous albums that have been re-issued to CD.  Their stories are, much like those of Nobs, both entertaining and very deep in so many ways.  And they, like the other individuals interviewed for this feature, offer so much incredible insight into who Miles Davis was, and his importance to the world of music as a whole.   They are truly a bonus and a worthwhile one to what is just one more piece to this history of one of the music industry’s most important figures.  They work with the main performance feature to make this release one that any Miles Davis aficionado will want to add to their own home library.  Miles Davis Live at Montreux 1991 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.