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.

Armoury Records Gives Sherinian’s Latest Solo Effort A Proper Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Every year, consumers see any number of albums re-issued from a variety of artists, groups, and bands. The reasons for those re-issues are as varied as the re-issues themselves. It goes without saying that among that annual mass of music, some of it is worth the purchase, while some of it is not as worthwhile. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian saw all of his solo releases re-issued this week. Those albums are among the re-issues that are worth purchasing. This is especially the case for those that are long-time fans of his music. Sherinian proved throughout each of his solo releases that he was just as good on his own as he was with any of the bands and artists with whom he had already worked over the course of his career. One of the best examples of that talent is his 2009 release, Molecular Heinosity.

Molecular Heinosityis the fifth and most recent of Sherinian’s solo releases. As with his previous four solo releases, this record is largely an instrumental release. The sole song on this album that includes any lyrics is one of two pieces he recorded with long-time friend and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde. The song in question is ‘So Far Gone.’ Audiences will also be interested to note that Brian Tichy joins Sherinian on this track. Tichy has also played drums for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, and Zakk WYlde on Wylde’s 199 release Pride& Glory. Most recently, Tichy played with the hard rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing. So it goes without saying that there is a certain level of familiarity between the trio. And it shows in this song, too. The trio–along with fellow musicians Tina Guo (cello) and Tony Franklin (fretless bass)–come together to make this one of the album’s best pieces. Wylde proves once again on this song why he is one of the most revered guitarists in the music business. And Tichy’s timekeeping is rock solid despite the various time signature changes throughout the song. Sherinian’s work on the keys is not to be ignored, either. Whether by himself, partnered with Tina Guo’s performance on cello or even the semi-call and response with Wylde in the song’s bridge, Sherinian shows time and again in this song why he is such a sought after musician even after so many decades in the business. This isn’t the only point at which he exhibits such talent on this record. Another of the album’s high points comes in the album’s second track, titled ‘Ascension.’

‘Ascension’ is one of this album’s high points especially in that it boasts something of a similarity to the music he wrote with his former band mates in Dream Theater. To be even more precise, it sounds stylistically like the music that he wrote with his now ex-band mates for the band’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity.  What is most interesting of all in this song is just how much is going on within the context of the song’s near three-minute run time.  That’s right.  This song comes in at less than three minutes in length.  To be more exact, it clocks in at two minutes and fifteen seconds.  That’s pretty short.  Yet, the way that it gradually builds, from start to finish makes it so interesting.  Making it even more interesting is what would appear to be Sherinian mimicking a guitar part with his keyboard in this song.  If that is indeed the case, he is to be even more highly commended.  That’s because that part could easily pass as a guitar.  And it shows even more his understanding of and appreciation for his instrument.  The song’s musical effect overall shows his knowledge of music and his talent just as much.  All of that together makes this song all the more enjoyable.

The songs that comprise Molecular Heinosity each have their own musical identity.  Collectively, they make the entire album one that any fan of Sherinian will enjoy.  Now that it has been re-issued courtesy of Armoury Records, the music is just part of the album’s success.  Just as important to this re-issue is the new companion booklet.  Most people don’t pay too much attention to the liner notes that come with albums in their physical form.  But as audiences will see in the album’s new liner notes, there’s plenty to take in.  This album for instance gives listeners a bio of sorts on Sherinian and his career.  It goes all the way back to his days playing with Alice Cooper and Billy Idol as well as a little surprise background on his departure from Dream Theater.  This critic was surprised to learn that he didn’t leave Dream Theater, but was in fact let go from the band.    Along with the semi-career bio, Armoury Records also included background notes from Sherinian on a handful of songs.  That background info gives extra insight into said songs.  It’s too bad that more bands, artists, and musicians don’t do this.  It’s one more reason that the physical object will never be fully replaced by the digital.  Little things like background notes on songs as art of the liner notes serve to enhance one’s listening experience.  And this album is no exception to that rule.  The bonus liner notes and bio included in this new re-issue are wonderful compliments to the album’s music.  Together, they make the whole product again, one that any fan of Derek Sherinian will want to add to their library especially if they do not already own this record.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Derek Sherinian’s official website at http://www.dereksherinian.com/merchandise.htm.  More information on this and other releases 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.

Every Rocker And Metal Head Should Care About Who Cares

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Armoury Records/E-A-R Music

Who Cares, the new collaboration between Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan is a must for any Black Sabbath or Deep Purple fan.  This double disc album is front loaded with great music that will have any rocker hanging their horns high with pride from start to finish.  Add in that at its base, it’s a fundraising record to help rebuild a music school in Armenia, and it becomes that much more appealing.  It’s proof yet again of the power of music.  Iommi and Gillan wanted to record this record to help spread music through the world.  To say that that is commendable would be an understatement.

The finished product of Who Cares is a top notch record for any rocker and metal head.  It opens with the hard rocking and deeply emotional ‘Out OF My Mind.  This song fittingly opens the album, as it discusses the tragic earthquake of June, 1990 that destroyed he music school for which this album is being sold to raise funds.  What’s really interesting about this song is its genesis and growth.  Ian Gillan explains in the liner notes of how it started out as a rant against the No Smoking signs on airplanes, and soon thereafter become about the destruction in Armenia.  That’s quite a leap in subject matter.  And it does quite the job catching what people must have felt in the earthquake’s aftermath.

Of course the collected recordings included in this compilation do get a little lighter in their lyrical content.  There’s a song about an incident with a car that turned out to belong to Bill Ward in ‘Trashed’, even an outstandingly amazing live performance of Deep Purple’s famed ‘Smoke On The Water’ with the London Symphony Orchestra, just to name a couple.  Gillan pays tribute to the late metal legend Ronnie James Dio when he writes of this performance.  He notes that he and Dio actually shared vocal duties on this rare performance.  There’s even more back story to this song.  But to find out what Gillan had to say about it, fans will have to pick up this compilation for themselves.  There are even more stories included in the set’s liner notes about each song, making for yet another bonus to checking out this set.  Who Cares is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online via Eagle Rock Entertainment’s website, http://www.eagle-rock.com.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.