Sons Of Apollo Offers Audiences A Strong Live Debut In ‘Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’

Courtesy: InsideOut Music/Century Media

The wait is finally over for Sons of Apollo’s new live recording.  The band officially released its new recording, Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony Friday.  The 24-song, two-and-a-half-hour concert was recorded at the famed Plovdiv Roman Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.  If that sounds familiar to some audiences, it should.  That is because that is the same venue where the Devin Townsend Project recorded its most recent live recording, Ocean Machine Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv.  That’s another concert, though.  This concert in question is a presentation that is certain to appeal to every Sons of Apollo fan.  That is due in part to the concert’s extensive set list, which will be addressed shortly.  The band’s performance of said set list is important to note in its own right and will be discussed a little later.  The concert’s production values round out its most important elements.  Each item noted is key in its own right to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Live With The Plvdiv Psychotic Symphony a good first live outing for this prog-rock super group.

Sons of Apollo’s debut live recording Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony is a good first live offering from the prog-rock super group.  It succeeds all the way around, beginning with its extensive set list.  The 24-song, two-and-a-half-hour set list features the band’s debut album Psychotic Symphony in whole as well as covers of some of the band members’ own favorite songs from other acts and even some work from the band members’ own catalogs.  While Psychotic Symphony is presented in whole here, it is not in the same sequence as on the record, which is not necessarily bad.  It is instead scattered throughout the record with the other noted songs, including three classic Dream Theater songs ‘Just Let Me Breath,’  ‘Lines in The Sand’ and ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’  All three songs were lifted from Dream Theater’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity, which was really the record that set Derek Sherinian’s identity as the band’s keyboardist at the time.  The covers featured in the set list are quite varied in their own right.  Rainbow gets a nod with ‘Gates of Babylon.’  The band also takes on Ozzy Osbourne with ‘Diary of a Madman.’  The band members even cover works from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the one and only Henry Mancini (yes, Henry Mancini) in this set list.  That’s quite a range of music.  From hard rock to prog rock to jazz and even the mainstream rock of Van Halen (the band also covers Van Halen’s ‘And The Cradle Will Rock,’ in this set), the band shows a wide range of influences and talent with the covers and the originals.  All things considered, the band’s set list ensures audiences’ maintained engagement and entertainment from the beginning to the end of the show.  That is heightened even more through the sequencing of the set list.  A close watch/listen shows a lot of thought went into the sequencing, as the show’s energy rises and falls at all of the right moments, ensuring even more, audiences’ engagement.

The engagement and entertainment ensured through this recording’s set list is but one part of what makes it so appealing for audiences.  The band’s performance of that set list ensures, even more that maintained engagement and entertainment.  Those who actively watch and/or listen to the recording will note that the band wastes little to no time moving from one song to the next over the course of the concert.  Case in point is the transition from ‘Alive to Henry Mancini’s timeless ‘Pink Panther Theme,’ and from that song into ‘Opus Maximus.’  The transition is seamless from one song to the next.  The band members hit all the right notes and cues to make each transition work.  It is just one of the prime examples of how the band makes the most of its time.  Earlier on in the set, the band transitions just as seamlessly from ‘Signs of the Time’ into ‘Divine Addiction.’  That fluidity makes for so much enjoyment for audiences.  Even in the rare moments in which the band does take a moment to interact with the audience, little time is wasted, such as when drummer Mike Portnoy introduces his longtime friend and band mate Billy Sheehan for Sheehan’s solo.  That solo, by the way, would make fans of Cliff Burton and Lemmy Kilmister proud.  Getting back on topic, Portnoy’s introduction is short and to the point, giving Sheehan more time to perform.  Even when front man Jeff Scott Soto gets his moment in the spotlight for his solo performances, he is gracious and humble in addressing the audience, and brief in the process.  Simply put, from the concert’s opening to its finale, the band’s presence and performance of the show’s set list displays the band as a fine tuned machine and as a group of true professional musicians that wants to give audiences the absolute biggest bang for its buck.  When that is considered alongside the set list itself, the whole of those two elements gives audiences more than enough to appreciate in this case.  Even with all of this in mind, the set list and the band’s performance thereof is still only a portion of what makes the concert so enjoyable for audiences.  The recording’s production values put the finishing touch to its presentation.

The production values in this recording are so important in that they add so much more to the general effect of the concert.  The camera angles, the transitions from camera to camera (including the speed of the transitions) help to expertly capture and translate the energy of the show for audiences who were not lucky enough to be in attendance at what was the band’s first-ever concert at the Roman Theatre.  At the same time, they also give home audiences the absolute best seat in the house, taking viewers right up close wit hthe band on stage and from high above at some points.  The sound editing and mixing is just as worthy of praise, as it keeps all of the music and vocals just as expertly balanced throughout.  Case in point is the balance of Soto’s vocal delivery against the instrumental elements in ‘Kashmir.’  Portnoy and company are clearly audible, but never once overpower the orchestral backing provided for the performance.  At the same time Soto’s vocals are never overpowered by his band mates and guest orchestral musicians as he takes on Robert Plant’s part from the original song.  When the expert production and mixing is considered alongside the band’s performance and the set list, the whole of the concert becomes an experience that definitely presents a very wide appeal.  Overall, the noted elements make this recording in whole one more of this year’s top new live Blu-ray/DVD recordings.

Sons of Apollo’s debut live recording Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony is a powerful first live offering from the prog-rock super group.  It is an offering whose appeal reaches easily beyond just fans of the band, but the bands with whom each of its musicians have performed and more.  That is proven in part through the recording’s extensive set list.  The set list not only presents the band’s debut album Psychotic Symphony in whole, but also lots of covers and originals that will appeal to lots of audiences.  The band’s performance of that set list does just as much to make the recording enjoyable.  The recording’s production and mixing put the last touch to its presentation, ensuring even more its positive impact.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony not just a strong live debut for Sons of Apollo, but also one more of this year’s top new live Blu-ray/DVD recordings.  More information on the recording is available online now along with all of Sons of Apollo’s latest news and more at:










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‘Psychotic Symphony’ Is A Brilliant Work From Some Of Progressive Rock’s “Titans”

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Late next month, progressive metal outfit Sons of Apollo will make its way to Nroth Carolina as part of its tour in support of its debut album Psychotic Symphony. The performance is scheduled for Feb. 13 at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Audiences who have yet to experience this new recording from the long time friends — Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Winery Dogs, Transatlantic, Liquid tension Experiment), Derek Sherinian (ex-dream Theater, Platypus, Alice Cooper), Billy Sheehan (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, Steve Vai), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy) and Jeff Scott Soto (Trans Siberian Orchestra, SOTO, Rising Force) — will definitely be in for quite an experience. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The album’s lyrical content plays into that experience, too. It will be discussed later. The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, putting the finishing touch on the project. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of this nearly hour-long recording. All things considered, they make the album in whole a powerful effort from what is in its own right true rock royalty.

Prog-metal super group Sons of Apollo’s debut album Psychotic Symphony, released this past October via InsideOut Music, is yet another strong effort for the veteran musicians who came together to create the record. Regardless of whether this proves to be just a one-off program or something more long term, it can be said that it impresses from beginning to end. That is proven in part through its diverse musical arrangements. Right off the top, audiences are treated to an arrangement that echoes hints of Dream Theater’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity courtesy of Sherinian’s keyboards and Portnoy’s work behind the kit. Thal’s guitar work is right up there with that of John Petrucci’s from that album, too. Soto’s vocal delivery expertly compliments the work put in by his band mates, sounding like a cross between James LaBrie and Fozzy front man Chris Jericho. Speaking of Fozzy, the album’s second offering, ‘Coming Home’ boasts an arrangement that can easily be likened to so many works from Fozzy. That is due again to the coupling of the song’s instrumentation and Soto’s vocal delivery. ‘Signs of the Time,’ which comes next changes things up even more with a full on prog-metal opus that expertly balances its heavier down-tuned guitar-driven verses with its more melodic choruses. The result of that balance is an arrangement that is easily one of the album’s high points, but most definitely not its only positive. The arrangement at the center of ‘Labyrinth’ is its own positive. It starts with a tense string arrangement that eventually builds to a solid yet just as tense rock arrangement complete with the rest of the band. From there, the arrangement gradually builds even more until finally climaxing in its bridge almost six and a half minutes in. From there, the song’s energy gradually declines but doesn’t let off too much. By the time the nine-minute-plus opus ends, audiences are left breathless as they agree that this arrangement is yet another of the album’s high points. As if all of that is not enough, the arrangement at the heart of ‘Divine Addiction,’ the album’s penultimate entry, conjures thoughts of early Deep Purple. ‘Opus Maximus,’ which closes out the album, is an aptly titled work. That is because its arrangement is nearly incomparable to anything else out there. The only seemingly feasible comparison that can be made (at least in this critic’s ears) is if one were to take the best musical elements of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment and mix them together into one whole. the result would be this absolutely bombastic work. When the song ends, audiences will be so blown away that they will agree, the musical adventured embarked upon 57 minutes ago is one of a kind and one that was well worth the trip. As much as this record’s musical arrangements do to the positive for its presentation, they are only one part of what makes the album stand out. Its lyrical themes are just as important as those arrangements.

The lyrical themes presented throughout Psychotic Symphony are key to the album’s presentation because they are just as varied as the album’s musical arrangements. The album’s opener is a prime example of that importance. Soto sings in the song’s lead verse, “Through desert skies and far beyond the ocean/I am the star that shines eternal glow/Forever you’ll know/A cold desire that’s feelin’ no emotion/I am the fire that burns inside your soul/I’m inside your soul/’Cuz I am the light/Surrender tonight/I am the face of tomorrow/Now I’ve just begun/You can’t hide or run/’Cuz I am the god of the sun.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse of this figure “healing wounds” and a “prophet crying out for mercy.” There is even mention of an “invited illusion” and “fallen temptation with desperation.” This is rather metaphorical speak to say the very least. Considering that the Egyptian sun God Ra was a false deity as was Apollo in Greek mythology, one could assume that here, the God in question is being used as a metaphor for some commentary on established religion in general. On the other hand, it could be something wholly different. It would have been nice to hear [Mike] Portnoy and [Derek] Sherinian discuss the meaning behind the song’s lyrics in their song-by-song discussions that are available now on YouTube. Even without any discussion by the pair, it goes without saying that this song, which seemingly is rooted in religion (or perhaps in mythology), is certain to generate plenty of discussion among audiences if it hasn’t already done so. That being the case, it is just one way in which the record’s lyrical themes prove so important to its whole.

‘Alive’ is another song that serves to show the importance of the album’s musical themes. This song seems (again, just to this critic) to come across as perhaps a statement of someone who has overcome so much in life. This can be inferred right off the top in the song’s lead verse as Soto sings, “Colorize the sadness/The fear is black wnad white/Tunnel of denial/Looking for the light/The devil on my shoulder/The master of disguise/Can you hear him singing/Release me from the past/This tortured life I’ve sown/I’ve been down/I’m tired of being alone/I can’t hear the silence/Screams into my soul/The truth is ringing.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse that “I’m alive” and of basically starting over thanks to his parents. Its’ definitely thought provoking. There’s even mention of eliminating all the negativity of the past as the song nears its bridge. Considering this, the argument that this song lyrically seems to be about overcoming difficult situations in life begins to hold even more water so to speak. When the Veer Union/Sevendust-style musical arrangement is added to the mix, the emotion of such a moment becomes stronger. Once again, this is the interpretation of only this critic. It would, again, be nice to learn the true meaning behind the song’s lyrics. Either way, the discussions that again are certain to be generated show the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.

‘Coming Home’ is yet another example of the importance of this record’s lyrical themes. This song seems to be more of a defiant statement as Soto sings, “Now I’m not so suspicious/You’re downright malicious/Can’t make a fool outta me/You’re scheme’s complicated/Your pride is inflated/Seized by a social disease/There’s a voice screaming outta my head/There’s a truth that I don’t wanna know/Cross the line that’ you’re gonna regret/Is it me/Is it you/So get out of my way/Goin’ out on my own/Now remember my name/’Cause I’m coming home.” Again, there is plenty left to the imagination here considering that the song doesn’t just come out and say what it means. It definitely comes across as a positive work, lyrically, though. Keeping this in mind, it adds even more depth to the album. When that depth is joined with the depth generated by the album’s other lyrical themes, it makes the album that much stronger. When the depth generated by the album’s lyrical themes is joined with that of the album’s musical arrangements, the whole makes the album that much more solid. Even with this all in mind, it still is not the last of the album’s most important elements. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

Psychotic Symphony‘s sequencing is so important to note in examining its overall presentation because of how much even it adds to the record. From start to end, the album maintains a solid energy that barely lets up at any point. The most that it lets up (if one can even call it letting up) comes in the opening moments of ‘Labyrinth’ as the string arrangement sets the stage for the song to come. Even that moment isn’t too light. Rather the tension that is built here actually maintains the album’s energy, just in a way that is separate from the album’s first three songs. Even as the band moves into ‘Alive,’ which is arguably the album’s most radio-ready track, the energy there doesn’t even pull back too much. From that point on to the album’s end, the band keeps things moving almost nonstop, insuring that much more, listeners’ engagement. Keeping this in mind, that maintained energy proves to be important in its own right. Had the album been presented in any other order, that might not have been the case. Lukcily though, that didn’t happen, meaning again only positives. That becomes even more the case as this element is joined with the album’s musical arrangements and lyrical themes. All things considered, they make Psychotic Symphony a solid work from a group of brilliant musical minds.

Sons of Apollo’s debut album Psychotic Symphony is a solid first outing from some of today’s great musical minds. From start to finish, this progressive metal offering is a work that any prog rock purist will enjoy. That is proven in part through the record’s varied musical arrangements. Its equally varied lyrical themes are just as certain to impress because of their ability to generate so much discussion among audiences. The album’s sequencing proves in its own way why this record is so impressive. Each element plays its own important part in the whole of Pyschotic Symphony. All things considered, they make this record yet another successful outing for some of the titans of progressive rock. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Psychotic Symphony is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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‘Dog Years’ Ensures Engagement, Entertainment With Simplicity, Song Balance

Courtesy: Loud & Proud Records

Early next month, rock super group The Winery Dogs will release its latest live recording Dog Years to the masses. The recording, which includes both a live 15-song (17 if one counts drummer Mike Portnoy and bassist Billy Sheehan’s solos) set and a bonus 5-song studio EP is an impressive new live effort from The Winery Dogs.  That is due in part to both of the noted elements and the trio’s performance of the noted set list.  Each element is important in its own right to the recording’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Dog Years a work that proves to be one more of this year’s top new live recordings.

The Winery Dogs’ latest new live recording Dog Years is an enjoyable new offering from the rock super group, and easily a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.  That is due in part to its 15-song (again, 17 if one counts the two solo segments) set list.  The set list, which runs approximately 98-minutes, pulls almost equally from both of the band’s current albums.  The band’s self-titled debut is represented with seven songs while Hot Streak gets eight nods.  Considering the fact that The Winery Dogs boasts a total of 13 songs, that representation means that the band treated it Chilean audiences with more than half of that album in the concert presented in this recording.  That in itself is well worthy of its own share of applause.  The same applies to the band’s latest full-length studio recording.  Eight of its 13 total songs are represented in this live recording.  As with The Winery Dogs, that selection means that once again the band pulls from more than half of Hot Streak, too.  The result of that set list is a show that gives audiences a very healthy representation of the band’s body of work today.  This is more than worth its share of applause.

On a related note, the sequencing of the show’s rich set list is just as important to note as the set list itself.  Audiences will note in the set list that the band never sticks to one album or the other for far too long at one time.  The longest span that each album sees in this set list is two songs.  In other words, the band ensures audiences engagement not just with the set list but also with its sequencing.  The pairing of these factors does plenty to keep the concert entertaining and engaging.  The pairing makes the elements collectively just one of the key elements to discuss in examining this recording.  The band’s performance of the set list is just as important to note as the set list and its sequencing.

The band’s performance of the concert’s set list is so important to note because without a solid performance, there would be little to talk about here.  Audiences will be happy to know that the band’s performance of the concert’s set list is just as solid as the set list itself and its sequencing showing that it is possible to have an enjoyable live experience without unnecessary pyro and other elements.  Front man Richie Kotzen and company waste little time between songs with any idle rambling opting instead to keep the show’s energy flowing from one song to the next.  There are some brief interludes between songs, but for the most part, the band keeps things moving swiftly, explaining why the show’s run time comes in at just under two hours.  Add to the concert’s constant transitions the energy in each musician’s performance, and audiences get a show that will completely enthrall them.  From Kotzen’s own energy to Mike Portnoy’s driving tempos that barely let up to Sheehan’s own solid low-end and fiery performance, audiences get plenty to applaud even from the comfort of their own homes.  The entertainment and engagement ensured through the band’s performance couples with the show’s set list in all of its aspects to strengthen the concert’s presentation even more.  They are not the recording’s only key elements either.  The bonus five-song Dog Years EP is just as important to note in examining the recording’s presentation as the show’s set list and the band’s performance.

The bonus give-song Dog Years EP that comes with The Winery God’s new live recording is just as important to note in examining this recording’s presentation as the concert’s set list and the band’s performance thereof.  The EP is important to discuss because none of the songs featured on the disc are included in the concert or on either of the band’s current albums.  Odds are the blues-based songs are works that didn’t make the final cut for one of both of those records.  That is a positive to note because if that is indeed the case, then the inclusion of the songs here completes even more the listening experience for both records.  Regardless of whether or not that is the case, their inclusion still adds plenty to the overall experience of this live recording.  That is because one could easily argue that they present a sense of additional encores from the concert, despite being studio tracks.  Keeping this in mind, the bonus EP that comes with Live In Santiago more than proves itself as an important piece of the recording’s overall presentation.  When it is considered along with the concert’s set list and the band’s performance thereof, the whole of these elements gives audiences plenty to bark about. No, this review could not be completed without that intentionally awful pun or a variant thereof.  That aside, the whole of the noted elements makes Dog Years in whole an easy candidate for a slot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.

The Winery Dogs’ latest live recording Dog Years is a work that any critic should have on his or her list of the year’s top new live recordings come December.  That is due, as already noted, in part due to the concert’s set list.  The set list pulls relatively equally from both of the band’s current albums and never sticks to one album or the other for too long. The band’s performance of the set list adds just as much entertainment to the concert thanks to the energy put into the performance by each band member.  The bonus five-song EP that is included with the recording is a virtual multi-song encore for fans who didn’t’ get enough from the extensive audio-visual experience presented in the live recording.  Each element clearly plays its own important part in the overall presentation of Dog Years.  All things considered, this recording proves fully deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.  More information on Dog Years is available online now along with all The Winery Dogs’ latest news and more at:










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The Winery Dogs To Release New Live Recording This Summer

Courtesy: Loud & Proud Records

The Winery Dogs are set to really heat things up this summer with a new live recording.

The band will release its new live recording Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013-2016 Friday, August 4 via Loud & Proud Records.  The recording will feature live recordings from the band’s past four years of live shows.  It will be available both in a standard 2-disc CD platform as well as a special deluxe edition.

The recording’s standard 2-CD platform features a Blu-ray that includes 100 minutes of concert footage as well and music videos from both of the band’s two current albums The Winery Dogs (2013) and Hot Streak (2015).

It also includes a companion EP featuring a handful of previously unreleased songs that didn’t make the cut on those albums.  Pre-orders for the standard edition are open now here.

The recording’s extended five-disc platform includes everything featured in its standard two-disc platform. As a bonus, it also includes two CDs containing live concert audio. Pre-orders are available now here.

Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013 – 2016 is not The Winery Dogs’ first live recording.  Unleashed Live in Japan 2013 was included with the deluxe edition of the band’s debut album, and featured 10 songs recorded during the Japan leg of the band’s 2013 tour in support of that album. The album’s deluxe edition was released Nov. 11, 2014.

The track and video listing for Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013 – 2016 is noted below.

1. Oblivion
2.  Captain Love
3.  We Are One
4.  Hot Streak
5. How Long
6.  Time Machine
7.  Empire
8.  Fire
9.  Think It Over
10.  Mike Portnoy Drum Solo
11.  The Other Side
12.  Billy Sheehan Bass Solo
13.  Ghost Town
14.  I’m No Angel
15.  Elevate
16.  Regret
17.  Desire
Time Machine
I’m No Angel
Captain Love
Hot Streak
1.  Criminal
2.  The Game
3.  Solid Ground
4.  Love Is Alive
5.  Moonage Daydream

Audiences can view a trailer for Dog YearsLive in Santiago and Beyond 2013 – 2016 hereonline now .  More information on Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013 – 2016 is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:











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The Winery Dogs Announce New Live Dates; Debut New Video

Mike Portnoy, Richie Kotzen, and Billy Sheehan, also known as the Winery Dogs, have announced a new string of live dates for this summer.

The band announced this week that it has added a new 10-date North American tour set to kick off Saturday, June 25th in Hinckley, Minnesota.  The band’s current schedule takes it largely through the Midwest and southwest with dates also in Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, and Texas.  As of right now no additional dates are known.  However, fans can always keep up with any new dates through the band’s official website and social media.  The band’s current tour schedule is noted below.


Check out THE WINERY DOGS at any of the following stops:


DATE               CITY                             VENUE


Sat 6/25            Hinckley, MN                 Grand Casino Amphitheatre

Tue 6/28            Eau Claire, WI               State Theater

Wed 6/29          Ashwaubenon, WI          Green Bay Distillery

Thu 6/30            St. Charles, IL               Arcadia Theater

Sat 7/2              Hazard, KY                   The Forum

Sun 7/3             Sterling Heights, MI       Stars & Stripes Festival

Tue 7/5             Buffalo, NY                   Taft Music Hall

Fri 7/8               Houston, TX                  Warehouse Live

Sat 7/9              Dallas, TX                     Gas Monkey Live

Sun 7/10           San Antonio, TX            Alamo


In anticipation of its new tour announcement the band has unveiled the video for its latest single ‘Captain Love.’  The song will start hitting radio stations nationwide June 3rd.  It is taken from the band’s latest album Hot Streak.  The Vicente Cordero-directed video is currently streaming online at Guitar World. The band discussed the video recently in an interview which can be seen here now.


Courtesy:  Loud and Proud Records

Courtesy: Loud and Proud Records


Hot Streak has proven to be an apt title for The Winery Dogs’ new album.  Ever since its release on October 2nd, 2015, the album has been on its own hot streak.  It reached the top spot on Amazon’s Best Sellers/Hard Rock chart and its Pre-orders/Hard Rock chart.  In comparison to the band’s 2013 debut album Hot Streak sold 30% more copies than that record.  It topped out at the #2 spot on Billboard’s Top Current Alternative Albums Chart and #30 on the Top 200 Albums Chart.  That is just the top of the proverbial iceberg.  The numbers listed below are its other accolades from Billboard.


#5                     “Top Current Hard Music”


#5                     “Top Hard Music Albums”


#6                     “Top Current Rock Albums”


#6                     “Album Core / Genre Rock”


#15                   “Top Current Physical Albums”


#16                   “Top Current Albums”



More information on The Winery Dogs’ new tour dates, single, album and more is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:








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The Winery Dogs’ Debut Even Better The Second Time Around

Courtesy:  Loud & Proud Records

Courtesy: Loud & Proud Records

Billy Sheehan, Mike Portnoy, and Richie Kotzen (a.k.a. The Winery Dogs) released their self-titled debut last summer.  The rock super group’s album proved to be one of the best rock records of 2013 at least in the view of this critic.  Now the trio has followed up the success of its debut full-length with a re-issue of that album that includes a bonus live disc boasting a ten-song live performance by the band.  That recording, Unleashed in Japan 2013, combines songs from the band’s self-titled debut, and songs previously unreleased in the United States.  The bonus disc itself is the central point of the re-issue’s enjoyment.  The recording’s set list is another reason that audiences will enjoy the bonus concert.  The show’s audio mix is the finishing touch for the whole package.  That factor, the set list and the very fact that this show would be included with the original album makes the whole package one of the year’s re-issues definitely worth checking out.

The new re-issue of The Winery Dogs’ self-titled 2013 debut record is one of the few album re-issues definitely worth checking out in 2014.  The primary reason for that is the album’s bonus companion live recording.  The Winery Dogs obviously isn’t the first band to re-issue an album with a bonus live recording.  But The Winery Dogs is a super group of sorts.  Its members each have their own projects going on outside of this one.  So, touring time is more than likely limited.  That being the case, it makes any live recording all the more valuable especially for fans that don’t have or haven’t had the chance to experience The Winery Dogs live.  The companion live recording is even more of a bonus when compared to the live recordings included as companion material by other bands on their albums.  Other bands just take performances from their tours and jam them all together onto a CD or DVD (or both in some cases).  The Winery Dogs didn’t do that here.  This recording is an extensive concert recorded in Tokyo, Japan, July 17th 2013.  That was the second ever concert held by the band.  It would be interesting to see if Loud & Proud Records will follow up this audio recording with a companion DVD/Blu-ray video in the near future to compliment this piece of the whole.  Regardless, having included a concert recording as extensive as this one with the band’s debut album is central to this re-issue.  It gives audiences the near complete experience of what The Winery Dogs is all about.

The inclusion of the bonus live recording as part of The Winery Dogs’ new re-issue is central to the re-issue’s enjoyment.  The set list chosen for the band’s concert is just as important to the package.  Audiences will notice that the band only played a few of the songs from its debut record in this concert.  The band included in its live companion recording one song that was previously unavailable to American audiences.  The trio also included songs that its members had written and recorded with and by others.  Among those songs are: Poison’s ‘Stand’, Elvin Bishop’s ‘Fooled Around and Fell In Love’, and even a piece co-written by Richie Kotzen and Richie Zito (both of whom performed and recorded with Poison) titled ‘Shine.’  The combination of the band’s own works and the these songs makes the band’s concert all the more of a full experience.  The band’s balance of the songs throughout its set is the key to that enjoyment.  And set alongside the concert’s audio mix, the concert becomes a complete experience for fans.

The set list chosen for the band’s concert presented here is quite well balanced, especially being a concert promoting the band’s debut album.  As important as the set list is to the experience, the audio quality of the recording is especially important.  That applies whether or not audiences were actually there in person at the show.  The show’s audio mix is relatively clear. The vocals and music are both equally balanced. The show’s audio operator is to be commended for handling what was a clear issue with the venue’s acoustics. Even on record, audiences can tell that the concert’s venue had to have had rather high ceilings. Even despite this, the person helming the boards compensated quiet well for this, putting what is the final touch to the recording, making it a recording that any fan of these three veteran musicians will love. The recording together with the band’s original debut album make the package as a whole one of the year’s few re-issues so far worth checking out.

The band is currently touring in support of its newly re-issued album. It will perform live at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT. The band’s current tour schedule also brings it to North Carolina for a pair of dates this month. A performance at Amos Southend in Charlotte, North Carolina is scheduled for next Saturday, May 10th and one to follow the next day at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem. The band’s current tour schedule is available online at Audiences can check out the band’s tour schedule there as well as keep up with the latest news from the band, too.

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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  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at