CD Review – Derek Sherinian – The Phoenix

It has been some nine years since Sherinian’s last solo release, the impressive Oceana in 2011. On The Phoenix, Sherinian is again joined by the extraordinary drummer Simon Phillips for a highly combustible slab of progressive rock fusion. Sherinian has always been a high energy player, having graced the stage and albums of the likes of Alice Cooper, Dream Theater, Black Country Communion, Sons Of Apollo and a host of others over the years. His attitude appears to be more that of a guitarist and there is certainly more than a hint of Jeff Beck here and there. Working with Simon Phillips is obviously good for Sherinian, as he has played on five of his previous releases. In many ways it is more a collaboration than a guesting spot. Phillips both co-wrote and co-produced the album with Sherinian. Phillips says; “When Derek asked me to collaborate on this album, I immediately said ‘Yes’! We have a wonderful writing chemistry, always have had, and it was a joy to work on these new tunes. I feel he brings out the best from me in terms of composition, playing and engineering. The partnership just works!”

That Sherinian can call on an impressive address book of fellow musicians is a bonus too. On this release there is an impressive roster. Having Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, and Steve Vai on board will obviously get you results. Some of the musicians have become regular contributors to Sherinian’s solo sessions. People such as bassists Tony Franklin who has been on all Sherinian’s albums to date, Jimmy Johnson and Billy Sheehan, who is Sherinian’s bandmate in Sons Of Apollo. Also present are Sons Of Apollo bandmate Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal and Megadeth’s Kiko Loureiro. Each guitarist was given the freedom to express themselves in the studio. Sherinian explains; “Simon and I had worked out the melody lines for each of the songs in advance. But we encouraged all of the guys to do their thing on their solos. Everyone was chosen for their specific song, and everyone really shined. I am so blessed to continue to collaborate with such talented musicians.”

The resulting music is quite spectacular, and covers a wide range of music. All but one of the tracks is instrumental, the only song being a Buddy Miles cover Them Changes which sounds quite funky with a Fender Rhodes giving some beefy sounds. Joe Bonamassa gives an excellent vocal here. Zakk Wylde gives some muscle to the title track, whilst Steve Vai gets the chance to go all cosmic on Clouds Of Ganymede. Such is the diversity on display Pesadelo even manages to feature some South American rhythms.

All in all, this is a high energy release from Sherinian. Allowing the guests almost free reign works very successfully and suits this style of release exceptionally well. But Sherinian is the true star here. His playing stands up squarely to that of his guests. He lets all the sides of his musical personality come out too – the toe-to-toe rock squalls, the jazzer, and, above all, an entertainer. But he has the sense of when to let others shine and gracefully slides back to a supporting role when the music requires it. A very diverse album, and one which is easy to listen to without being ‘easy listening’.  One to savour.

1. The Phoenix (05:24)

2. Empyrean Sky (03:56)

3. Clouds of Ganymede (06:02)

4. Dragonfly (03:46)

5. Temple of Helios (06:01)

6. Them Changes (05:28)

7. Octopus Pedigree (05:04)

8. Pesadelo (06:55)

Derek Sherinian – Keyboards

Simon Phillips – Drums


Zakk Wylde – Guitar

Billy Sheehan – Bass

Armen Ra – Theremin

Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal – Guitar

Jimmy Johnson – Bass

Steve Vai – Guitar

Tony Franklin – Bass

Ernest Tibbs – Bass

Joe Bonamassa – Vocals, Guitar

Kiko Loureiro – Guitar

Formats: Limited Edition Digipak CD, LP+CD and Digital Album
Label: InsideOut
Release date: 19th September, 2020


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