When I think of keyboard/synthesizers/piano virtuosos my favorite three players, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Derek Sherinian, always come to my mind. Sherinian has played with Alice Cooper (his first big break on the AC Trash Tour), Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa and of course he was also a member of one of the best prog metal bands ever, Dream Theater (1994-1999). Later on he founded Planet X, was a founding member of Black Country Community and Sons Of Apollo, another fantastic prog metal band. Then again he also released seven solo albums and now after a nine year hiatus Sherinian delivers his eightth studio album called The Phoenix and what an album it is.
On this album Sherinian shines again with his aggressive “guitaristic” approach to his keyboard style and I really love that! Of course The Phoenix is an instrumental album, although on the Buddy Miles cover Them Changes you can enjoy the bluesy voice of no one less than Joe Bonamassa. Further guest musicians are: Zakk Wylde, Billy Sheehan, Bumblefoot and Steve Vai; while the bass is played by Ernest Tibbs and drums by the “magician” Simon Phillips. The title track opens this album with a brutal guitar and keyboards force which is so typical for Sherinian's work; the song is a mix of jazz, rock, metal and fusion and it is a ferocious start to a marvelous album. Clouds Of Ganymede features Steve Vai and that song is filled with excellent keys and guitar duels and the melodic solos of Vai are truly out of this world; one of the highlights of this album indeed. Dragonfly is a completely different track as it only features Derek on acoustic piano playing some funky and jazzy stuff fit for a night club in New York. Temple Of Helios showcases an excellent organ solo, a guitar solo on fire and some awesome drumming by Phillips. Then follows a classic rock song, Them Changes, a Buddy Miles cover with vocals and guitar picking by Joe Bonamassa. It's a great song and it sounds excellent but I prefer the Jimi Hendrix cover on his live album Band Of Gypsys......Desadelo, which means nightmare, is the last song and this one is an instrumental gem that finishes this album in a more than excellent way.
The Phoenix could best be described as the best guitar album of 2020, but also as the best keyboard album of this year; so check it out as Sherinian and Co. is back with a vengeance, and do not forget to play it LOUD!!!!
****+ Martien Koolen (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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