Derek Sherinian – Mythology (InsideOut)
I always flinch a bit when I encounter albums like these. Guest-star-laden instrumental projects helmed by an “ex-member of…” often cause me to hate all musicians. I remember hearing a Jordan Rudess album of such pallid, over-processed flimsiness that it made me homicidal in under a minute. Mythology is better than most, though. It’s tasteful, diverse, and brief. Joining keyboardist Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, ex-Alice Cooper) are a soccer team’s worth of guests, including Zakk Wylde, Steve Stevens (ex-Billy Idol), John Sykes (ex-Whitesnake), Allan Holdsworth (ex-UK), and Jerry Goodman (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra). They’re let loose on nine tightly composed numbers in various styles, from technical metal (“God of War” and “One Way or the Other”) to flamenco (“El Flamingo Suave”), gospel-cum-Motown (“Goin’ To Church”), and heavy blues (“The River Song”). As you’d expect, these master musicians put on a clinic, with Sherinian proving himself a generous band leader by shifting emphasis away from the keyboards to the guitars—saving the album in the process. When Sherinian does step into the spotlight he usually shares it with one of his guests. A good example would be “Trojan Horse,” a solo-swapping showdown with violinist Jerry Goodman. As I said earlier, the songs are concise and punchy, with hooks and accessible verse/chorus structures—Removal meets Dream Theater, in a sense. The surprising exception is Zakk Wylde’s “The River Song,” the last track on the album and Mythology’s only non-instrumental. It’s a big-bollocked black’n’blues tune, with Mr. Wylde channeling Ozzy or that bloke from Sheavy, that rubs hairy shoulders with Grand Magus and other recent acts that specialize in that sound. Nice one, Derek, for demonstrating that a tasteful, entertaining star-studded, play-your-ass-off solo album isn’t just the stuff of mythology.