Derek Sherinian – Oceana

In the last release of the GEPR, I added an entry for Derek Sherinian with a bunch of blathering about his tenure with Dream Theater, etc. To this I should have added his credentials of playing with lots of famous rockers in a supporting role, including Billy Idol, Alice Cooper (Cooper dubbed him “The Caligula of the keyboards” whatever that’s supposed to mean), Kiss (backstage, black and white face paint and silver platform shoes were not required) and tech-metal icon Yngwie Malmsteen. In addition, he’s the keyman for “Classic Rock” super-group Black Country Communion. But I didn’t have much to say about his solo albums because I hadn’t actually heard any of them. Well, now that’s changed because I’ve now heard the soon-to-be-released (Sept. 5, 2011) new album Oceana. I have to say, I’m quite impressed, though not for the reasons I thought I would be.

I expected to hear keyboard work and soloing similar to what I heard from his (former?) band Planet X. This is very guitar-like in the way he bends pitches, trills and makes fast speed-metal-like arpeggios. There’s a little of this on Oceana, but overall I’d say it reminds me more of Chick Corea from the Return to Forever / Elektric Band days, or maybe even a bit of Eddie Jobson from the first UK album. In other words, fusion, not speed metal at all.

Well, OK, when guest guitarist Tony MacAlpine cranks up, it gets pretty speed metallish sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes the guitar work really reminds me of Allan Holdsworth, though I’m not sure if this is MacAlpine, one of Sherinian‘s other guests, or possibly even Sherinian himself playing in “guitar mode”. Whatever, Oceana is a collection of really good fusion pieces with influences from other musical genres also playing in “guest-starring” roles. Production, composition and technical execution are all second to none. It doesn’t get any better than this. Highly recommended!

One more thing – the album cover is great! Right-click the cover photo to open it up full-screen and check out the detail on the vintage keyboards at the bottom of the ocean. — Fred Trafton

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