Live by Sherinian / PhillipsRelease date: August 25, 2023
Label: InsideOut Music
What happens when you have this perfect combination of the two by adding the elements of jazz, fusion, classical, metal, and progressive music into one giant blender? You get an extra dosage of a hypnotic sense of wonder that gives you an extra seat at the Grape in Ventura, California. That and the power between Derek Sherinian and Simon Phillips is an offer you can’t refuse.
Recorded live at the same venue last year on August 29th, Sherinian and Phillips are joined with guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal from Sons of Apollo, and bassist Ric Fierabracci. Released on the InsideOut label, you can just close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the jazz club in mid-town Ventura, showing your support between these incredible musicians pouring their heart and soul throughout a hot-warming night to give you all they got.
Derek and Simon have worked together since 2001 when they teamed up on Derek’s Inertia and later on Oceana, The Phoenix and The Vortex. Simon has made a name for himself by working not just with The Who, but his own band with Protocol, and teaming up bands and artists such as; Toto, Gary Moore, 801, Duncan Browne, Jeff Beck, and Gordon Giltrap. So, Simon has a huge resume for all of the accomplishments he’s done.
I first became aware of Simon’s work when my mom got me a tape cassette of Pete Townshend’s conceptual unsung masterpiece of The Iron Man based on the book by Ted Hughes. This was back in 1996 before my dad and I joined my mom and my sister who was nominated for an essay on preventing violence in the States as we met with them in Washington D.C. We then visited Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City. The Iron Man album itself became my riding soundtrack, nonstop.
Onto the Live album. You feel the energy, the heat levels going up a notch, and getting you ready for the show to begin. Once ‘The Vortex’ comes kicking in, you feel as if you’re in a trance with Derek’s keyboard work going high across the mountain landscape whilst Bumblefoot’s double-neck guitar goes into some heavy riffs and arpeggiated blisters as they march into the Machine Head-era from Deep Purple.
There’s some strong vibrations that Bumblefoot uses his mighty fretwork to walk into Blackmore’s territory, extending the solo sequence from ‘Highway Star’ before the stargate opens up the extension drive to bring it all home. The ‘Temple of Helios’ becomes a ride into the city of light as the rhythm section walks towards the bright light of the city itself with its insane synth work that Derek creates in a middle-eastern tone.
You can tell the audience are encouraging them to continue as Sherinian honours the late Jon Lord in his brutal tones on the Hammond organ while Ric waits for the signal between Bumblefoot and Simon as they give the nod to come back into the race with a stop-and-go sequence before Simon pounds like a madman. ‘Alpha Burst’ sees the quartet walking into some Metallic territory as they watch the city that’s on the brink of chaos.
Both Bumblefoot and Derek take turns in each other’s improvisations. The chemistry is there and imagining those two having the time of their lives at the club, is quite a collaboration by showing how much respect they have each other.
As the musicians take a break from their improv, Simon goes into this African tribe from his hefty percussion work by taking the audience into the heart of the jungle with ‘Barnacus’. Audiences are very quiet as they watch Simon go in for the kill with his instruments as they watch in awe on what is happening.
It proves that Simon can bring in the big guns and channel the audience to clap along to the beat which I can basically hear on the sixth track. He’s not like Keith Moon, but there are elements of Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, and Nick Mason’s composition ‘The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party’ from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. And once they get into their detective work for the ‘Seven Seas’ to depart, they know that the clock has just started ticking very rapidly!
The 11-minute beauty ‘Aurora Australis’ becomes this combination between The Mahavishnu Orchestra, ELP, Terje Rypdal, and Deodato by adding the classical elements to the suite. They’ve made their own take of Disney’s Fantasia by adding in the marches, militant beats, thundering riffs, electronic music, and unexpected time changes that speaks of the Trilogy-era.
Almost reminding me of ‘The Endless Enigma’ suite that opened the album, but adding more flames to the fire as they extended the spread to go in a blaze of glory. Live was quite the ride. While I’m not the biggest Sherinian fan, I have to give him and Simon the utmost respect for what they did on the Live album.
And boy, once you put this on, you will want to get your seats buckled, because its going to be one of the most intensive roller-coaster rides you’ll never forget.