Derek Sherinian – Oceana (2011)

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Derek Sherinian, known for his work both with Black Country Communion and Dream Theater,
is a keyboardist. It’s worth repeating, under your breath, as the forthcoming guitar-heavy Oceana spins, each cut adding layer upon layer of heavy fusion — at times, even, sounding like math metal.

Maybe it’s no surprise, checking the liner notes. Featured guest guitarists include Toto’s Steve Lukather (on three tracks), Tony MacAlpine of Planet X (on two), Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame (on two) and Joe Bonamassa (a bandmate of Sherinian’s in Black Country Communion), who cowrote and appears on “I Heard That.” Jimmy Johnson is the principal bassist, with Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) appearing on two cuts.

So, where does that leave Sherinian? Lost in the undulating riptides behind Lukather – who really cuts loose – on the groovy “Mulholland”? Trying to fit in somewhere as Stevens builds a dizzying array of sounds on the trip-tastic “Ghost Runner”? Reduced to filling in around the tangy asides by Bonamassa on the crisp blues-fusion of “I Heard That”? Not hardly. Sherinian, who made his bones playing with superstars like former Jimi Hendrix collaborator Buddy Miles, Alice Cooper and Kiss, never gets lost despite the star power – even though any of those talents, in their own way, could have easily taken over the record. Instead, Sherinian is both a canny accompanist (when he needs to be), and an involving improviser.

You’ll find him unleashing a torrent of sounds on “Mercury 7,” answering every burst of inspiration from MacAlpine – even as Simon Phillips (Toto, the Who, Jeff Beck, 10CC, Roxy Music) flails away at the traps. Sherinian is just getting started. He creates a sweeping paranoid landcape on “Euphoria,” then slides into an aggressive groove alongside Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) for “El Camino Diablo.” Later, Sherinian simply muscles into the thrilling retro-prog “Seven Sins” with a series of shag-carpeted keyboard runs.

Oceana, to be issued on Sept. 5, was mixed and co-produced by Phillips, who co-wrote seven of the nine tracks. Sherinian, Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Glenn Hughes have issued two releases as Black Country Communion; BCC’s current tour is ongoing. Sherinian is set to appear in a series of solo dates in 2012.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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