Revenge of the Sidemen!

Derek Sherinian is one of those hyper-proficient players normally found in a fug of dry ice manning a phalanx of keyboards and synths. On this solo disc he unleashes his chops on nine progtastic collaborations with the likes of Black Country Communion bandmate Joe Bonamassa, Doug Aldrich of Whitesnake and the guitar and drums of Toto. That, I think, tells you a lot about the type of fare to be found on "Oceana". The nine instrumentals deal in virtuoso playing, shifting time signatures and multiple styles. However, the album is far from po-faced; in fact, if it had been some incompetent three chord blasts recorded by mates with smudged eyeliner in a garage many would hail its spirit of fun. Simply, these guys sound like they're having a great time bouncing off each other and showcasing their taste for unfashionable rock.

Now while it may have been fun to write and record but that doesn't always mean it's good. A lot of this record is swathed in high calibre repetitive cheese. Songs like 'Five Elements' are the kind of thing found blaring out of arcade racing game cabinets in the mid-nineties; all over-the-top guitar parts and euphoric plastic keyboards. These same elements pervade "Oceana" in its entirety. The cosmic 'Mulholland' simply refuses to go anywhere while Sherinian plunders some of John Paul Jones more camp introductions to 'No Quarter' for six minutes.

"Euphoria" has O face guitar playing from the get go sounding like the middle of a set from the Montreux jazz festival in 1979. Steve Lukather (Toto) is fairly restrained while the song meanders over a low key squelch from Sherinian and a rumbling bass line from Jimmy Johnson. Next up, to grin and shred is Steve Stevens who's regular gig is with Billy Idol. Eschewing the bubblegum punk of his day-job 'Ghost Runner' is a breakneck tribute to mid-seventies Deep Purple and a welcome injection of pace. 'El Camino Diablo' sounds like a lost ZZ Top relic but alas, continues the funk period Deep Purple worship of 'Ghost Runner' but this time it's Whitesnake alumnus Doug Aldrich wringing out the riffs. Teaming up with colleague Joe Bonamassa for 'I Heard That' brings the inevitable slow blues jam to "Oceana" but this cut suffers from the same issues as the others: it noodles about without ever hitting top gear. A shame as BCC can kick out the jams when in the mood.

"Oceana" is essentially the sound of middle aged men rocking out without having to worry about an ego-ridden singer nabbing the limelight. This extended slice of 'bet you can't play this!' has its moments but they are rationed exposing the dearth of purpose here. If you can play along though then more power to you.