Inertia

Derek Sherinian

Inside Out Music America, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/03/2002

Any time a keyboard virtuoso, especially one in the prog-metal vein, takes on a solo career, I greet each album they release with excitement and a twinge of anxiety. The excitement comes from hearing someone who can turn a keyboard into a true lead instrument; the anxiety comes from the fear that the release will turn out to be so much musical noodling.

In the case of ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, Inertia, his second solo disc, falls into a unique category. I never thought I'd say this, but there's actually too little noodling on the keys when it comes to this disc. A few wonderful selections keep this album's fat out of the proverbial fire, but there are moments where one has to wonder what Sherinian was thinking of.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First rule of solo careers: If your name is on the CD spine, you should be the one calling the musical shots. Far too often, it felt like some of the musicians Sherinian brought into this project were taking things in the directions they wanted to go. Granted, a project leader who steps into the background at times is an admirable position to aim for... but in this case, I place more blame on the sidemen than I do on Sherinian. Zakk Wylde's guitar work absolutely wrecks whatever resemblance "Frankenstein" had to the Edgar Winter original - is it a prerequisite that well-respected musicians have to try to cover this track? And the shambles that is the opening title track - I'm not sure whether to lay the blame on guitarist Steve Lukather or electric violinist Jerry Goodman for really turning this one into the train wreck it became, but someone has some questions to answer.

Fortunately for all involved, things do tend to settle down, and Wylde even turns in some beautiful work on "Evel Knievel" and "What A Shame," the latter featuring some stunning acoustic guitar work. Other tracks, such as the free-form style of "La Pera Loca" (at least in the opening) and the loving cover of "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," renew my hope in this disc.

Yet Sherinian's presence is almost second for a good portion of Inertia - something I guess I'd have expected had this disc come out under the moniker of Planet X, Sherinian's side group. Instead, it's artists like Wylde, Lukather and drummer Simon Phillips who often seem like they've got the lion's share of the spotlight - and when Sherinian does step forth to claim portions, the importance of his contributions almost feels muted. (To Sherinian's credit, he doesn't often go into the thousand-note-a-second solos that so many prog-rock keyboardists tend to do, just to show they can play fast. When his work does shine, control is the key word, and that's something to be admired in this genre.)

It's a shame, really... for a keyboard-oriented album, Inertia places precious little importance on Sherinian's keyboard work. And while there are songs on this disc which are well worth your time to check out, it's not the keyboard tour de force that Sherinian's fans expect... and deserve.

Rating: C-

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inside Out Music America, and is used for informational purposes only.