Deep

Niacin

Magna Carta Records, 2000

http://www.niacinb3.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/07/2000

Billy Sheehan will always have an albatross around his neck - namely, that of being a rock bass god. After all, he's gained his reputation performing with Talas, David Lee Roth and Mr. Big, and he's still one of the most respected bassists in the world today. Yeah, I know - what a curse, eh?

But the difficulty is that everyone will expect Sheehan to continue to perform in those veins, and they might be surprised to find that he's just as interested in a progressive jazz vein as he proves on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Deep, the latest release from Niacin. Why some people would be surprised I don't know; this is the third stateside release in four years from the trio of Sheehan, organist John Novello and drummer Dennis Chambers. (A live album was released in Japan.)

Oh, make no mistake; Sheehan is given plenty of room to show off why he is revered on the four-stringer. "Sugar Blues" gives each musician a chance to demonstrate the flash that they have, and none of them disappoint. If I still played drums, I'd probably dropkick them into the wall after hearing what Chambers can do behind the traps.

Novello does an admirable job of using the Hammond B-3 to take the place of a singer as the lead in Niacin - but after a while, you can't help but wish for additional instrumentation at times. Tracks like "Stompin' Ground" and "Panic Button" all eventually become a flow of music that is hard to distinguish from other tracks. Not that these are bad; but one would expect there to be a little more freshness among some of the music.

Then again, the introduction of vocals and guitar on the track "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be" is a bit disheartening. Steve Lukather doesn't really shine the way that I know he's capable of, and Glenn Hughes doesn't sound like he's the perfect fit for this kind of music.

This isn't to say that Deep is without its moments. Tracks like "Swing Swang Swung," "Best Laid Plans" and "Sugar Blues" all show why this kind of music is still as exciting as anything loaded with technological gadgets and synthesized everything. And the more funk-jazz spin on Van Halen's "Mean Streets" is a nice, albeit surprising, touch.

If you go into Deep expecting a hard rock showdown that Sheehan is known for, you're gonna be disappointed. However, if you go into this expecting to hear not only Sheehan's incredible bass work without boundaries, but also solid performances from his other bandmates, chances are you'll enjoy, for the most part, the ride that Niacin takes you on.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 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 Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.