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Live From Oz
Released: 2002, InsideOut
I have never quite figured out Live CD’s from progressive metal bands. I mean with only one studio CD for Planet X is this really necessary? On one hand I think live after one studio release CD’s ARE unnecessary. It’s premature and like many in this genre it is pretentious and self-indulgent. It begs the question: Why?
And that is a good question. When one examines the phenomenon of live prog-metal CDs it would be unfair to examine them in the same light as a traditional metal live recording. A regular metal live recording serves a few purposes; retrospective, commemorate a tour, or capture a specific special show. Live prog-metal CDs, I think (and feel free to disagree!), have the added layer of burden of proof. By that I mean a CD like this goes beyond capturing a concert into the realm of proving nay-sayers and critics wrong. The argument (from critics and cynics) usually starts along the line of, “Well sure in the studio, with all the time and equipment in the world, anyone could do those tricks”. Or the ever popular, “It lacks feel or vibe” The response to those who doubt is the inevitable Live CD. “Here. Listen we can duplicate it live AND make it exciting.” It is as these type of CD’s are the prrof to critics that the band does exist outside the studio, they do tour, they do play to packed halls and, Yes these CD’s are fun, exciting concerts that have jams, solos and sessions of spontaneity.
Of course, close-minded fools will never accept anything except the ill-conceived notion that prog-metal Live CD’s are, as I mentioned earlier, pretentious and self-indulgent.
How does Planet X measure up? All of the above and more! Planet X is the name of one of Derek Sherinian’s (ex-Dream Theater) solo albums. Planet X is also the name for the yet to be verified 10th planet supposedly in orbit beyond Pluto. At first I was skeptical that they could not find a whole damn 10th planet. But then the other day (May 17th or so) scientists discovered about 10 new moons around Jupiter, so why not have a mystery 10th planet? Astronomy aside, it is a cool name for a project that eventually evolved into a real band. This line up as critics will quickly point out smells of side project as drummer Virgil Donati and guitarist Tony MacAlpine are often busy in any number of other projects at any given time. My response would be: ”So? Is there a law against being in two bands? No! So shut the f**k up! Planet X is a legit band so deal with it!”
This 14 track CD was recorded in Australia in June of 2001 and clocks in at 73 minutes. As always Insideout (and prog bands in general) offer great value. That is a little deceiving because of lack of studio CD’s to draw material from there are three solo’s and a reprise section, so basically 10 songs. These are not long at all the longest the “Atlantis Trilogy” three tunes obviously at about 17 minutes. Everyone contributes equally to songwriting and they have Dave LaRue on guest bass. The packaging looks nice, maybe a little sparse lyrics would have been nice (just kidding!) but cool live shots make up for it.
Sonically this disc kicks ass! The production is great and the crowd is nice and loud in the mix, although to be brutally honest it sounds like they are playing for about 20 people. In my mind’s eye I can practically count the number of people in the audience. Ultimately, musically with any live or compilation the choice to purchase comes down to your preference for a band and their studio work. This one is a bit odd because I wasn’t blown away by the debut, UNIVERSE. This version changed my mind! Maybe I am a little unqualified to review this CD because admittedly I do not know every note form so it is hard to say if the songs are vastly different or immaculate reproductions. Whatever the case (and die-hard prog dudes feel free to e-mail me and let me know!) these gentlemen are extremely talented and this really brought the songs to life. I figured out that the final cut, “Pods of Trance” is at least double the length of the studio version. Six of the ten real “songs” are from UNIVERSE and the remainder, namely the aforementioned “Atlantis Trilogy” were culled from Sherinian’s debut solo, which to me sounds like Hemisphere’s era Rush. The songs blend pretty seamlessly and I would certainly say this is not an easy listening cruisin’ in the car CD!
The caliber of musicianship is top notch led by Sherinian whose career is diverse and well rounded having played for Kiss, Alice Cooper, Dream Theater, Platypus and many little side projects… plus his solo career! The songs are intense fusion prog that are certainly not for the feeble minded who want simple chord progressions, and 120 beats per minute. Tony Macalpine shreds when needed, and Virgil is surprisingly subdued before his home-country crowd, except for his 4 minute solo. Derek’s solo is unlike anything I have heard before and Tony Macalpine shows once again why his solo career (now 11 CD’s deep) is one of the most respected (if somewhat underground) around.
I’m very enthused about this CD but I consciously made the painful and difficult decision to downgrade it from a 4 to a 3.5 because I just can’t come to grips with the dilemma I outlined earlier. Namely, how essential is this premature Live CD for anyone but the most dedicated of fans? I’m on the fence. It is a kick-ass CD but I can’t shake the feeling of “Chronic Dream Theater-Live-Overkill Syndrome.” Coming later this year is the second studio Planet X release called Moonbabies, with the trio obviously deciding to stick with the Sci-fi themes again.
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