On the surface this is a band of music snobs. The combination of Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy would indicate one long blindingly fast shred-fest. Yes, there are elements that make you go, “Holy crap!! They just played 8000 notes in 4.2 seconds!!” but for the most part, this album has catchy hook after catchy hook, especially in songs like Oblivion, Hot Streak and The Bridge.
The almost sultry vocals from Kotzen adds a surprisingly subdued note to the blend of jazz, blues, funk, fusion, rock and metal. And as with any project Sheehan is involved, the vocal harmonies are sublime and soaring. With Portnoy’s absolute mastery of rhythm, this album is so rich with subtle complexity that the power trio certainly lives up to the word “power.”
The biggest and brightest surprises were the ultra funky songs like How Long, Empire and Spiral. It’s as if the spirit of James Brown and Sly and Family Stone time-traveled and infused these songs with their unique brand of funk. Yet, as much as you can almost picture the swaggering dance of James Brown through these songs, they still have that distinctive pulse of Sheehan’s basslines and wild hybrid-fingerpicking technique that gives Kotzen such a unique sound with his solos.
I’m giving this album as close to a perfect score I think I could give. Catchy, melodic, addictive and with enough musicianship to wow you without getting too overwhelmed by it. I’ll overlook the somewhat cheesy album cover (which would take off 0.1/5 because, really, get it together, guys 😉 ) and call it perfect. (5/5)