"Quantum" (SPV / InsideOut; 2007)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

For a one-off project, Planet X just doesn’t know how to quit. And that’s OK by me. Anytime rock, metal, and fusion can be mixed into a superlative concoction by talented musicians, it’s almost guaranteed to be a good listening experience.

Unlike a lot of progressive instrumental rock bands, Planet X would rather not rely solely on breakneck speed. But you’d know that already based on Planet X’s previous preferred method of mid-paced progressive rock that utilizes complex arrangements, muscular riffs, and slick melodies for its dynamics. “Quantum” is Planet X’s fourth studio release and continues in the same vein that Planet X have employed on previous releases.

Only keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Virgil Donati remain from the original incarnation of the band. However, despite the changes in the lineup, the high quality of the music hasn’t changed one iota. Virtuoso guitarists Bret Garsed and Allan Holdsworth are the new additions that color the jams with six-string histrionics. Garsed gets the most credit for the fluidity in the songs while another virtuoso axe-slinger, Holdsworth, contributes his world-wide famous legato technique for added texture.

The best part about “Quantum” is that the songs are very fluid. Even when the songs get complex and multiple parts are weaving in and out of resolution, Planet X never lose sight of the end product – satisfying songs. The melodies on “Quantum” are seductive at times – this is surely a sign of Sherinian’s evolving artistry and the ability of Sherinian and Donati to make complex music seem relevant, special, and most importantly - listenable. The use of complex harmony and varied rhythms allows Planet X to explore every nuance of a song – it’s challenging, invigorating, and rewarding journey.

“Quantum” is another stellar release from Planet X. “Quantum” is very satisfying and highly recommended for progressive/instrumental fans everywhere.

“Quantum” was produced by Derek Sherinian and Virgil Donati.

Planet X is Derek Sherinian on keyboards, Rufus Philpot on bass, and Virgil Donati on drums. Longtime Planet X collaborator Jimmy Johnson also plays bass on “Quantum.” Brett Garsed is the main guitarist on “Quantum.” The legendary Allan Holdsworth is also featured on guitar.

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"Live From Oz" (InsideOut Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

It's not often that a band releases a live album after only one official studio album. Yet Planet X chose to release "Live From Oz" merely 18 months or so after the release of "Universe."

Although I've never heard Planet X's debut "Universe" I am quite familiar with Planet X's sophomore release, "MoonBabies." Based on my experience with "MoonBabies" it's safe to say that the live setting gives Planet X a more organic and livelier setting than the studio environment -- it seems that most bands either excel in the studio or on the stage -- Planet X seems equally adept at both.

As I alluded to in my review of "MoonBabies" it doesn't hurt that Planet X is comprised of virtuoso musicians: keyboardist Derek Sherinian, guitarist Tony MacAlpine, and drummer Virgil Donati. The band's overwhelming skills usually allows them to enlist the support of stellar bassists as well; bassist extraordinaire Dave LaRue assists on the recording of "Live From Oz."

All but a couple of songs appeared on the band's debut, "Universe." No doubt fans of Planet X were pleased to get 'new' material from the band without getting an entire recap of the first record. The impressive first track, "Ignotus Per Ignotium," would later appear in studio form on the band's follow-up effort, "MoonBabies." The "Atlantis" trilogy occupies tracks 4 - 6 and came from Derek Sherinian's solo release entitled "Planet X" (while not a true Planet X album it did serve as a logical starting point for the band's musical history as the Planet X sound derives heavily from that solo release).

I've pretty much viewed solos at concerts as self-indulgent at best and a waste of time at worst. The solo spotlights on "Live From Oz" walk a fine line between those two extremes. Derek Sherinian's solo is more about texture than technical skills. Virgil Donati's solo is a rare feat for a drummer in that it manages to 'paint' a picture rather than just be a showcase for his astounding abilities. Tony MacAlpine's solo is a brief, but mood provoking piece, that shows his abilities more than is immediately evident.

If you already have "Universe" it might not be necessary to have "Live From Oz" as well. However, if you don't have "Universe" it is likely that "Live From Oz" could serve as a good substitution as well as providing the organic contrast that two studio albums provide.

"Live From Oz" was mixed by Simon Phillips.

Planet X: Tony MacAlpine on guitars, Derek Sherinian on keyboards, and Dave LaRue on bass, and Virgil Donati on drums.

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"MoonBabies" (InsideOut Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Since I've been recently attuned to the solo work of keyboardist Derek Sherinian I've now turned my attention to his band, Planet X. And the funny thing is that Planet X's guitarist is none other than Tony MacAlpine who just happens to be one of my favorite guitarists ever.

So why did it take me so long to get hold of any Planet X disc? After much thought, I can't come up with a single, credible excuse. With "MoonBabies," the band's second studio effort, finally I can see what I've been missing.

Since Planet X is a 'super-group' of sorts a brief description of each member seems warranted. Derek Sherinian's sleek keyboard work gained him instant recognition for his tenure in Dream Theater, but seems even more impressive on "MoonBabies." Tony MacAlpine's six-string talents have garnered him world-wide fame due to his role in the evolution of neo-classical guitar playing - on "MoonBabies" he gets to stretch his talents in the vast expanse between the neo-classical, shredding realm and the more studious and disciplined jazz approach. I know next to nothing about drummer Virgil Donati save for the fact the he is held in high esteem by musicians everywhere. While anything I say to describe the unique abilities of talented drummers is hopelessly inadequate, I can tell you that Donati's time-keeping skills are very impressive. On "MoonBabies" Planet X use three guest bassists, one of whom you've no doubt heard of and two you might not be familiar with: Billy Sheehan (who is world-renowned famed for his bass contributions for numerous artists), Tom Kennedy (who is well known in the jazz world), and Jimmy Johnson (who has worked in a wide variety of musical environments but is known for his contributions to Allan Holdsworth projects).

All of the ten compositions on "MoonBabies" are solidly constructed. I like the fact that there is little or no stylistic or sonic repetition on the disc - it's a tremendous help when a band can kick out 60 minutes of music that never borrows from the same tired formulas. While the overall package isn't quite genre-bending, it is unconventional to say the least.

Most of the songs on "MoonBabies" are mid-tempo prog-rock affairs with an emphasis on complexity. Most of the complexity is centered around the unique variations that prog-rock offers, but with close inspection there are a number of other stylistic elements including jazz and neo-classical fusion that make "MoonBabies" an expansive trip through prog-rock's wide ranging possibilities.

It's best to enjoy "MoonBabies" with your full attention to the music. "MoonBabies" isn't something to be taken lightly - although "MoonBabies" can be enjoyed as background music while you're doing other tasks, it is particularly enjoyed with as little distraction as possible.

"MoonBabies" was produced by Simon Phillips.

Planet X: Tony MacAlpine on guitars, Derek Sherinian on keyboards, and Virgil Donati on drums. Guest bassists include Billy Sheehan, Jimmy Johnson, and Tom Kennedy.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2007 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 28 Aug 2022 15:32:20 -0400 .