First Published – 09 Nov 2012 – Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: The Fusion Syndicate – The Fusion Syndicate (self-titled debut album — 2012 Purple Pyramid Records)
By American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Yo Daddy-O, Welcome to another, not to be missed, Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews. Since becoming a correspondent for Classic Rock Radio (UK), the feedback has been wonderful. On behalf of CCR (UK) and myself, we do appreachiate that. Keep the cards and letters coming.
This weeks’ selection is a new jazz fusion project called: The Fusion Syndicate. A newly released self-titled project that not only found its way into the collection of jazz-fusion fans just recently but progressive rock fans as well.
At the helm is Billy Sherwood, best known for being a member of the super progressive rock band Yes. Those who are aware of my writing and those close enough to me, know I’m pretty much a Sherwood fan for life. That said, it doesn’t mean I shut up when something disappoints, or just out and out bores me. I have a reputation for being a man of my word. If I say something is good, it is because I honestly enjoyed it. I also keep in mind that when I say I take a certain delight with a specific music CD, that folks reading the words could follow that up and buy whatever it is I was just digging on. It has happened before where people spend cash on something I recommended. Am always satisfied when they agree with my evaluation. If disappointed I’d hate them to feel like they wasted their hard-earned money. Music CDs can get expensive nowadays. As a blue-collar worker most of my life, I identify with busting one’s ass all day, to make a buck. Luckily, we have ourselves a winner here. Let me proceed.
First off, all songs are original compositions of Mr. Sherwood. Those who are into Billy’s work would not be surprised that on this CD, he’s credited with the following: writing, producing, recording, and mixing the entire project PLUS providing the additional instrumentation needed to gel everything into seven finely crafted tunes. The musicians that Billy asked to join him in the project read like a list of who’s who in both the respective fields of jazz fusion and progressive rock. The Fusion Syndicate features members of the following jazz fusion / progressive rock groups: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yellowjackets, Brand X, Soft Machine, Yes, Dream Theater, King Crimson, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Spyro Gyra, Chick Corea Elektric Band, Hawkwind, The Becker Brothers, Gong, Tribal Tech, and The Orient House Ensemble.
Here’s Uncle G’s song by song impressions:
- Random Acts Of Kindness: For the first 35 seconds or so, this could pass for a hard rock instrumental album then kicks into the smooth sounds of jazz. I’d say it’s a fine mix of the two worlds where these skilled musicians originate from. The keyboard work is from no other but Mr. Rick Wakeman. The man’s a master at what he does and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here.
- Stone Cold Infusion: This song starts off kind of blues-like sound. Steve Stevens from Bozzio * Levin * Stevens ( Magna Carta label) providing some very tasty guitar chops here. Mel Collins (King Crimson / Alan Parsons Project) making it sound all jazz-like with some of the best sax playing you’d wanna hear. Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) is on keyboards and a rhythm section of Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass, and Billy Cobham (Miles Davis) on drums. I like the mix of instrumentation. Overall, very well done.
- Molecular Breakdown: I love a good bass player. Ladies and Gentleman, may I introduce Mr. Billy Sheehan. This dude can rock !!
One of the best things about Billy Sherwood behind the scenes is that one can actually hear each musician’s contributions. Sheehan’s playing here seems so effortless. Really stands out throughout the song. Others compliment the sound. Sheehan’s drummer on this song is Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree / King Crimson). The nicely crafted sounds coming out of the keyboards is no other but David Sancious. The early work of Bruce Springsteen is in my opinion, his best work. Sancious played a role in that for sure. The sax in this tune is all Jay Beckenstein (Spyro Gyra).
- Particle Accelerations: One of hard Rock’s best keyboardists shines on this song – Derek Sherinian. Chester Thompson’s (Frank Zappa / Genesis / Weather Report) drum work stands tall as it always does.
- At The Edge Of The Middle: Again, yet another gifted bass player on this one – Percy Jones (Brand X / Bangtower). Song maintains a good groove from start to finish. The song is rather catchy. For me, this would be one of the standout songs on the CD. Each musician gave 100 percent, and it shows. Speaking of giving your all, the piano work by Jim Beard is spectacular. Billy Sherwood’s presence is also heard here again. I love the trumpet work by Randy Brecker. I can listen to this song all day, the way Brecker and Beard’s individual sounds interact together. Steve Morse (Deep Purple / Flying Colors) is on guitar. Here’s a line-up I’d like to hear yet another song from.
- Atom Smasher: What a Tony Kaye showcase here, doing a beautiful job tickling the ivories and on the synths. Helping make the song whole on lead guitar is John Etheridge (Soft Machine). Chad Wickerman on drums (Frank Zappa), and of course, let’s not forget again Billy Sherwood. The dude is everything you hear between the solos. He is the glue to this whole project. Bravo Mr. Sherwood !!
- In The Spirit Of…: The song reminds me of Bob James a little. That is a good thing. James is a wonderful jazz musician. The main reason for identifying with his work is the keyboard work of Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech and he’s scored Hollywood films as well). Then add Theo Travis (No Man/Bass Communication) on sax and Mr. Asaf Sirkis (Fusion Syndicate) on drums. Excellent bass playing by Justin Chancellor (Tool) and on guitar, Steve Hillage (Gong). It’s a very contagious tune, leaving this listener very happy and satisfied. An excellent pick for the last song on the CD. Each song is a solid composition, helping create what turned out to be a real solid debut album. No fillers here !!
Using the one to a five-star rating system, “Uncle G” rates Billy Sherwood’s The Fusion Syndicate: 5 stars!! I enjoyed the entire CD. As a consumer, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Not one dime wasted. Isn’t that what it’s about? As long as I’m happy. Extra cool when that’s a collective feeling with friends and others, all enjoying the same CD. I gave this disc more repeated plays since it first arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks back, then I could count. I carried it with me, listening to it in the car. Good driving music by the way. I did get other people’s feedback. The comments are all similar to that of my review. I enjoyed the time with The Fusion Syndicate. Matter of fact, listening to it all those times makes me hunger for The Fusion Syndicate 2.
Billy Sherwood – www.yesworld.com
Purple Pyramid Records Official Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/PurplePyramidRecords