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Planet X - 2002 Live From Oz



ARTIST: Planet X
ALBUM: Live From Oz
LABEL: Inside Out
SERIAL: IOMCD 098
YEAR: 2002

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Derek Sherinian - keyboards * Tony MacAlpine - guitars * Virgil Donati - drums * Guest bass player - Dave Larue

TRACK LISTING: 01 Ignotus Per Ignotium * 02 Inside Black * 03 Dog Boots * 04 Atlantis : Apocalypse 1470 BC * 05 Atlantis : Sea of Antiquity * 06 Atlantis : Lost Island * 07 Derek Sherinian Solo * 08 Warfinger * 09 Virgil Donati Solo * 10 Warfinger Reprise * 11 Tony MacAlpine Solo * 12 Her Animal * 13 Europa * 14 Pods of Trance

WEBLINKS: www.xplanetx.com


Background
Some of you will probably recall I'm not too fond of this band's second studio offering 'Moon Babies'. When their live album turned up for review, my initial reaction was one of fear. I seriously considered hiding behind the sofa and staying there until the CD mysteriously disappeared from my 'to review' pile. Realising 'Live From Oz' wasn't about to disappear, I gave in and sheepishly put it into my CD player, pushed the play button and sat back. 'Please welcome to the stage.. Planet X' announced the voice over the PA system. The crowd cheered. I cowered. I have to be honest with you folks, despite my earlier misgivings about Planet X (solely based upon 'MoonBabies' I might add), this live CD is good stuff. It was recorded on the Australian leg of their first tour, so being recorded pre 'MoonBabies', the material featured is predominantly from the 'Universe' album.


The Songs
'Inside Black' has a funky feel with MacAlpine mostly playing long and flowing notes (something 99% of his playing on 'MoonBabies' sadly lacks), working well against Sherinian's under-stated keyboard parts. 'Dog Boots' provides the listener with more of the same, this time only with the guitar riff severely down-tuned, creating a really heavy sound. It's an absolute monster of a riff, which given time could become a favourite. Next up is 'Atlantis', a three part epic which originally appeared in its studio guise on Sherinian's solo outing 'Planet X'. I really like its opening moments. MacAlpine plays some superb guitar with lots of wah and whammy-bar (and if that floats your boat, be sure to check out Michael Landau's solo albums). He alternates this with similar techniques to those first heard on 'Dog Boots'. The only thing which spoils this part of 'Atlantis' for me are the times when all three members insist on playing together really really fast in a staccato manner. With all the subtlety of a pneumatic drill, it was precisely too much of this which spoiled 'MoonBabies' somewhat. After this, things settle down again somewhat (yaay!) with Sherinian playing some dreamy piano, accompanied by some beautiful playing from MacAlpine, in the sort of Jeff Beck meets Steve Vai's 'For The Love Of God' vein. Had their second studio album featured more moments like this we'd have been on a winner. Tony and Virgil then vacate the stage in order for Derek to have a solo spot. It's not your average Rick Wakeman/Geoff Downes style neo-classical workout that would be too conventional. Derek's keyboard is seemingly programmed to a 'guitar' sound and emits bottom-end drones for a couple of minutes. This is scientific proof, people, that a few years in Dream Theater sitting behind James Labrie night after night while he squeals and wails like he's being poked with a big stick is dangerous to your mental health.

While the keys are still set in guitar mode, the band launch themselves head on into the aggressive 'Warfinger' which is impressive all round, leaving time enough afterwards for Mr Donati to take centre-stage for a drum solo. As drum solos are usually the traditional time at gigs to go to the bar, this provided a welcome opportunity for me to think about going to get some kind of liquid refreshment. Although Donati is a great drummer (still can't believe he's the bloke from Southern Sons), unless you play the drums yourself, this is a moment of a long CD which is likely to be programmed out/skipped after first listen. There are no prizes for guessing what's next.. Cue Tony MacAlpine.. woo-hoo! During most of MacAlpine's solo spot, he realises less can be more, choosing long vibrato-fuelled notes over plank-spanking. It has a great quality, especially as he's accompanied by Derek, who uses a blanket of keys to add depth and colour here. The addition of the keys definitely helps to hold the attention span for longer.The arrival of 'The Animal' brings back the 'chug-factor' courtesy of a great MacAlpine riff which turns up the intensity by a couple of notches (by now, too, your stereo should have been turned up a couple of notches - mine goes up to 11). Also having a full-on groove factor is this uncredited bonus track featuring Tony and Derek in full flow against the rhythm section of Virgil Donati and guest bassist Dave Larue of Dixie Dregs fame (whose work on this CD is solid throughout).


In Summary
At just over 73 minutes there's plenty of Planet X to enjoy here and, for the record, I enjoyed most of it, despite my earlier fear. It has inspired me to go back and check out 'Universe' and maybe even Sherinian's solo outings, 'Inertia' and 'Planet X'. If only 'MoonBabies' could've been this good.


Related Articles
Planet X - 2002 Live From Oz
Planet X - 2002 Moon Babies


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