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Simon Phillips

Protocol 4

Review by Gary Hill

This disc features drum master Simon Phillips playing with Greg Howe, Ernest Tibbs and Dennis Hamm. The music here is certainly of the fusion variety. It does lean further toward the prog rock end of things at times, though. Even if it didn't, though, we generally land fusion under progressive rock. This is an entertaining instrumental set that's particularly effective. It's obvious how talented everyone on this set is.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Nimbus
Tapping brings this in with an ambient nature. The cut grows upward gradually from there. The drums are the first part of the rhythm section to join. As the rest of the instruments come into play this works out to a killer fusion jam. They work through a number of changes over the course of this thing. There is a heavy section that makes me think of Frank Zappa a lot. The cut shifts course from there moving into a keyboard dominated fusion jam. At almost nine minutes of music, this is the epic of the set, and they make great use of all that time.
Pentangle
Funky sounds bring this into being. From there they tear out into a fast-paced, funk-driven jam that's such a powerhouse. This is great fun. While it works through a number of changes, it never loses the energy or sense of fun.
Passage to Agra

A bit more of a serious vibe pervades this cut. It is definitely well set within the fusion category. However, it has some things that makes me think of King Crimson a bit. It's a powerhouse jam with some killer guitar work. It also has some captivating keyboard work in its run.

Solitaire
Fast paced and meaty fusion creates the sounds on this number. It has a real 1970s vibe in a lot of ways. It's dynamic and potent. It works through various themes and changes as it makes its way forward. The guitar solo is so tasty.
Interlude
Piano opens this mellower number and holds it for a time. There are other layers of sound here, but keeping with the title, it is a sedate cut. There is some guitar soloing that cuts through the atmosphere over the top, but it never really rises to the level of rocking, only crunchy and soaring. At a little over a minute and a half, this is the shortest cut here. It segues into the next one.
Celtic Run

Coming out of the previous piece some prog rock keyboard work drives the early parts of this. It's a killer rocker that definitely lands on the prog side more than it does the fusion end of the equation. They continue to explore the boundaries of this piece. The keys sing over the top with a passion and power for a while. It drops down to a much mellower section after that part. The guitar solo later is purely on fire. At close to eight-minutes of music, this is the second longest piece here.

All Things Considered
This feels like it comes out of the last one. There is such a cool rocking groove here. I love the killer jam later with keyboards soloing over an exceptional bass line.
Phantom Voyage
A mellower, slower-moving tune, this is no less compelling. They drive some powerful melodies in this piece.
Azorex

A high energy fusion number closes this set. This has a good range in that it drops to mellower stuff, but focuses primarily on the fierce end of the spectrum. This isn't a huge change, but it is a great way to close the set in style.

 
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