Planet X - Moon Babies

Year of Release: 2002
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMACD 106
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:02:00

As you might expect from Planet X, Moon Babies is a fiery, fusiony, metallic-hard release that is a virtual whirlwind of sound, highlighting the keyboard playing of Derek Sherinian and guitar playing of Tony MacAlpine. But far from being a duo, it is all held together by the solid drumming of Virgil Donati and the bass work of not one, but three, guest bassists ? Tom Kennedy, Jimmy Johnson and Billy Sheehan. Together they create a full-bore CD with a monstrous sound (produced by Simon Phillips). Everything is played at full throttle, so don't expect any let up except for a passage here and there. It can be overwhelming, and you do find that you want at least one mellow piece to balance everything out (there is a brief guitar solo as a hidden epilogue, but it's far too short ? "epi-twig" in that case, I suppose). Listened to at surface level, there is an even consistency that gives the majority of the pieces a same feel. What goes on underneath does reveal a certain level of dynamism and certainly when one or the other breaks out for a solo, but one finds that a description for one piece could well be said of another. So, though there are shifting dynamics, as they switch from full-throttle to a bit less than full-throttle, swirling about you making you pleasantly dizzy or mesmerized ? when all is said an done, it has gone by in a blur.

The title track starts everything off with blistering solos from Sherinian and MacAlpine that just awe you into submission. Of course the brutally throbbing bass from Kennedy and hammering drumming of Donati is what keeps you pinned down. One of my favourite pieces comes with the second track "The Noble Savage" and this mainly due to the moody jazz-guitar intro from MacAlpine ? he must have more than 5 fingers per hand, me thinks. This goes from stomping, buzzsaw like metal to a slightly throttled back fusion, where MacAlpine delivers some sweetly delivered lines.

"Ataraxia" may seem tamer at first, as some of the bombast leavened by a more studied approach, certainly in the more carefully delivered lines of MacAlpine, but this is percolating proggy piece that is never that far from metal-fusion that this trio is known for. It takes on an interesting characteristic when Donati's drums become the lead instrument for a passage or two. Rather rather than being a demonstration of speed as the phrase "drum solo" implies, it instead the more measured pattern of MacAlpine's guitar solo. Much of this would also describe the darker, churning middle and ending sections of "Micronesia," except here it's Sherinian's keys that take the lead ? notes are sheared off at the end, giving it an otherworldly feel. This being a Donati penned tune, lots of pounding drums and percussion dominate the background. The lead in and interlude then are jazzier, mellower sections.

"Ground Zero" is dark and chugging piece full of the same sort of menace that the title implies. It and "Micronesia" are the "artiest" pieces on the album, though this more so. There is some dark, but cool, interplay a third of the way in, repeated again at about two thirds. Here, too, MacAlpine turns his axe in to a sax for a moment, bleeting out a few quick, tight lines before it effortlessly slides back into a guitar.

There are more than enough great moments to satisfy listeners, and the production sounds great to my ears (though a little boomy at times on the bottom end where the bass is concerned) but once past the initial "cool" factor, I'm not entirely blown away by this ? though I am impressed with each member's overall performance (love MacAlpine's playing). That is, played well, but maybe overplayed. A little tightening up in spots, a little more dynamics from track to track perhaps?

Also released by InsideOut Music America (IOMA 2039-2)

Moonbabies (5:37) / The Noble Savage (6:12) / Ataraxia (6:15) / Tonaz/70 VIR*(4:00) / Boy With A Flute (5:56) / Interlude In Milan (4:38) / Digital Vertigo (4.22) / Ground Zero (6:00) / Midnight Bell (3:54) / Ignotus Per Ignotium (9:28)

*listed as 'Tonaz' on the InsideOut sites, but as '70 VIR' on the Planet X site.

Derek Sherinian - keyboards
Virgil Donati - drums
Tony MacAlpine - guitars
Billy Sheehan - bass
Tom Kennedy - bass
Jimmy Johnson - bass

Planet X (1998)
Universe (1999)
Live From Oz (2002)
Moon Babies (2002)
Quantum (2007)

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin VA

Added: July 1st 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1510
Language: english


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