Album review: SIMON PHILLIPS – Protocol II

Simon Phillips - Protocol II

Inakustik [Release date 13.10.14]

It’s been fourteen years since the release of ‘Vantage Point’, Simon Phillips’ last solo album.  This is understandable given that for most of that period he’s been tied up drumming for Toto.  But of course in a 40-year plus career he’s also lent his skills to albums by heavyweight artists such as Jeff Beck, Peter Gabriel and – in 1977 – Judas Priest.

Compared to ‘Vantage Point’, the big difference with his seventh solo album – ‘Protocol II’ – is that it’s jazz fusion rather than straight ahead modern jazz.  Stars of the show here are Andy Timmons (guitar) and Steve Weingart (keys) and the resulting vibe is a little like classic Return To Forever, but arguably a little funkier and a little more accessible.  Ernest Tibbs (bass) completes the formidable line-up.

Timmons plays fluidly and with great tonality, an exemplar for this genre and – like Richie Kotzen – an unsung guitar hero.  At times he evokes Robben Ford, at others a player like Steve Morse.  Some may remember Weingart from his appearance in Steve Lukather’s touring band and on Luke’s recent albums; they’ll also remember his great musicality displayed here on synths and piano.

Of the eight tracks, only ‘Moments Of Fortune’ stands out for its immediacy   – this was the first song recorded and if anything provided proof of concept.  The rest of the album – with the exception of the gloriously funky Enigma – whilst not so ear-grabbing, will still repay your repeated listening.

As for Phillips he doesn’t steal any limelight, deferring throughout to his fellow musicians.  This is a superior jazz fusion album and should be sought out by fans of the respective artists but also by lovers of the genre who want to hear a shining example.   And the usual inakustik attention to sonic detail ensures a great sounding package too.  *****

Review by David Randall

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