The story behind this interstellar collaboration? Sure!
Drummer Mike Portnoy (known from Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic, Neal Morse albums...and many more – including Flying Colors, by the way, of which a review is upcoming next) was asked to put on a couple of drum shows at the Californian NAMM convention in early January, and the organizer just basically told him to put together whatever dream band he wanted. Well, Mike of course already knew Billy Sheehan [bassist for...ooh, the list of collabrations is really too long (but it includes Tony Macalpine's first solo album, Edge Of Insanity – later the two would play with each other again, touring with Steve Vai), and actual bands he played in were Talas, David Lee Roth, and of course Mr. Big]...in fact Billy's one of his favourite bassists to play with...and then there's Derek Sherinian, whom he knew from his Dream Theater days. Tony was a guitarist whom he'd always been interested in playing with him. So, Mike put out some feelers, asked the guys whether they would be interested, and indeed available!
Both being the case, the four of 'em decided to put together a set-list of instrumental tracks from all of the participants' pasts (including a rendition of Talas' “Shy Boy” and Sherinian's “Apocalypse 1470 B.C.”), with some of individual collaborations (like Dream Theater's “A Change Of Seasons: The Crimson Sunrise”, Tony's “The Stranger” off his Edge Of Insanity album, and throw in extra solo passages for each...as well as a cover of Jeff Beck's "The Pump". During rehearsals (actually, during the second rehearsal) a recording crew filmed the proceedings, later put out as the DVD Instrumental Inspirations. The NAMM shows were a blast, with out-of-proportion feedback by the audiences, and from it Sherinian came up with the idea to ask the guys whether they wanted to extend their collaboration for a tour, as he might put out feelers for interest among his friends in the European concert promoters' scene. Sure enough, the guys all felt like continuing their collaboration a little more, so out went the word, and in a real short time a 20-gig tour was organized that would take the awesome foursome (sounds good, don't it?) through Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Japan.
Some particulars about the tour? Lasting a total of 5 weeks, it was done traveling by plane, and so the guys were on the road without their personal gear...and even without their usual personal entourage. Needless to say, the guys came across plenty of problems, from having to deal with the problems of air travel, to getting appropriate gear onto the stage and getting it set up the way it ought to be, to a multitude of other smaller and occasionally bigger problems...all of which Portnoy in his usual dealt with to everyone's satisfaction. Portnoy also knew that things would become far more comfortable once the band got to Japan, and a decision was made in advance to record this new DVD of the band at Tokyo's Zepp venue on November 14th, now in live conditions. The tour ended with a final show in New York, and a lingering urge to do something like it again in the future!
Spread over two discs, the set included 15 instrumental tracks (three of which are solos passages set apart – Billy's solo being integrated within the Tony Macalpine track “Birds Of Prey (Billy's Boogie)”) and a vocal rendition of Talas' “Shy Boy” (with lead vocals shared by Billy and Mike) serving as the show's encore, for a total length of just over one hour and a half. Now, some of you may hesitate, and go, “Why should I buy this expensive double CD package, when I've already got all of the original music on the studio albums anyway?”! Well, for starters, the solos seem to be quite unique to me. Also, the collaboration between these 4 giants of the music scene is truly inspiring, even on a mere audio recording. Of course, seeing the event is even more exhilarating, you know...so move on to the DVD review for details about that!