Playpus is comprised of bassist John Myung and keyboardist Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater (whose music is best described as Bach meets Metallica in Kanas), drummer Rod Morgenstein of the legendary jazz-southern rock fusion band Dixie Dregs, and guitarist Ty Tabor of King's X (whose sound and style laid the foundation for many of today's bands including Soundgarden, Collective Soul and Alice in Chains. Together they have combined the best of their respective bands, creating a musical masterpiece of progressive rock not heard in years. While the songs range from new age to ballads to full out rock, the spirit of disciplined chaos, intricately woven parts, humor, and freewheeling mania continue throughout the 50+ minute CD of half instrumental, half lyrical songs.
"Rock Balls/Destination Moon" retains the free jamming feeling of classic Kansas. This track especially is drenched in organs and keyboards, giving a Deep Purple vibe that none of the band members expected. "Platt Opus" continues this sound, expanding it with tightly intertwined melodies, a playful "Dixie Dregs" spirit and 18/4 meter. "Chimes" is a piano/keyboard piece composed in irregular meter that somehow manages to remain relaxed, flowing, and meditative. Borrowing from the mellow rock of Steely Dan, "Bye Bye" combines Satrianiesque guitar parts with Tabor's Beatle-induced vocal harmonies to create a song that makes you scream for more! For my money, though, the two best songs are "Willie Brown" and "I'm With You", both of which sound like Gretchen-era King's X. "Willie Brown" is full of Hendrix fuzz guitar that starts in 5/4+4/4 meter and builds to a manic, fevered instrumental romp a la' "Moanjam" from the King's X album Faith Hope Love. In contrast, "I'm With You" keeps the same feel throughout, but what a feel. From the very first guitar riff, it tugs at you with a smoldering intensity that bursts into flame during the chorus where Ty breaks out the candy-flavored harmonies that are richer and brighter than anything he was ever written. With the adventurous spirit of the 70s combined with the sound and intensity of today, this is perfect music for turning up loud driving around with the top down.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, March 1999.