Bart D. : The Fusion Syndicate is, despite the huge list of famous musicians involved, ultimately one man's project: composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood. The kitsch cover imagery featuring a colourful fantasy and an "exotic" woman could give it away to the connoisseur: this is a nostalgic tribute to the fusion heydays.
The list of musicians involved is so diverse that you will certainly find at least some names on it that make your heart beat a little faster in anticipation. This happened to me thanks to names like Chad Wackerman, John Etheridge, Billy Cobham, Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian and quite a few more. But I was disappointed by the outcome. Billy Sherwood made excellent tracks for them to jam to, and so that's all they could do - although it's proof of their class that many musicians still manage to sound aroused and inspired (but then again, who wouldn't, playing together with such colleagues). And even though much respect goes out to Billy Sherwood for pulling off such an enormous project, it has to be said that the album seriously lacks at sounding purposeful.
The Fusion Syndicate may be enjoyed by those who would like to hear many of the impressive musicians working together on this project. And while the compositions are by no means terrible and the production is solid and lives up to present demands, there is no spark keeping you drawn into the music. There are barely any memorable hooks; it's simply all about the class of the musicians. But good fusion has also always been about defiant compositions and edgy display of the instrumentalists' personalities. This is where The Fusion Syndicate lacks: we hear personality traits by virtue of the musicians involved but they're obediently filling up the jam tracks with their signature grooves and licks. There is no thinking outside of the box, which is exactly what the term "fusion" should mean. But we've heard that before when talking about "progressive" music. So by all means, lovers of fusion and excellent musicianship should go ahead and give this tribute a try.