A little Niacin can do no harm as long as one knows in advance what is being digested and why. Niacin is simply the good old-fashioned organ (or piano)/bass/drums trio updated for the '90s. There's a Jazz core but it is overlaid with a rock beat, awash in electronically generated sound, and marked by a decibel level that the guy in the car next to you always seems to be enjoying while his vehicle vibrates from its thunderous impact. All but two of the songs were written by Sheehan and Novello, and they're about as memorable as that egg you had for breakfast a couple of years ago. The exceptions are Joe Zawinul's "Birdland" and Chick Corea's "Hang Me Upside Down." Stretch is Corea's label, and the grand old man makes a guest appearance on "Upside Down," on which he plays the Fender Rhodes. Not bad, but hardly enough to keep the ship afloat. On the other hand, it should be noted that there is a target audience for this music, and I'm not it. It's aimed at a younger generation of listeners, who may find Niacin not only agreeable but downright electrifying (no pun intended). Sheehan, Novello and Chambers do play well together, and even if we can't find much stimulation in their music, it doesn't necessarily follow that others couldn't. After all, one of our chief complaints is that much of what Niacin feeds us tastes exactly the same, but younger listeners may find such a narrow menu wholly satisfying. After all, it doesn't require much thought or awareness, and Americans are a busy lot. So perhaps Niacin, with its elemental point of view, is precisely what the doctor ordered for a fast-paced society such as ours.
Track listing: High Bias; Birdland; Slapped Silly; Montuno; Revenge; Cool to the Touch; Darkside; It's the Little Things; Soul Diversion; Who Cares If It's Raining; Hang Me Upside Down (69:00).
Billy Sheehan, electric bass; John Novello, keyboards, Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, Roland VK-7; Dennis Chambers, drums. Special guests: Kenwood Dennard, drums (11); Chick Corea, Fender Rhodes (11); Pat Torpey, drums (10); Rayford Griffin, drums (9); Alex Acu