Back in 1988, already a prolific and hugely in-demand drummer, Phillips embarked upon a solo career with the first Protocol album, taking on all playing and production roles himself.
Here he returns to the same musical template (instrumental electric fusion), but widens its scope by adding a full band into the mix. Protocol II includes many fusion mainstays like extended soloing (opener Wildfire features Steve Weingart’s electric piano explorations; Soothsayer gives Andy Timmons’s fretboard wrangling and Ernest Tibbs’s bass work a chance to shine). There are odd time signatures, too: Upside In Downside Up is built on fiendishly tricky repeated phrases (we’re still not convinced we’ve worked out where the “1” is!). Then, there’s the superhuman skill of the star of the show. Octopia – presumably a reference to the number of limbs required to play it – is a short but effective drum showcase, showing Phillips’s ability to play two or more different but related rhythmic metres simultaneously. The sheer slickness and precision here may overshadow the human element for some, but there’s no denying the astounding playing and compositional sense here.