After Jeff Scott Soto’s stint with Yngwie Malmsteen was over, Soto was able to land a gig with the Japanese guitar virtuoso, Kuni. The rest of the band included Mike Terrana on Drums, who played with Yngwie and Beau Nasty, as well as Douglas Taylor Baker on Bass, who also wound up playing with Beau Nasty. Behind the boards on this one is a name a lot of you should be familiar with due to the bands Vinnie Vincent Invasion and Slaughter. That is right, Dana Strum produced the album and I have to say the production work on here is fantastic.
The band was very popular in Japan and they even got to tour. One of the shows was recorded for TV so it makes wonder if there is a live album or bootleg of that show anywhere. I need to start looking for that.
The copy I have is actually a re-release from 2018 and has a couple live bonus tracks and who doesn’t love bonus tracks. All releases of this album are Japan only which means…yes…OBI strips and my copy is no different. You can see it a few pictures down. Also included is a fold out page that has an essay in Japanese and I have no idea what it says, but you see Vinnie Vincent’s name mentioned, Loudness, Yngwie and several other band names so I am guessing it is talking about the band members and where they came from plus tons of other great information that would be nice to read…if I read Japanese. The page also has the lyrics to the songs, in English, on both sides.
There is not much in the CD booklet itself, but there are some pictures of Kuni and of the band and DAMN!! Soto looks so young in this picture. And since this was 1988, the hair was a little big which means it was HUGE!! I wish I had more backstory to the album, but there isn’t much out there and some of it is wrong. Maybe I’ll get to ask Jeff about one day down the road. For now, we need to get to the music as this needs to be heard.
The album opens with the song “Strangers in the Night” which was written Carey Sharef and Jimmy Waldo. If you need a frame of reference, think Dokken, but heavier and in my opinion…better!! You heard me right. The guitar work is what you’d expect for the time period and when you have someone with the talent of Kuni. And do you like solos? (rhetorical question)…then this will please you to no end. Vocally, Soto attacks it and this is where I think Soto’s vocals shine. The high’s he hits I don’t know if we’ve heard it like this prior to this album. This is the Soto I love. The drums are immense and the bass lays down a great rhythm. The song is bombastic, anthemic which will draw you in and the album will never let go.
“Shine On” which was written by Kuni and Soto adds a little crowd noise to give it that live feel ( which is unnecessary, but still cool). It explodes out of the gates and never slows down. It is heavy, fast and still melodic and fantastic. Soto approaches it with more confidence and struts through the lyrics. The guitar work is full of riffs and is loud as hell. The drums are pure destruction and then the solo comes in and lays waste to the masses. Vinnie Vincent wishes he could shred with the mastery of Kuni. A beast of a track.
Then we get an all instrumental piece called the “Acoustic Piece” which is exactly what it is an acoustical piece. Kuni shows that he doesn’t have to shred at 100 mph to show his talent. He is as versatile as they come. A strange place to slow things down so quickly, but still a beautiful piece.
Then we get one of my favorite songs on the record (and there are a lot) “Memories of You” which was written by Cary Sharef. This also might be Jeff’s best performance on the album. It is a power ballad type song maybe a little heavier than what you’d expect for one, but works like one as the chorus is hooky and layered with tons of backing vocals. He shows off his range here and hits notes that only dogs can hear. And don’t worry, every power ballad has a killer guitar solo and this one is no different. It starts off slow and then Kuni rips you a new one.
Then we are back to the rocking with the title track “Lookin’ For Action”. It is hook laden, melodic and heavy and aggressive. The slick production gives you a rock anthem the likes you’ve seen with Bon Jovi, Leppard and Dokken in the mid-80’s (not necessarily the late 80’s). I can keep telling you how great the solos are but by now you know what you are going to get with Kuni…shredtastic little masterpieces. This was another Kuni and Soto song with help by Tommy McClendon.
Then we get “Don’t Look Back” which is in the same vein as the title track. A moderately paced rocker with all the hooks and catchy choruses you’d expect. This one was written by Chuck Wright.
Which leads us to another of my favorites “Say Goodbye” which was written by Kuni and Soto. It starts out slow with some acoustic guitars and a heavy drum beat. Soto comes in softly with the vocals and you are easily thinking another ballad. But you’d be wrong! The song kicks in to full force and Jeff attacks the vocals with another one of his better performances (who are we kidding, with this album they are all good). The chorus is simple and layered background vocals to make it hit home and overall it is melodic rock perfection. The guitar riff around the bridge is stellar and towards the end Soto hits a note and holds and shows his power and control is unmatched by most.
“All Night Long” is up next and this is from Kuni and Sharef. It is a straight-up rocker and pair it with “Reckless” (Kuni/Soto) and you get a great one-two punch in your face this late in the album which is great. The Drums on “All Night Long” will knock you on your ass and then Kuni’s guitar work again doesn’t disappointment. “Reckless” turns it up even more and will rock you out even harder and faster. Musically it is almost speed metal. Soto’s is even more aggressive in his stylings and delivery and then when you hit that chorus, if you are in your car, the gas pedal is being slammed to the floor. Kuni probably gives us his most over-the-top, crazy ass solos and you will love every lick.
“Eyes of a Stranger” (Kuni/Wright) is yet another rocker but a little slowed down from “Reckless”. More hooks, more melodic choruses and more of everything you’ve heard before. There is nothing new I can add to the conversation with this one. Kuni’s approach to the solo was a little different with more effects and less flash but just as good.
“Little Rebel” is the last Kuni/Soto penned songs and opens with a machine gun barrage of drums and then in to a Kuni riff-fest. The verses slow down and as expected the choruses are big or go home. Jeff’s vocals get some echos added for a more dramatic effect. It isn’t stylistically any different than what you’ve heard before, but it is just as good.
And the final album track is “Someday” (Kuni/Sharef). The song starts off with a radio and somebody trying to tune it to a station then the song kicks in with some heavy kick drum action. It is another heavy rocker and why not pound it out the same way you pounded out the opener. Although not as strong as the opener, still a solid performance. At the end of the song, Soto and others do their worst Japanese impressions which some might find culturally insensitive today, but it is still funny and shows a humorous side to the band.
The Re-Issue has two bonus tracks which are live versions of the songs “All Night Long” and “Reckless”. If you wondered if Jeff can hit those notes live, well, the answer is undoubtedly, YES!! The songs do take on a different vibe and feel live, but they are both still rocking and fun tracks and the band sounds like they are having a lot of fun. Now, give me the whole show on a disc please!!
- Strangers in the Night – Keeper
- Shine On – Keeper
- Acoustic Piece – Keeper
- Memories of You – Keeper
- Lookin’ For Action – Keeper
- Don’t Look Back – Keeper
- Say Goodbye – Keeper
- All Night Long – Keeper
- Reckless – Keeper
- Eyes of A Stranger – Keeper
- Little Rebel – Keeper
- Someday – Keeper
- All Night Long (Live)
- Reckless (Live)
The Track Listing is 12 out of 12 or 100%. Yes, I love it that much. This is one album I wasn’t familiar with and didn’t know about it prior to me deciding to do this series. When I heard about it, I bought it immediately and it is now one of my favorite Soto albums. This is how I like to hear Soto. More melodic, lots of hooks, melodies and high notes and if I get that, I am on board fully and unconditionally. Dana Strum’s production, although dated in the late 80’s, is top-notch. He definitely had the songs to work with. Kuni’s playing is amazing. He is a total shredder without going over-the-top nutso on every song. He is a true talent and understands that it is about the songs and not just his playing. Mike’s drum works is powerful and throw in Doug’s bass and you have a talented rhythm section. Soto’s vocals were on fire throughout and he could hit some killer notes which I think he can still do today. My Overall Score is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars and I don’t have any problem with giving it that. I have been playing this thing non-stop all week. Oh, and throw it on in your car and it gets even better.
UP NEXT: KRYST THE CONQUEROR – ‘DELIVER US FROM EVIL’ (1989) / ‘SOLDIERS OF LIGHT: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS’ (2019)
THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:
- Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
- Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
- Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
- Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
- Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989) / ‘Soldiers of Light: The Complete Recordings (2019)
- Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
- Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
- Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
- Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
- Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
- Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
- Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
- Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
- Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
- Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
- Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
- Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
- Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
- Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
- Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
- Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
- Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
- Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
- Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
- Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
- Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
- Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
- Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
- Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
- W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
- W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
- W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
- SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
- SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
- W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
- SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
- SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
- W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)