Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

In 1989, Marcel Jacob had label interest but no band. You remember Marcel, he was in Yngwie Malmsteem’s Rising Force with Jeff Scott Soto. Although the two didn’t hit it off at first as their musical upbringing were so different. Marcel was a European music snob and Jeff was simple uncultured American. Over time, they became friends and Marcel needed help from his friend for a project he was working on that had no singer. He asked Jeff to sing the songs for the album.

Marcel’s project was originally called Guitars on Fire, but after the songs were completed and mixed, the name changed to Talisman. But the album almost didn’t happen. At the time of recording the album, Jeff Scott Soto was in a band called Eyes and his contract had him exclusively which means, Jeff can’t do anything outside of Eyes. At the time, Jeff was broke, and I mean flat broke. He needed money fast. So Jeff talked to his label, begged and pleaded and made them understand that this album is a one-off and wouldn’t compete with Eyes. It would have limited release only in Sweden so they had nothing to fear. And you know, they bought it.

Jeff went to Sweden and recorded the album with Jacob in 1989. For the album, you had Marcel Jacob on bass, drums (except for two tracks), keyboards and guitar. Jeff Scott Soto handled the vocals, Christopher Stahl on guitar, Mats Lindfors on guitar, Mats Olassaon on keyboard, and Peter Hermansson on drums for the two tracks Marcel didn’t play on.

The live band was different and extremely interesting. You had Jakob Samuels on drums. Yes, the Jakob Samuels that became the lead singer for the band The Poodles, who I love. Also was Jason Bieler on guitar and it is that Jason Bieler that played guitar in the band Saigon Kick. And on keyboards was Thomas Vikstrom who became the lead singer in the band Candlemass. Definitely some heavy hitters that would go on to some great things.

The album was released in February 1990 and yes, it did come out prior to the Eyes album, but again my rules, my timeline. The album has been re-issued several times and the copy I have is the 2012 re-issue with a deluxe edition that had 9 bonus tracks, most of which live. The music is pure AOR and melodic rock in the same vein as Bon Jovi, Europe and other bands of that genre. There is nothing new and unique but just solid, amazing songs. So let us get to the music after way too much backstory.

The album kicks off with some atmospheric keyboards that make you feel like you’re floating through the air, then comes a killer guitar riff and the band explodes with “Break Your Chains”. Jeff’s voice is like velvet as he soars through the verses and then chorus is as catchy as they come. It is a heavy song almost a cross between Dokken and due to the keyboards, Europe. The guitar solo is great with a slight flamenco sound before total shredding begins. It has all the trappings of that era that any 80’s rock fan would love.

“Standin’ On Fire” is next with more great riffage, more keyboards and more of that smooth voice of Mr. Soto. I would have to say I’ve never heard his voice sound better. This is the style I love the most from Soto. The song also has a bass solo from Mr. Jacob which is another thing I have always liked about Talisman, is the bass is a major sound in their music. But don’t worry, you also get another killer guitar solo. It is too bad this release at the time was mainly in Sweden because this could’ve blown up the charts in the U.S. if it got some publicity. It is that good.

Next up is “I’ll Be Waiting” which is full of great melodies and some sweet harmonies. You get full on harmonies, a cappella style to kick off the song before the band comes crashing in. The chorus is so rich and full of harmonies and is catchy as hell. By the second time the chorus comes around, you are singing along as it has that familiarity to it that is inviting and contagious. Another song of theirs that reminds me of Europe. This song was released as a single and went all the way to #2 on the Swedish Charts.

“Dangerous” is up next and is a pure rocker. The “yeah, yeah” to start is right out of the Joey Tempest playbook. This rocker about wanting revenge for having his heart broken doesn’t come across to scary as Soto’s voice is silky smooth and angelic it is hard to imagine he is really dangerous, but damn it is such a great song. The guitar solo is dangerous and rips through you as they shred the skin off their fingers as fast as they are going.

“Just Between Us” is the first ballad we get and Jeff’s voice is so suited for this type of song. There is a great Jacob bass groove that drives the song which for me is a highlight. The keyboards are used for dramatic effect and not overpowering which is great. It doesn’t have much of the power in power ballad, but still a valiant effort. After the first 4 awesome tracks, a break was definitely needed to catch your breath.

The rock is brought back with “System of Power” which is a political statement against something or a lot of things, but the message is completely lost. I think the lyrics aren’t that great and as a result Soto doesn’t sound as good as the previous songs. He isn’t singing with those soaring vocals and there are no real harmonies. They showed they could do something different with this one, but it doesn’t work.

“Queen” is up next and is another rocking track. We get some heavy, darker sounding guitars and Jeff’s vocals are soaring again at times. There is a lot of guitar on it as we even get a mini solo right after the first chorus and then of course a full solo is also given later on. “Queen” seems to be about a prostitute and not the Royal Queen so very typical late 80’s/early 90’s type song. This isn’t a bad song, but not in the same realm as the first 4 tracks.

“Lightning Strikes” is another in the same style as “Queen” and doesn’t feel much different except the chorus is really cool with the delivery of the vocals. Full of harmonies and layers and layers of vocals added for impact. I think that chorus is the saving grace to this song and a good guitar solo never hurts. Jeff’s vocals again are so high and right in his wheelhouse, it seems almost effortlessly done.

“Day By Day” opens with some keyboards before it totally rocks out. And what does it sound like, think Bon Jovi. Damn, this could’ve easily been on Slippery When Wet or New Jersey as that riff is completely a ripoff of Sambora. And that isn’t a bad thing. As a result, it is great rocker, lots of fun, full of energy and if you like early Bon Jovi, then this is for you.

Then we get a blistering rock song with “Women, Whiskey and Songs”. It is a high energy song with pretty lame lyrics and is so cliched it is kinda awful. Any song with Whiskey in it and a slight blues influence needs a little more grit in the vocals and Soto’s are too freaking smooth for that to happen. It isn’t the worst song on the album, but it is close. This might fun to hear live though.

The final track from the studio album is called “Great Sandwich” is an instrumental piece. It is a full band instrumental with some great drums, but the highlight is the guitars as their are multiple and play together nicely. It was unexpected, but very welcome. It has a great melody and the guitar harmonies are awesome. You do get a pretty cool bass solo and why not as Marcel Jacob was a master on the bass. He has a unique tone that I instantly recognize when I hear it. Nice way to go out.

The bonus tracks are mostly live except it kicks off with Marcel doing a bass solo in the recording studio and it is freaking awesome. There is one thing the man can do and that is play bass. There are a ton of live songs from their show in Kopparberg, Sweden back in 1990 and they almost sound bootleg style. The sound is great, but there are some rough patches. It doesn’t sound like a soundboard but more of an audience recording and they didn’t clean it up so you can hear how they really sounded and Soto shows that the notes he hits in the studio, he can do them live. One of the cool things about the live sets are a number of the songs are not from the album so not too many repeats. The highlight though might be the cover of “Ice Cream Man” they did live at Blues Brother in Stockholm, Sweden. Soto sounds just like David Lee Roth at times and it is scary. Such a great, fun track.

Track Listing:

  1. Break Your Chains – Keeper
  2. Standin’ On Fire – Keeper
  3. I’ll Be Waiting – Keeper
  4. Dangerous – Keeper
  5. Just Between Us – Keeper
  6. System of Power – Delete
  7. Queen – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  8. Lightning Strikes – Keeper
  9. Day By Day – Keeper
  10. Women, Whiskey and Songs – Delete
  11. Great Sandwich – Keeper

Bonus Tracks:

  1. MJ Playing Solo in the Studio
  2. Just Between Us (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  3. Eternal Flame (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  4. I’ll Be Waiting (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  5. Scream of Anger (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  6. NJBBWD (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  7. Standin’ On Fire (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  8. Let Me Love You (Live in Kopparberg 1990)
  9. Ice Cream Man (Live at Blues Brothers in Stockholm 1990)

The Track Score is 8.5 out of 11 or 77%.  We aren’t scoring the bonus tracks as they are bonus tracks and we are only focusing on the main album.  Now, it is easy to see why all 23,000 copies that were released sold out in months in Sweden. It is classic AOR sounding rock and any fan of the 80’s Rock scene would eat this shit up. I know I did.  Any fans of Europe or Bon Jovi would enjoy this as there is so much goodness to be tasted.  The guitar solos, the ballads, the soaring vocals, the melodies, the harmonies, I mean what else would you want.  As a fan of this style, this was right up my alley and a favorite of mine. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars and I can’t wait to get through some more Talisman.  Give this one a chance, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

UP NEXT: TALISMAN – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ SINGLE – BONUS EDITION

THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:

  1. Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
  2. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
  3. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
  4. Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
  5. Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989) / ‘Soldiers of Light: The Complete Recordings (2019)
  6. Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
  7. Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  8. Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
  9. Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  10. Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
  11. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
  12. Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
  13. Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
  14. Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
  15. Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
  16. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  17. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  18. Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  19. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  20. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  21. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  22. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  23. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  24. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  25. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  26. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  27. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  28. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  29. Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  30. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  31. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  32. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  33. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  34. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  35. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  36. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  37. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  38. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  39. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  40. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  41. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  42. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  43. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  44. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  45. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  47. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  48. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  49. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  50. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  51. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  52. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  53. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  54. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  55. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  56. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  57. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  58. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  59. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  60. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  61. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  62. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  63. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  64. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  65. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)

45 thoughts on “Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

  1. I have a few Talisman. Like you I enjoyed what they served up. AOR Melodic Rock/Metal.
    The opening track “Break Your Chains” definitely gets ya interested and then they hit ya with the more AOR stuff.

    Great stuff. And yep that touring band is stellar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s hilarious that he had to tell Eyes that Talisman would be a one-off band. I recall liking Whiskey, Women and Songs way back when but I was just a touch too young to know what 2 of the 3 were. Playing it now it is kinda funny in not the greatest way. Very nice album overall.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Dangerous” seems like “Used To Love Her” by GN’R, sweet song, but dark/horrible lyrics (if you don’t remember, the GN’R song says “I used to love her but I had to kill her” and Axl says that she is buried in his backyard)

    Liked by 1 person

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