Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

After Jeff Scott Soto had finished his vocals on the ‘Eternal Prisoner’ album for Axel Rudi Pell, he went back to the states to continue to work with his band Slam. Then it was on to work on the next Talisman album ‘Genesis’. But his obligations weren’t done with Axel. Axel wanted to do an album full of nothing but ballads so Jeff was brought back in April 1993 to finish up some work on several songs to be included on the album. Jeff was only on 4 of the 10 songs, two were instrumentals, two from Rob Rock with one from Karl Holthaus both previous singers of Axel’s.

The album was released on September 7, 1993 and I guess it was successful as Axel did a total of five of these Ballad compilations. ‘The Ballads’ release had a mixture of previously released tracks, some previously unreleased tracks and even a couple covers. It is a lot of ballads to have on an album. It caused a mixture of reactions. Some metal fans were turned off because the album was nothing but ballads, however, you had a section of non-metal people that were now introduced to Axel’s music because it was all ballads. Heck it was the ballads that probably brought a lot of women in to the Glam music scene anyway…that and the fact they wanted to know the secrets on how the guys got their hair so big and poofy. But lets talk about the music instead of the hair.

“You Want Love” opens the album and was one of the new tracks recorded by Jeff Scott Soto for this release. Opens with acoustic guitars and then Soto comes in singing in a soft falsetto. The chorus brings harmonies and the bass and drum. From here on out, the tempo stays relatively consistent. Jeff does sound great, I’ll give him that, but the song is a little dull as it is too same-same sounding throughout. Even the solo is a little lifeless and boring.

On the song “Forever Young”, Soto was unaware of this track prior to recording it. He didn’t realize it was a big hit in Europe with the band Alphaville. Everyone on the project was surprised he didn’t know it. This song was recorded by Jeff in April 1993 and previously unreleased. It opens with keyboards and Jeff on vocals. Where the original was very pop oriented with synths and drum machines, this one naturally feels more rock with Jeff’s vocals alone as he carries so much more power. The drums on here are real and the bass line is a nice groove as well. Axel shows up only for the solo and it is pretty good one that fits the song with a little bit of showing off (which he should do) and helps make it more of a rock song.

Next up is the first of 3 instrumentals and this one is called “Dreams of Passion” off the Eternal Prisoner album from 1992. You can feel Axel Rudi Pell’s heart pouring out in the notes he is playing. It is heartfelt, passionate and emotional. Talk about feel, it is not about the notes or how fast he can play, it is about control, finesse and inspiration. You could sing along with it and that isn’t always easy to do with an instrumental. Beautifully done.

“Your Life (Not Close Enough to Paradise)” is also off the Eternal Prisoner album and has Jeff on vocals. This is a classic 80’s power ballad and it is an acoustic track so even more 80’s. It has the slow heartfelt vocals from Soto, the powerful drums that heat up in the chorus and Axel’s guitar playing is subtle and effective. It can really pull at the heartstrings. Great track.

The final Jeff Scott Soto song is another recorded back in April 1993 and is “Tearin’ Out My Heart”. This is a cover of the Rainbow classic as Axel is a huge Richie Blackmore fan. Another track with that opens with keyboards, but compared to the original, there are no guitar riffs like Blackmore does. If Axel loves Blackmore so much, why isn’t he matching him note for note on the fills and riffs and his solo isn’t as impressive either. Soto holds his own vocally, but I think Axel is the one lacking here.

Then we get another Richie Blackmore cover with Deep Purple’s “When A Blind Man Cries”. This time the vocals are handled by Impellitteri singer Rob Rock. Rob does a great job vocally as he really pulls the bluesiness out of the song and gives it his all. The pacing of the song is similar to the original, but again, Pell is no Blackmore and it shows. If you aren’t familiar with the original, then this will be a fine track. If you are it is a so-so cover version but doesn’t really hold a candle ot the original. Musically, the blues tone is sorely missing. The highlight on here is definitely Rob Rock as he slays the vocals.

“Broken Heart” is a 1989 demo version of the song that appeared on Wild Obsession but has Karl Holthaus on vocals instead of Charlie Huhn. The song was remixed in April 1993 for this compilation. Karl’s vocals are front and center and the music pushed to the background. The music is simple as they are really wanting to showcase what Karl can do. The chorus has some great harmonies and for a demo is really good. Even when we get to the solo, it is not brought to the front of the mix as it still feels like background, but it has a nice feel to it. All-in-all, I like this one.

The second instrumental we get is “Open Doors Pt. 2: The Journey” recorded back in 1991 for the Nasty Reputation album. Axel’s performance has an airy feel as the notes float around you. It is soft like a ballad and he puts as much emotion in to the notes as he can muster. It doesn’t really feel like a journey though, it just feels like he is going in circles. It is short and sweet.

“Falling Tears” is another previously unreleased track with Rob Rock on vocals. Recorded back in March 1991 it didn’t wind up on Nasty Reputation. Rob has a great falsetto and really goes all out. He is just shy of screaming and it sounds so good. The chorus sees him even go higher as the glass by my desk shatters. What a powerful voice he has.

And finally we get “Broken Heart” again. This time it is a guitar version with Axel taking front and center. The original basic track was recorded back in August 1989, but the lead guitar parts were done in August 1990 a year later. This version is also previously unreleased. Compared to the last couple instrumentals, Axel really is more powerful here. He is putting the power in power ballad. His playing is top notch and finally really highlights his abilities.

Track Listing:

  1. You Want Love – Delete
  2. Forever Young – Keeper
  3. Dreams Of Passion – Keeper
  4. Your Life (Not Close Enough To Paradise) – Keeper
  5. Tearin’ Out My Heart – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  6. When A Blind Man Cries – Keeper
  7. Broken Heart (Demo Version) – Keeper
  8. Open Doors Pt. 2: The Journey – Delete
  9. Falling Tears – Keeper
  10. Broken Heart (Guitar Version) – Keeper

The Track Score is 7.5 out of 10 or a 75%.  I’ll admit, an album full of ballads at first seem too much, but in the end, with the different singers and the instrumentals, it wasn’t half bad. I actually enjoyed it.  The three singers of Jeff Scott Soto, Rob Rock and Karl Holthaus  are all fantastic singers and are not the problem with this release.  I have to say I thought the problem with this release was Axel Rudi Pell.  His name is on the cover, it is his band so if you are listening to this you want more out of the guitar work and I think he pulled back.  Which is great to let the singers shine, but I wanted more power in my ballads.  Despite that, it is still a respectable listen and My Overall Score is a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars.  I loved the fact I got three more Jeff Songs I didn’t have prior and that is always a good thing.

UP NEXT: BIKER MICE FROM MARS – SOUNDTRACK (1993)

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. Bakteria – ‘Deficate! Suffocate! Mutilate! Masturbate!’ (1992 / 2009)
  13. Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
  14. Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
  15. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993)
  16. Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
  17. Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
  18. Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  19. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  20. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  21. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  22. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  23. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  24. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  25. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  26. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
  27. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  28. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  29. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  30. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  31. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  32. Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
  33. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  34. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  35. Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  36. ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  38. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  39. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  40. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  41. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  43. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  44. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  45. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  47. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  48. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  49. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  50. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  51. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  53. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  54. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  55. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  56. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  57. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  58. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  59. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  60. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  61. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  62. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  63. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  64. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  65. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  66. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  67. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  68. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  69. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  70. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  71. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  72. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  73. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)

15 thoughts on “Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

  1. Not to often you see an album with a tune that you would delete off at the start.lol You know you’re a hardcore fan when you buy an album full of ballads for a couple of tracks because you’re homeboy Soto is on them.
    Thats a true music fan right there!

    Liked by 1 person

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