The story of Jeff Scott Soto and Takara starts way back in 1985 when Jeff met Neal Grusky who is a founding member of Takara. They quickly became friends through their mutual love of music. Neal started Takara in 1987, but it wasn’t until November 1988 that Jeff really got involved. He agreed to help produce a set of demos for the band. When current lead sing, Mark Del Papa, couldn’t do the vocals due to drug issues, Jeff jumped in and sang on the demos as well. The demos were strictly to help the band find a lead singer. Now, where have we heard that before??? Oh yeah, Panther.
Jeff’s job was to produce and do the scratch vocals. They would bring in other singers to sing as well and Jeff would help produce and mix those. This went on for a number of years and they had done demos from 1987 to 1991. There was no intention to release these, it was strictly to get the band moving forward. Also, Jeff had never produced or mixed before so it was a trial by fire process.
Somehow, the tapes wound up with EMI/Toshiba in Japan and the label really liked them and showed interest in the band. But there was a catch…isn’t there always. They didn’t want to release an album with the other singers, they only liked Jeff’s versions and would only release it with Soto as the singer. Neal went back to his friend and Jeff being the good friend he was, agreed to let that happen as he didn’t want his friend to lose the label deal.
To get the album ready, Jeff jumped in with both feet and helped produce the album and clean up the songs. He didn’t think the drummer was very strong so he redid all the drums through either a drum machine or setting up a rough kit and playing it himself. He also brought in his friend Gary Schutt to play bass (a name that will pop up later in the series). You had Neal on guitar and then the drummer is listed as Robert Duda (who apparently had all his parts re-done by Soto). The band was only given $2,500 to pretty up the record and I will tell you, it sounds like they had only $2,500 as it is not a very well produced album. And part of it is that Jeff had never produced before either. Hey, you get what you pay for, am I right! So, in December 1993, Jeff Scott Soto held up his end of the bargain and introduced Takara to the world, but he had no intentions of making this a band…well…we will see if that happened later when we have two more Takara albums to review with Jeff singing!! On to the music…
The first track, “Spotlight”, sounds like you are right back in 1985 with the keyboards and heavy guitar riffs. It is Bon Jovi meets Europe. The album sounds so dated in the 80’s which is not where the music scene was going in 1993!! It has the obligatory guitar solo and Jeff’s vocals have that higher register tone which was key for 80’s rock. The biggest problem is the keyboards are high in the mix and sound like crap. They have this crisp, clink, clink sound to them which I find rather annoying. But not too much that I don’t enjoy the song…more a production note.
“Two Hearts Together” is more in your face 80’s rock (okay, the whole album is). You could place any band’s name in here during that era and you’d be right and this time it could easily be Dokken. Jeff is Mr. Melodic Vocals as his style and tone fits it so well. And if this was 10 years earlier than 1993, we might have a hit on our hands. The chorus is catchy and got some hooks and you got the gun slinger of Neal Grusky shredding away on guitar.
“Don’t Walk Away” is up next and it has some funky bass line from Schutt (who funny enough is a killer guitar player). Thankfully the keyboards aren’t really here on this one. The song’s tempo has slowed a little with a slightly darker tone making it less bouncy like the other songs. The drum parts sound good here and more Grusky soloing. It’s a pretty good song, but it doesn’t have anything that really puts it over the top either. Catchy enough chorus, Jeff sounds great, but missing that little something.
The tempo jumps back up with “Just Like Yesterday”, keyboards are back and you right back in to the 80’s. This one could be Journey or Toto or Survivor or who knows what. It has the hooks, the guitar riffs and those soaring 80’s style vocals.
An acoustic guitar and angelic keyboard notes are played and we get our first ballad with “Restless Heart”. Jeff’s vocals start off soft and emotive and then the song blows up the power and then back to the soft verses. Vocally Jeff gives it his heart and soul. Overall, a pretty generic ballad with the usual checklist of requirements you must have to be considered one. It is a pretty good track, but doesn’t compare to what the field offered in the 80’s…oh right, this isn’t the 80’s…this is 1993…I keep forgetting what year this was released.
Then suddenly it sounds like my CD is skipping…you know that sound… rather annoying. Well, that is how this song opens up…yikes!! “First Attraction” is a pure rocker. The chorus is pretty catchy, but it is a paint-by-numbers generic track.
“I Don’t Believe” is up next and sadly it is more of the same old same old. Again, if this was the 80’s I might dig this more, but when it came out it wasn’t and this shipped had sailed. It does have one of the best solos by Grusky on it though, I will give it that. The instrumental break in this one is pretty killer and is the main reason to spin it.
“Fallen Angel” is up next and should I continue with the comparisons as we all know what this will sound like as there is no originality to any of it. This song is destroyed by the clink, clinks of the keyboards. They sound so awful, I mean beyond bad. And the drum sound, ugh. Take both of those out and maybe decent track.
Then more horrible keyboards with “Colors Fade”, a true ballad. The keyboards are supposed to sound like a real piano, but they don’t…not even close. Jeff really sounds good here as he doesn’t hold back. Production really kills this one for me.
Lastly, and thankfully, we get “Passions of the Heart” which has more of that horrible keyboard. Really, do we need this much keyboard…NO!!! Well, it would be fine if it sounded good. This is more like a Survivor song, upbeat, rocks a little and also poppy at the same time. A catchy chorus and great melodic sound. A little cheesy and generic, but not terrible.
- Spotlight – Keeper
- Two Hearts Together – Keeper
- Don’t Walk Away – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Just Like Yesterday – Keeper
- Restless Heart – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- First Attraction – Delete
- I Don’t Believe – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Fallen Angel – Delete
- Colors Fade – Delete
- Passions of the Heart – Keeper (1/2 Point)
The Track Score is 5 out of 10 Tracks or 50%. As a Soto fan, I do like this album, but if I am being honest it isn’t that good. Released in 1993 and the song is drenched in the 80’s and at times with the incredibly awful keyboards, the songs are some times drowning in the sound. The production quality is so bad and the only things that sound good are the guitars, the bass and Jeff. Jeff did produce it so he is to blame and so is the lack of money for quality work. To be fair, I don’t think he had every produced anything up to this point and it shows. My Overall Score is a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it does have some fine moments, but the production does kill it for me. However, if you are so in love with the 80’s sound that nothing matters, you might dig this.
A fun thing I found while researching the song, I stumbled across a website called TakaraRocks.com that is basically former lead singer Mark Del Papa accusing…sorry slandering Neal Grusky and Jeff Scott Soto for stealing all his song ideas and claiming them off as their own. It is pretty crazy stuff. Funny thing is he slams Soto for not having any credibility in the music scene as a songwriter but I believe Jeff is still going pretty strong and always working…where is Mark? Not sure how real this is, but crazy what you find on the internet sometimes.
UP NEXT: TALISMAN – ‘FIVE OUT OF FIVE (LIVE IN JAPAN)’ (1994)
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)
- Bakteria – ‘Deficate! Suffocate! Mutilate! Masturbate!’ (1992 / 2009)
- Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
- Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993)
- Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
- Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
- Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
- Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
- Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
- Talisman – ‘Life’ (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)
- Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
- Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
- Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
- Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
- ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (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)
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (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)