Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

When we reviewed Takara’s ‘Eternal Faith’ album a few weeks back, we mentioned that Jeff Scott Soto said he wasn’t a member of Takara and did it as a favor. Well, a couple years later we are back with the second Takara album and who is singing? It is a Mr. Jeff Scott Soto, of course. After the band had such success in Japan with ‘Eternal Faith’, the Japanese record company wanted another album and would only do it with Jeff on vocals. Jeff didn’t want to let his good friend, Neal Grusky, down and be the reason his buddy lost his record contract, so Jeff being the man he is agreed to do vocal duties again as well as Produced, Engineered and Mixed the album. When Jeff says he’s going to help out, there is no half-assing it for him.

The band had more money to produce this record then the measly $2,500 for the last so we do get better production quality…plus Jeff was getting better at it. The biggest difference is that Jeff’s friend Greg Schutt was no longer on bass. Duties were handled by Carl DeMarco. There were two songs that the bass was done by Bob Daisley from Ozzy and Rainbow fame which is pretty cool, but Carl was the now official band member. On drums, we still had Robert Duda and Neal Grusky on guitar as expected. There are also some keyboard elements done by none other than Jeff’s then girlfriend Julie Greaux, of course!

The album was released on May 24, 1995 in Japan and went to #96 on their national charts, so not bad at all. The version I have is the Canadian Release from 1995 but the CD has 1993. That isn’t the only mistake the CD has as it also called the last song “Lonely Sade of Blue” omitting the “h” in Shade. Oops! Good quality control goes a long way. Let’s get to the music, shall we!

“When Darkness Falls” opens the album with a great riff from Neal Grusky. An upbeat, melodic rocker with some great vocals from Jeff and a catchy chorus. Carl’s bass is thumping away and Robert’s pounding drums both lay a great groove. And then Neal comes back with a great solo and Julie’s keyboards add some nice elements to the song towards the end. You get a typical 80’s rock song but in 1995 and although it isn’t the strongest opening track, it is still decent.

Then we get “Days of Dawn” which is in the same vein as the previous song. This one might be a little more rocking and it is pure melodic bliss. The chorus will have you singing along as it is laden with great harmonies. It slows down in the verses and goes full steam on the choruses and yes, has the obligatory guitar solo. I think this is a better song than the opener and probably would’ve been better in reverse order.

“Your Love” starts off acoustically and then goes full tilt but it isn’t a ballad. It is another rocker. The harmonies are on overload with this one and Jeff is singing a little too high and seems straining at times as if it is forced. This song isn’t bad but it is rather cheesy in tone and lyrics. Too paint-by-numbers…verse, chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo, chorus. You get it. This is one of the two tracks that Bob Daisley played bass on.

The other track Bob played bass on is “December” and I would say he adds some great flavor. The song starts off with a cappella harmonies and then full band. Another rocker, Jeff attacks the vocals and yet is more of the same, but a little better than some. Just no real variety so far.

Opening with keyboards a la Journey, we get a ballad with “Last Mistake”. Jeff goes all emotive on the vocals. The chorus is filled with harmonies and sounds like any other 80’s ballad (but again we are in 1995). It is rather dull, lifeless and boring. Nap time…except for the solo…you can go back to your nap after that.

The title track, “Taste of Heaven”, gets the rocking back but I don’t know if it is my mood or what, but yawn. The band only has one style button and after too many songs it is just tiring. Though the chorus has great harmonies as does most of the album, it is just not exciting or original at all. Next…

“Sacred Pleasure” has a great opening riff and is styled a little different. Finally a little variety. The vocal approach is different as well. There is no full on chorus that you sing along to and in this case it is a good thing. And to top it off, the solo is a keyboard solo and Julie tears it up and then Neal comes in shows her what a real solo is as he shreds up and down the fret for the guitar solo. A great 1-2 punch and something interesting.

“2 Late” comes in heavy with keyboards and back to the cheese sound. I hope you are not lactose intolerant because this might upset your stomach. The thing is I love this style, but as I’ve said a hundred times, no originality in it.

Will “Save Me” save me? I’m afraid not. However, it isn’t awful either. A typical rocker, but a little meat to it. The chorus is good and catchy, the guitar work is pretty good and I caught myself bobbing my head along with it…that is a good sign. Plus, another keyboard and guitar solo. Apparently, I like that.

Then we might be at my favorite song on the album and one Jeff does later in his career as well. “Lonely Shade of Blue” has an acoustic style opening as this ballad delivers the goods. Is it cheesy, yes, but it works in the end. Jeff’s vocals are slow, emotional and effective. When you get to the build up and then that chorus is killer. The way he sings the title is wonderful. His best performance on the album. I don’t normally like ending on a ballad, but this one really works and I am finally enjoying myself.

Track Listing:

  1. When Darkness Falls – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  2. Days of Dawn – Keeper
  3. Your Love – Delete
  4. December – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  5. Last Mistake – Delete
  6. Taste of Heaven – Delete
  7. Sacred Pleasure – Keeper
  8. 2 Late – Delete
  9. Save Me – Keeper
  10. Lonely Shade of Blue – Keeper

The Track Score is 5 of 10 Tracks or 50%.  I’ve read where people don’t think this one is as good as the debut and I don’t know I agree.  I didn’t care for the debut and I don’t care for this one that much so I will say it is as good…and as bad…as the debut.  It is a copy cat sound, unoriginal style and in a genre that died out years earlier.  I guess some parts of the world like it (like Japan), but I can’t wrap my head around it anymore.  There are handful of tracks that are worth keeping and “Lonely Shade of Blue” is a one of Jeff’s classic songs you have to have.  However, My Overall Score is only a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it is too bland and unoriginal when compared to the genre.

There are 2 Bonus Tracks: 

The first bonus track is an acoustic version of “Again Your Love Is Mine” which is a take on the song “Your Love” from the album.  This is way better than most anything on the album or a lot of albums actually.  Jeff’s vocals are so perfect and pristine.  A beautiful ballad delivered with so much heart and soul.  Brilliant.

“Restless Heart” is another acoustic performance.  This song is from the debut album ‘Eternal Faith’ and damn, did they just slay this one too. Jeff’s vocals are again unbelievable.  His vocals are on point, smooth and silky.  Neal’s guitar playing is perfection as well. Just give me a whole album of acoustic songs from these guys and we would get 5.0 Stars all around.  It shows that these songs are truly good songs…if done the right way.

UP NEXT: TALISMAN – ‘LIFE’ (1995)

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 – ‘5 Out Of 5 (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  19. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  20. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  21. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  22. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  23. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
  24. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  25. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  26. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  27. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  28. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  29. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  30. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  31. Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
  32. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  33. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  34. Talisman – ‘Live at Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  35. ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  36. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  38. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  39. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  40. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  41. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  43. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  44. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  45. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  47. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  48. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  49. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  50. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  51. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  53. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  54. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  55. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  56. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  57. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  58. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  59. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  60. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  61. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  62. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  63. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  64. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  65. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  66. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  67. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  68. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  69. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  70. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  71. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  72. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)
  73. Jeff Scott Soto / Jason Bieler – Live In Concert (2022) – Bonus Edition

13 thoughts on “Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

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