Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Jeff Scott Soto’s last solo albums was back in 2005 called ‘Lost in the Translation’. A lot had happened to Jeff after that album including Soul Sirkus and his brief stint with Journey as well as the final Talisman album. To say he had been busy would be an understatement. When it was time to sit down and do another solo album, Jeff wanted to shake things up a little sort of like he did with his band Redlist, only not as extreme as that. He had been loving the music of Swedish musician Paulo Mendonca and wanted to work with him on the album. Paulo ended up producing the as well as co-writing 11 of the 14 songs. Heck, Jeff only co-wrote 7 of the 14 songs which means a lot of these songs were written by other people for him to sing. To be honest, that scared me as Jeff has always written all or almost all of the songs on his albums in the past. Plus, Jeff’s normal band of Howie Simon, Alex Papa and Gary Schutt didn’t get to play on the album as it was Jeff and Paulo mostly which is disappointing.

The album was completed and released on February 20, 2009 with Frontiers although they wasn’t originally the expectation since Jeff felt the songs didn’t fit his normal sound. Soto’s sound for this album wasn’t as heavy as ‘Lost in the Translation’ and sort of went the other direction. It was a little bit groovy, a little bit funky, a little bit of soul and even a little bit of pop with maybe a dab of hard rock and a dash of blues. It is really all over the place. Is that good or bad, I guess we will see. The album was titled ‘Beautiful Mess’ and became known as ‘BM’. Wow! That is a disgusting nickname for the album. I don’t usually enjoy my BM’s so do I want to listen to an album nicknamed BM?

The album does kick off with a rock song. “21st Century” is a guitar driven track, however, Jeff’s vocals are more funky and there are modern electronic elements as well. The chorus though is as catchy as you’d expect as he knows how to have a little hook to make you sing along. It definitely sets the pace and lets you know that this isn’t going to be the typical Soto release. It is a little left of center and yet it works and is a great start to the album with its high energy and all around fun sound.

“Cry Me A River” slows the tempo down and brings us more of a funk-infused pop song with some heavy soul influences. The bass line is pretty cool, that funked-up guitar riff is interesting and though Jeff doesn’t go full on singing for the verses, that bridge and chorus are full of that Soto sound. This confirms you aren’t getting what you expect and so far I’m okay with that change.

The next track, “Gin & Tonic Sky” has a great song title, but that is about it. It is a slow ballad and Jeff’s vocals aren’t what you’d expect. It doesn’t feel like a natural fit. I don’t hear any heart or soul in it, he is going though the motions. We don’t get that smooth, powerful vocal which leads me bored to tears and gives me a very skippable track. I’m probably in the minority on this one, but so generic sounding to me. Now, the song is basically a cover because Paulo had released this song previously with his vocals for a movie soundtrack and that song charted in Switzerland.

“Hey” opens with some acoustic guitars. The song turns in to a pop rock song as the tempo picks up and we get a really catchy chorus. The energy is bright and sunny and has the feel good vibe to it that I love. Throw in those great Soto vocals and you have the ingredients for a great pop song. A definite step up for me from the last track as I really enjoyed this one.

Then it is back to another ballad called “Broken Man”. There are too many ballads on this one already and we are 5 songs in which is not a good thing. The song is a little dark and somber, it has a little blues feel or is it just a sad country song, either way it is a little too depressing for my liking. Soto does get a little soulful on it so there are some good vocal moments, but in the end, I can’t get in to this one either.

The album goes all 1970’s with the funk driven rocker, “Mountain”. The chorus goes all electric guitar rock, while the verses are more funk and all churchy with an almost revival feel to it. It is one of those songs that has so much to like yet still not completely great throughout plus lyrics are a little cheesy. However, it has more good moments than not thankfully and is an interesting and another fun track.

“Our Song” is up next and very radio friendly track and opens with some irritating electronic drums beats…so awful, but when the the full band comes blasting in we get some better drums sounds, some great electric guitars and an upbeat energetic chorus. It is a pop song, but if the nickname of the album is ‘BM’, then is it a poop song…I don’t know. If it didn’t have that awful fake drum sounding crap, this would be a great song instead it is an okay track.

Then we get the soulful song “Eye” as Jeff gets those vocals to bring the soul. The chorus really ramps up the energy and has some great backing vocals like a good soul song should have. It is one of the few songs were Jeff gets to be Jeff on vocals and really give it his all which the album has been sorely lacking. Not one of my favorites, but better than most on the album.

First you get soul, then why not full on R&B as Soto goes all Marvin Gaye on us with “Bring It Home”. This is totally unexpected and not completely unwelcome. No rock elements here, but Jeff really takes some chances with this one and I think they work surprisingly. It gets you bobbing your head in a gentle rhythm as you caught up in the groove and that is what you want in a good song.

Earlier had had a song that was all church-like, but “Testify” is full on speaking-in-tongue church. It is another funky track and Jeff spits out those lyrics with a preacher tone and when that chorus hits, everyone drops to their knees and testify to the music gods. The album has been lacking this kind of energy and Jeff brings it with this one. Amen brother!! The song was written with Ben Carey who played with Savage Garden and with Lifehouse (I love this band).

Then it is back to the ballads with “Wherever U Wanna Go”. The verses are slow, boring and although Jeff sounds okay, the emotion is flat. However, that chorus brings the energy and Jeff turns it up a notch. But that back and forth leaves me wanting more half the time and only happy half the time. I need full on happy with this many ballads. A good chorus can only take you so far.

“Kick It” is another pop song that starts off slow and builds slowly as it progresses through. It is more acoustic than electric and totally goes nowhere for me. Pretty boring and uninspiring and is complete filler for me and totally skippable.

Then we get to the bonus tracks. First up is “Heart Starts Healing” and it is another pop rock song. Another generic track and I’m not a fan of Soto’s vocals on this one at all. They are aren’t smooth or very melodic. He seems to be singing off a sheet with no emotion and no heart in it. I see why it is considered a bonus track, although it is no bonus.

Finally, we get “Take U Over With Me” which is more of a power ballad and holy crap, we’ve had a ton of those so far. This one is nothing special either. More of a basic, formulaic ballad that sounds lifeless and dull. The verses slow, the chorus builds up and takes us no where. Ugh!!

Track Listing:

  1. 21st Century – Keeper
  2. Cry Me A River – Keeper
  3. Gin & Tonic Sky – Delete
  4. Hey – Keeper
  5. Broken Man – Delete
  6. Mountain – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  7. Our Song – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  8. Eye – Keeper
  9. Bring It Home – Keeper
  10. Testify – Keeper
  11. Wherever U Wanna Go – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  12. Kick It – Delete
  13. Heart Starts Healing (Bonus Track) – Delete
  14. Take U Over With Me (Bonus Track) – Delete

The Track Score is 7.5 out of 14 or 54%.  The nicknamed title, ‘BM’, didn’t really fit the album as it wasn’t as bad as a BM. The real title doesn’t fit either because for me the album wasn’t very beautiful, but it was a little of a mess. I think Jeff taking a step back on production and songwriting really hurt the album. He put too much reliance on Paulo to the detriment of the music.  Now, it isn’t all bad as there are a bunch of songs to enjoy, but overall, the experience left me a little bored at times and uninterested in what they were trying to do.  The big detractor was Jeff’s vocals weren’t used to their fullest capabilities and that is the main reason I come along on the Soto train, it is his voice!  Now, it isn’t the worst thing he has ever done by far and I do enjoy a number of songs so I won’t be too harsh.  My Overall Score is a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars.

BONUS DVD:

Now, that isn’t all the album has to offer. The deluxe edition has a bonus DVD as well as those bonus tracks we discussed. The DVD has 5 videos on it. You get the music videos for “21st Century”, “Gin & Tonic Sky” and “Hey”. You also get another video for “Gin & Tonic Sky” the Piano version. You also get a little behind the scenes/documentary on the album called “What a Beautiful Mess” which is twenty minutes and so much fun. There is also a photo gallery and if you pull it up on your computer, you can access some wallpaper photos as well as the music videos to put on your ipod as this was 2009. I nice little something extra for the purchase.

And that is all…next up a promo CD from the album.

UP NEXT: JEFF SCOTT SOTO – “21st CENTURY” / “GIN & TONIC SKY” CD SINGLE (2009) – 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. 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. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  33. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  34. ‘Rock Star: Music from the Motion Picture (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  35. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  36. Humanimal – Find My Way Home: Limited Edition E.P. (2002)
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002)
  38. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  39. Talisman – ‘Live at Sweden Rock Festival’ (2002)
  40. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  41. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2004
  43. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  44. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  45. Soul SirkUS – ‘World Play’ (2004/2005)
  46. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  47. Talisman – ‘World’s Best Kept Secret DVD (2005)
  48. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  49. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  50. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  51. Talisman – The Albums Ranked Worst to First
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  53. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  54. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  55. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  56. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  57. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  58. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  59. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  60. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  61. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  62. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  63. Jeff Scott Soto – The Authorized Biography (2014)
  64. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  65. Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Dying to Live (2015)
  66. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  67. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  68. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  69. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  70. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  71. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  72. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  73. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  74. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  75. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  76. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  77. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)
  78. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Complicated’ (2022)
  79. Ellefson/Soto – ‘Vacation in the Underground’ (2022)
  80. Jeff Scott Soto / Jason Bieler – Live In Concert (2022) – Bonus Edition

9 thoughts on “Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

  1. Safe to say that the way Soto puts out music you will be reviewing his stuff into 2024 lol. The best thing John is u have all this stuff and some of it is so so and thats the sign of a true fan. One who buys it all yet can say ….”Um this one is missing the mark”

    Liked by 1 person

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