Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Talisman’s debut did quite well in Sweden, but for Jeff Scott Soto, it was only viewed it at the time as a side project as he was busy with his band Eyes. The band Eyes was frustrating for him so he left to work on a new band Slam. Marcel Jacob still kept Talisman alive. However, the label went belly up and Jason signed with Warner Sweden. With Jeff gone, Jason Bieler left to focus on Saigon Kick and everyone else left, Marcel needed a band. After much searching, he found 19 year old guitarist extraordinaire, Fredrik Akesson. Then shortly thereafter, he ran in to an old grade school pal, Matti Alfonzetti, who would join as the singer. They wrote and put some demos together for the label.

However, there was some management change at the label and they didn’t care about the success of the debut album as it wasn’t their baby so Marcel packed shop and left. They shopped the album around and after six months of nothing, Matti decided to leave and pursue other things. Marcel was not deterred and kept shopping the demo around without a singer. Finally Dino Records was interested in the band with one big catch. They wanted Jeff back on vocals. They knew about the success of their debut with Jeff and they loved that sound. That wasn’t a terrible thing for Marcel. Marcel decided to reach out to Jeff and catch up. And within 3 weeks of that call, the two were together again in the studio to record the next Talisman album. Why did Jeff join so quickly, well…the Eyes were done in his eyes and his band Slam was going nowhere as every door had been slammed in their face so what choice did he have. None really and we are all the better for it.

Talisman at this point was Marcel Jacob, Jeff Scott Soto and Fredrik Akesson (now in Opeth) and so they had enough players with just the three of them and they got to work. They didn’t have a drummer anymore as Jakob Samuel left to focus on finding a band where he could be singer so Marcel handled all the drumming through a machine as well as the bass work. They recorded the album in December 1992 and on July 7, 1993, the album was released. It actually got some international interest and not just in Sweden. A Japanese edition was done with a bonus track. My version is not either the original or the Japanese Edition. I have the 2003 Re-Issue that was a double CD. The original album with the Japanese Bonus Track, plus a Bonus CD full of demos and alternate mixes. You even get the songs that were sung by Matti Alfonzetti which for a collector is a pretty cool score.

“Time After Time” kicks off the album and it was a song developed during a sound check while on tour for the debut album. Marcel was playing around with it and took it back to the hotel and turned it in to a song with Jeff adding lyrics and vocals later. The song kicks off with some finger picking and then a funky bass groove and then BAM!! It explodes in to a heavy rock track that blows your head off as your mind tries to wrap around the greatness. Jacob’s bass is front and center laying down a nasty funked up groove and the riffs by this 19 year old virtuoso player a recipe for a masterpiece. Soto’s vocals are powerful and yet so melodic and the chorus is catchy and slick and pure bliss. What a way to kick off the album.

Next up is “Comin’ Home” which was actually the first song written for the album and is about finding that perfect place that is a part of you as much as you are a part of it. The combo of Jacob and Akesson are the new dynamic duo of bass and guitar. Together they lay waste to all that hears them. It is a smorgasbord to the senses. This stadium sized anthem is loud and features metal riffs while maintaining that melodic sound with Sotos smooth vocals. Check out the solo as Akesson shows what he is made of with this one. You do get Jakob Samuels on the backing vocals so he wasn’t totally gone yet.

The first single off the album and a classic Talisman song is “Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious)” and it keeps the party going. If this song would’ve come out 3 years earlier you would have an instant and massive radio (and MTV) hit. This Chic inspired song has some fun and funk that pays homage to them while still being a pure hard rock song. Jeff’s vocals soar and he has never sounded better. Talisman is the biggest showcase of the stellarness that is Jeff’s vocals. I think I’m making up words.

“If You Could Only Be My Friend” brings some more hot, sizzling, funky goodness. I guess when the main songwriter is the bass player, bass will be heavy in the songs and Talisman is certainly that. Marcel’s playing is so recognizable the minute I hear it, I know who it is. How many bass players can do that? This song is his showcase. The song is rick, textured and full of layers of goodness. Soto tackles the vocals with the veracity of those bass line. That chorus seeps into your ears and sets up shop to be sung long after the song is over. The guitar solo, with the heavy bass thumping along, slays and the album.

The bass keeps going straight into “All or Nothing” that explodes with a force that will shake the walls and rattle the floors. The lightning tempo will get you moving for sure. It is 100 mph rock frenzy as all the songs have been so far. The solo is a back and forth for the Bass and the Guitar before the Guitar solo knocks it out of the park. This 19 year old is a pure powerhouse and a major shredder. There is no time to catch your breath as it is pounding one song after the other. And Amen to that brother!!!

Then things finally slow down with the first ballad “All I Want”. The song is piano based which starts off with just the piano and Soto on vocals. The piano is actually played by Jeff’s girlfriend at the time Julie Greaux (Billy Idol & Axel Rudi Pell). The band comes kicking in and adds the power to the ballad. The song is quite nice with the emotive vocals that immerse you into the song. You have the obligatory solo and everything you want in a power ballad. It is a nice time to slow it down so you could catch your breath.

The next one opens with a bass solo accompanied by a heavy pounding bass drum. “U Done Me Wrong” kicks off the back half of the album as the first had started with power and energy. When these boys rock, the kick some major ass. The song follows the same formula as the rest and as a result works just fine. Jakob is back on backing vocals for this one too.

“I’ll Set Your House On Fire” is another rocker and this time the guitar riffs are nasty and a little gritty. There is a stylistic change, a more deliberate pacing, a darker tone and a heavier groove. The sound is crisp and clean and the guitar solo is short and sweet. Jeff’s vocals aren’t as sweeping and smooth as he adds some grit and gives a more serious delivery brings us one a really cool song.

Another rocker with “Give Me A Sign” was originally a Matti song that they tweaked the lyrics so Jeff could make it his own and he did. Not as heavy as prior songs, still a rocker though. Bumped up against the first half of the album shows the song is still good, but not as strong as the first half songs. Jeff’s vocals are melodic and strong, but the song itself is a little dull compared to the others. The saving grace is the guitar work by this kid at the end. It is stellar. But I still wouldn’t skip it.

More funky goodness comes with “Lovechild”. Marcel lays down some magic with those bass lines. Jeff turns the vocals into another melodic party. This one is a slower rocker with as not as much power, but more power than a ballad. It sounds like three guys playing and having fun making sound it so effortlessly and easy. When Frederik lays down that solo and has Marcel chugging along, it is fantastic. A great deep cut.

The dramatic, orchestrated keyboard opening of “Long Way To Go” is over-the-top goodness. The song then kicks in as the true rocker it is. Jeff’s vocals are on point and he delivers another great performance and just slays that short chorus with a scream of the song title. Another great solo and there are a lot of those. To think he was only around 19….crazy. Julie is also on this one but as backing vocals. What I like about this song is how different it sounds then a lot of the songs on here. I don’t know if it was a last minute add, but I am glad they did. It is great way to go out. Except not the end of the re-issue as we get a bonus track.

The Japanese Edition of the album had a Bad Company cover thanks in large part to Marcel who was getting in to Paul Rodgers at the time and loved this song. Jeff handles is beautifully as he can morph his vocals to fit almost any style and he takes this one and delivers an authentic Bad Company performance of the song with “Run With the Pack”. Okay his verses are pure Jeff, but I like the way he tackles the chorus with that deeper tone. It is great.

Track Listing:

  1. Time After Time – Keeper
  2. Comin’ Home – Keeper
  3. Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious) – Keeper
  4. If U Would Only Be My Friend – Keeper
  5. All or Nothing – Keeper
  6. All I Want – Keeper
  7. U Done Me Wrong – Keeper
  8. I’ll Set Your House on Fire – Keeper
  9. Give Me A Sign – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  10. Lovechild – Keeper
  11. Long Way To Go – Keeper
  12. Run With the Pack (Bad Company Cover) – Keeper

The Track Listing is 11.5 out of 12 or 96% which is almost flawless.  But let’s be honest, this album is flawless.  It is the perfect vehicle to highlight Jeff Scott’s vocals as this is his wheelhouse in style I like him the best.  Fredrik Akesson is only 19 and he nails every note and solo perfectly.  For a band that does this style of music, you need a gunslinger and they found it. Marcel’s bass playing might be one of my favorite things of Talisman.  I love how prominent he is in the sound and he is the main songwriter along with Jeff.  This is as close to perfect as you can get.  My Overall Score is easily 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars and might be the best thing they ever did…I said might be.

Bonus Disc:

The 2003 Reissue had a bonus disc of demos and rare cuts from the band and it is pretty great. It kicks off an early cut of “Time After Time” which is a rough mix and and a little more raw which is kind of nice. It is definitely not finished production wise and I like the feel of it. Then we get “Comin’ Home” which again, not finished so a little rougher around the edges but you can hear the magic of this one. “U Done Me Wrong” still has the bass solo opener, but the bass drum is weak and awful, probably a cheap drum machine place holder. Once the song kicks in it is back to what you know. “Give Me A Sign” is next and wasn’t my favorite song on the album, and still not here either. It still not a bad song, but weaker in comparison.

Then we get the Matti Alfonzetti sung songs. First up is “Fighting For Your Life” which is the original title of “All or Nothing”. Matti has a great voice and I do like this early version of the song. They completely redid the lyrics and Matti’s song writing credit with the studio album. Musically it is basically the same. This is a very rough demo and not produced very well (thus a demo I guess). It does have the energy of the final version though. Cool track though I see why the label wanted Jeff. Then we get his version of “Time After Time”. and I think it sounds great. Basically same song with re-worked lyrics as again, no Matti writing credit on the final version like their is with this one. I’m guessing he didn’t write the chorus cause that is no different. Strange. “Give Me A Sign” is back again with Matti and again, same song, reworked lyrics. The next Matti sung song is “Angel” which Talisman never actually recorded for a studio album because it was written by only Matti. It was released on a Bam Bam Boys album and a Matti solo album I believe. It is a cool song. “Lovechild” which is like the others, rough different lyrics.

The last song is a song called “Rainbow’s End” which is a rare Talisman holy grail type song. It was recorded with Thomas Vikstrom on vocals. Thomas was lead singer of a band called Horny Strings. He recorded some demos with Marcel, but little interest was ever gained on them. The song is a great hard rock song with a great solo by someone. Marcel’s bass work is prominent as you’d expect. This is a cool treasure. The last track is a video that can be played on your PC. It is for the song “Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious)” and a great piece to have as well all on one spot (and you can see the video earlier on in the post).

I’m not going to rate the Bonus disc because it is demos and not quite fair. But as a collector this is 100% cool!! And worth every penny to grab this if you see it. I hope you enjoyed this long run through the album. Thanks for hanging around this long.

UP NEXT: AXEL RUDI PELL – ‘THE BALLADS’ (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. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  19. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  20. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  21. Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  22. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  23. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  24. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  25. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (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 as 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)

Aerosmith – “A Little South of Sanity” (1998) – Album Review (The Aerosmith Collection Series)

Released on October 28, 1998, ‘A Little South of Sanity’ was the final album to be released with Geffen Records. Funny thing with Aerosmith, three albums in to a 6 album deal with Geffen, Aerosmith signed a new contract with Columbia Records…who does that. At the time they signed the deal, they only had done 3 albums. ‘Get a Grip’ became #4, the greatest hits compilation was #5 and this live album was the 6th and final one. I guess Columbia Records and Geffen had a good relationship because before this 6th album came out, Columbia got to release ‘Nine Lives’. Only Aerosmith could pull something like that off.

But we are here to talk about the live album ‘A Little South of Sanity’. The album was pieced together from two entirely different tours. Some songs from the 1993-1994 ‘Get A Grip’ Tour and the rest from the 1997-1998 ‘Nine Lives’ Tour which was still going on after this album was released. And here is the strange thing, we don’t know the shows every song comes from which I think is nuts. Isn’t anyone tracking that information? Apparently not. We do know some songs, but a lot are still a mystery. What we do know are there are 23 tracks and almost 2 hours of live Aerosmith. That is perfect.

The cover art is said to be inspired by an incident where Joey Kramer’s Ferrari caught on fire at a gas station. Joey blamed the gas attendant for the incident. Therefore the picture of the gas attendant on the cover is said to be filmmaker Patrick Connolly. At least he is claiming it is him. I don’t know if it is confirmed. And it says filmmaker, but I don’t know what films he has done and I guess it isn’t important. Also on the cover, you notice the album got a Parental Advisory Sticker and it is the only album of Aerosmith to ever get one. It is for some of the colorful language Steven uses in between songs.

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Aerosmith – “Angel” (1988) – 7″ Single (The Aerosmith Collection – Bonus Edition)

The next single from the Permanent Vacation album we will discuss is the third single from the album, “Angel”. Again, we have another Promotional copy of the single which means “Angel” is the only song on each side. The song was written by Steven Tyler and Desmond Child and is one of the band’s biggest hits up to that time going all the way to #3 on the Billboard Charts.

Tyler feels this song was a big sell-out for the band he hated for Record Executive, John Kalodner, for forcing outside writers in to the band. Tyler felt the ballad made him look like he lost all his street cred. However, I am sure his bank account would disagree. And if you look at the next couple Aerosmith albums, there a few more ballads in the mix. It helped revitalize their career so it wasn’t all bad.

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Aerosmith – ‘Permanent Vacation’ (1987) – Album Review (The Aerosmith Collection Series)

The band was in trouble after ‘Done With Mirrors’. What was supposed to be their comeback album, flopped big time. The drugs were still a big problem. So the band had to make a huge change…and they did. They got sober! ‘Permanent Vacation’ is the first album the band has ever made that they were sober…no drugs, no drinking…clean and sober. And people reacted to that in a big way. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer had a lot to prove and they couldn’t do it alone.

The studio that the first batch of help should come from a great producer. At the helm this time around was Bruce Fairbairn and his amazing engineering staff of Mike Fraser and Bob Rock which is one of the most impressive crew behind the boards every in music history. Heck, Bruce even played trumpet, cello and sang background vocals while Mike Fraser played something called a plunger mute. Huh??? Well, that is a trumpet with an attachment on the front that mutes the sound a little. I don’t see where Bob is credited with anything other than masterful engineering. The recorded at the very famous Little Mountain Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. If you saw my interview with Paul Laine we talked about that studio a lot.

The second row of help came from some song doctors, however, this was one big area of contention with the band. They were forced to work with outside writers much in the way Cheap Trick had to with ‘Lap of Luxury’ that we discussed earlier this week. The biggest contribution came from Desmond Child who co-wrote 3 of the tracks, 2 of which were massive singles for the band. They also had help from Jim Vallance (Bryan Adams writing partner) and Holly Knight (Kiss and Cheap Trick).

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Judas Priest – ‘Angel of Retribution’ (2005) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

After the 1990 album, ‘Painkiller’, Rob Halford left Judas Priest and the band continued on for 11 years with the singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. Rob went on and did his own thing whether it was the band Fight, Two or band Halford. Judas Priest did two albums with Ripper during this time, but the fans were screaming for Halford and Priest to reunite. Rob had wanted that for a long time, but was too afraid to reach out (at least that is what he says in his book). However, eventually it happened. Rob Halford was to rejoin Priest and in 2003, it finally happened.

Judas Priest toured a little and then went in to the studio to record their new album ‘Angel of Retribution’. They recorded from October to December of 2004 and the album was finally released on February 23, 2005 and to quite acclaim. It went to #13 on the Billboard 200 Charts and Priest were back. Rob brought over Roy Z as the producer who also mixed and engineered the album as well. Roy Z was the guitar player in Rob’s band Halford and he produced several of those albums as well.

I read somewhere that the album artwork was a continuation of the angel from ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. This time the angel has transformed in to steel as she is rising out of the ashes and becoming the angel of retribution. Who knows if that is true, but cool to think that it is a reference to that album.

After 11 years apart, what would the new Priest sound like was the question of the day. Judas Priest would come out and deliver a massively heavy album and usher their sound in to the 21st Century! Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis are ready to rock.

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Matt Nathanson – ‘At the Point’ – Album Review

For the regulars of my site, they already know I am a huge Matt Nathanson fan.  For those non-regulars, I will let you know I am a huge Matt Nathanson fan.  I have been re-exploring his earlier catalog lately and I want to point out a great live set he has available called ‘At the Point’.

‘At the Point’ was recorded, well, at The Point.  The Point is an intimate club in Philadelphia, PA.  It was recorded in the Summer of 2005 and released in 2006.  It is only Matt and his acoustic guitar.  Nothing or no one else.

What I love about this album is it is a lot of his old songs from before my discovery of Matt which was around 2007 or so.  The album showcases his live performance, his ability to own a crowd, his comedic stylings (he is one funny SOB), his voice and most importantly his songwriting and musicianship.

From such classics as “Church Clothes”, “Answering Machine”, “Curve of the Earth” and “I Saw” to his cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” and Drivin’ N Cryin’s “Straight to Hell”, you get lost in his performances as they are delivered so flawlessly and seem so personal.  You get laughs as he tells stories that will have you laughing your ass off and you just get an hour and seven minutes of pure enjoyment.  This is what a live album should be.  Something you can feel and connect with.

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