This is not a side project, the band has made that clear and one way to prove that Sons of Apollo is a band is to tour and they did. But the show they decided to record wasn’t just a tour show, Nope! It was so much more. And it needed to be. They needed to capture the true essence of what this band is about and I have to say, I believe they did that and then some. They recorded the show back on September 22, 2018 at The Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Plovdiv Bulgaria and what a beautiful setting it is. Worthy of the Sons of the God Apollo. And the show couldn’t just be the band playing, Nope. It needed a little something extra so they brought in the Plovdiv Orchestra and a choir nicely named for this show as the Psychotic Symphony. This isn’t a band playing their songs with a symphony like so many bands, this is different, fresh and exciting.
You get it all packaged in a 3 CD set, that is right…3 CDs cover the whole entire show. Over 2 1/2 hours of rock & roll & prog bliss!! And if that isn’t enough, they throw in a DVD of the entire show as well. And the DVD is really where it is at in my book. Listening to the CD is great and you will enjoy the show, but when you watch it live and see these guys in action, Holy Shit!! These guys can play and they put on a master class of what musicianship really is. With Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, Mike Portnoy and drums, Derek Sherinian on Keyboards, Billy Sheehan on bass and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar, these are some of the best in the field and they show you how it is done.
We interrupt the Jeff Scott Soto Series to bring you a new concert review for a show I attended this weekend that included Jeff Scott Soto and Jason Bieler. It was Saturday, I guess that makes it alright, so I headed down to the Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC, for another fun evening with the comedy stylings of Jeff Scott Soto and Jason Bieler…oh yeah…there was a lot of music too. What started out as two grumpy old men sitting on stage, ended with two very drunk men practically falling off stage…ok not quite, but they had a lot fun as people kept bringing them drinks all night long…as well as cookies.
The evening started at 6pm for those that bought the VIP package…and yes, I was one of those. Last year, they mostly sang, but this year they did a full on Q&A section. You had to stand up, say your name and where you are from, then the crowd said it back to you. My question was to both of them asking if we would see Solo tours from them anytime. Jason stated that he is working on doing a Baron Von Belski tour later in the year, but wants to make sure it presents those 2 Baron albums the right way. Jeff got all serious and laid down the truth. That truth is No, there will be no tour. He said there is no demand for his solo shows in the States and it would not be cost effective to pull it off. Sadly, I know he is right and that disappointments me greatly. I guess I need to keep writing the Soto reviews as the word hasn’t reached everyone yet.
After the Q&A, the boys played a few songs for us including the Saigon Kick songs “On and On”, “One Step Closer” (I think) and ‘Sgt. Steve”. All classic SK songs and performed beautifully. The two were in rare form, cracking jokes and keeping the audience in stitches and they even lost it a few times (especially Jeff). Sometimes Jeff would laugh so hard because Beiler would go off on these tangents that made no sense, but were funny as hell. After around 30-45 minutes or so, the VIP experience ended, the boys went to eat and then we waited for the show. Oh yeah, I forgot we were given a secret password and any time they said that word, we were to cheer really loudly and get all excited. They said this would confuse those that came in for the show and by the end the would start cheering and have no understanding why. The word was “New Jersey” as there were several people in the Q&A from there.
The roots of Sons of Apollo stem back to the band Dream Theater as both Derek Sherinian and Mike Portnoy were once members. They both left Dream Theater (Sherinian fired in 1999 and Portnoy left in 2010) and eventually teamed back up for a short-lived instrumental project called PSMS with Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine. Billy had played with Mike in the band The Winery Dogs. Eventually, Derek, Mike and Billy decided to make it a full time band (not a project) and they started Sons of Apollo. They needed a guitarist and Mike suggest Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal because why not, he’s fantastic. They also needed a singer and Mike suggested Jeff Scott Soto as his band had opened for The Winery Dogs and I am guessing Mike was impressed. The band was complete and ready to go.
The band recorded in only 10 days as their schedules were busy. They were produced by the dynamic duo called The Del Fuvio Brothers. What? You never heard of them…well…it is the nickname that both Derek and Mike had while in Dream Theater so they used that as the Producer name since they both produced the album. The band’s sound is a pinch of early Dream Theater and a dab of pure Classic Rock. Musically, the songs were written mostly by Portnoy and Sherinian with help from Bumblefoot and Billy. Soto handled most of the lyrics, but there was input Sherinian and Portnoy on a lot of the songs as well. It was a team effort (led by Derek & Mike).
The cover art work on the album was handled by Mike Portnoy. He had the vision. It was going to be two lions facing each other, but Derek suggested that his lion be an eagle and you can see it holding the keyboard while the lion is holding the drumsticks. There is a crown with a bunch of Bumblefoot and Billy’s headstocks form their guitar and bass behind it. I am not sure what part represents Soto. Is it the crown because he is the king of vocals or are the 3 spikes in the center actually pipes which would represent his vocal pipes? I don’t know, I’m making things up as I go along. The album title comes from the song “Lost in Oblivion” which has the line ‘Psychotic Symphony” in one of the verses. The album was released on October 20, 2017 to much critical acclaim and was a resounding success.
Soul SirkUS started originally as a project called PlanetUS which had Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. They demoed a couple songs, but it ended abruptly when Sammy and Michael returned to their small side gig called Van Halen. Neal and Deen wanted to continue so they needed a singer. Then in January 2004 at the NAMM Convention in Anaheim, California. Neal had heard of Jeff Scott Soto thanks to Andrew McNiece at Melodicrock.com who was good friends with Jeff and mentioned it to Neal. At the NAMM Convention, Neal and Jeff met and jammed and the relationship between the two was born.
They pulled in the great bass player Marco Mendoza and now the band was complete. They recorded 11 songs and changed the name from PlanetUS to Soul SirkUS. The name had to have the US in the name as Neal wanted to show this as a continuation of what he started with PlanetUS. The Soul Sirkus parts each start with an S to represent Neal Schon and Jeff Scott Soto. They spent time writing together, Neal on music and Soto on lyrics, but from what I gather, it was recorded in two days!! That is impressive. The album was complete and released on December 7, 2004. The cover was black which is different than the copy I have and I still need to get that copy.
While rehearsing for a tour, Deen Castronovo was exhausted and his health was not great after the long Journey tour that he and Neal just recently finished. Deen stepped away. But no one wanted the project to end so they recruited drummer Virgil Donati most notably from the band Planet X. The band didn’t want to go on the road as a band and support an album that not every member played on so they went back in the studio and had Virgil re-do all the drum parts. This gave them time to do a couple new songs as well. They re-released the album in March 2005 and this time the cover was a bright yellow and there were now 16 songs and not just the original 11 tracks.
Alright…You Picked It! Apparently, people didn’t like the new format as the vote count was way down. I am getting back to what my site is about and that is what is in my collection which is why I changed things. I was tired of the other way and needed to change…so I did. Get used to this way because this is how it will be for the time being. The first vote getter in this month’s picks ended up the winner. Therefore the winner was Cinderella’s ‘Long Cold Winter’. Here are the results.
Cinderella – ‘Long Cold Winter’ – 5 votes
Winger – ‘Pull’ – 4 votes
White Lion – ‘Mane Attraction’ – 2 votes
Night Ranger – ‘Man in Motion’ – 2 votes
Poison – ‘Look What the Cat Dragged In’ – 1 Vote
Thanks to all for participating. The December choices will be up on Saturday! And the choices are all now from my collection and will have a loose theme of 70’s Classics!!!
CINDERELLA – ‘LONG COLD WINTER’ (1988):
Cinderella hit it big with their Glam Rock debut ‘Night Songs’ back in 1986 with a lot of thanks to Jon Bon Jovi who saw them play and helped them get a deal. Gene Simmons was interested first, but they weren’t interested in Gene. The debut album had them dressing all Glam in colorful outfits and I don’t think they were very fond of that whole concept. That became obvious with their second album when they went to a more all black and blue jean look and changed their sound to mostly blues rock. They wanted to distance themselves as much as they could from the Glam scene and I don’t think they did, but they at least sounded different. Fans of the debut, followed along with this one as well…I know I did.
With the massive success of ‘Love at First Sting’, Scorpions were riding high. So the label felt it was time for another live album as it had been 7 years since the last one. During the ‘Love at First Sting Tour’, numerous shows were recorded and a double live album was pieced together. The shows were as follows:
Bercy, Paris, France (1984-02-29)
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1984-04-24 & 1984-04-25)
Sports Arena, San Diego, CA, USA (1984-04-26)
Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, CA, USA (1984-04-28)
Sporthalle, Cologne, West Germany (1984-11-17)
The album was released on June 20, 1985 and went all the way to #17 on the US Billboard 200 Chart and sold over 1,000,000 copies giving it platinum status. The band could do no wrong. The classic line-up was in place with Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell. And of course, the album was produced by long time Scorps producer Dieter Dierks.
The band started recording their 9th studio album in Stommein, West Germany which is where producer, Dieter Dierks, studio was located. The album was recorded in 1983 and 1984 and finally saw its release on March 27, 1984. The line-up was intact with Klause Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Mathias Jabs, Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell.
However, some of the early recordings that took place were actually in Sweden and had former Rainbow members, Jimmy Bain on bass and Bobby Rondinell on drums. Jimmy Bain’s name was brought up by Herman and then later Herman got sick and Bobby stepped in. The band then left Sweden and did a two week tour in the States with the normal members of the band. After the tour it was determined that everyone felt great and they headed to Germany to record with the original members.
The album became Scorpions biggest selling album of all time going triple platinum with well over 3,000,000 copies sold in the U.S. alone. Thanks in large part to MTV and the smash song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” which is a staple at sporting events and a song I think everyone in the world knows. The album went to #6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, but it was really the constant rotation on MTV that got the U.S.’s attention. I know it got mine. They played all their videos and even the ones from Blackout which made a lot of people run out and get that album as well. “Love at First Sting” was the band’s pinnacle album. The smooth, high glossed rock was so well polished it gave off a platinum sheen. And in fact, it was one of the first fully digital metal albums ever made. They have reached the top…or had they?
Sometime during 1996, Jeff Scott Soto and Marcel Jacob were completely thrown for a loop when a best of album was released in Japan for their band Talisman. No one told them. The album was called “Besterious” and consisted of all songs that were previously released from the band. In response to this, Jeff and Marcel, along with Empire Records, decided they were going to release their own band approved version of a greatest hits compilation. It was called “Best of…” and it was chock full of hits plus a ton of previously unreleased tracks that any diehard fan would want to buy. I should know, I bought it!!
Two of the biggest treats were the first two tracks. These were both demos yet they had Goran Edman on vocals instead of Jeff Scott Soto. Goran was the singer for John Norum’s band and joined Talisman prior to Jeff. Goran left to join Yngwie’s band. The first of the demos is “Day By Day” and musically is no different than what ended up on the debut. It is a very Bon Jovi style song. Goran’s vocals are higher than Jeff’s but I’m not sure they have the power Jeff’s have. Regardless, it is still a stellar version of the song.
The second Goran demo is “Lightning Strike” seems a little more raw than the final Soto version, but all the elements are there. The chorus has some great harmonies and layers of vocals. Jeff sings it in this same style as Goran. I’m not sure which one I like better with this one. The rawness of this one adds a little to it.
For My Sunday Song #287, we are going to discover the first single from one of the most talented bands Jeff Scott Soto has been in. The song is “Coming Home” and it is off the album ‘Psychotic Symphony’ from the band Sons of Apollo. Why do I say most talented, let’s look at the players. Obviously you have Jeff Scott Soto on vocals or this post wouldn’t be happening, but you also have Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass, Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Mike Portnoy on drums. It don’t get much better than this. This song was the world’s introduction to the band and what a statement they made with it.
Normally, I go in to the song meanings before I get in to the music, but I can’t wait to talk about the music. That opening keyboard riff by Derek Sherinian is classic and brutal. If you expected the album to be all prog rock, you’d be wrong. This song is pure Hard Rock reminiscent of Van Halen but maybe even heavier. Bumblefoot’s effortless riffs dance throughout the song, Sheehan’s bass gives us a new sound from what you’d expect from Billy and it adds so much groove to the song. And you can’t forget Portnoy’s drums which are as immense and immersive as you’ve ever gotten from him. It is pure power! Speaking of power, Jeff Scott Soto attacks the vocals and they are filled with such anger and intensity that you feel it throughout your body and those screams are piercing and yet so beautifully done. This was so unexpected and totally amazing and you have to hear it to believe it.
And what does the song mean, who cares. Just put it on repeat and let the abundance of sound fill every void of your body and rock the hell out of you. Each time you hear it, there is something you hadn’t heard before as there is so much going on musically you can’t help but be blown away.