Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Firefest is festival in Europe that came about after the end of another festival called The Gods of AOR. Firefest started in 2004 and it was bigger and even better than the Gods festival. Jeff Scott Soto performed at the Gods festival in 2002, and even released the show on a live CD/DVD. Jeff got the call again to do the festival in 2008 and he said Yes, obviously or this discussion would be ridiculous.

It wasn’t easy for Jeff because at the time of the festival, he was in the middle of rehearsals for the Trans-Siberian Orhcestra’s annual Winter Tour. TSO rehearsed 12 hours a day and Jeff was probably exhausted, but he jumped on a plane on a Friday in the U.S and landed in London by Saturday morning. He had to rush to Nottingham and meet his band. Luckily, it was his band so it was Howie Simon, Gary Schutt and Dave Dziaklak, but they hadn’t played in over about year and had like an hour to rehearse and get ready for the show. Did they pull it off…well, of course they did! They are professionals. It is a great show and another great live album from Jeff.

But…I have a major problem with this release and it isn’t the quality of the show as Jeff sounds amazing and the band is tight and all is good. It is the fact that this setlist is almost identical to Jeff’s last live release ‘One Night in Madrid’. Every song on here was played at that show in this order. The only difference is that the Madrid show had more songs (and was a totally killer show). I feel like I just reviewed this show and not really sure what new I can say about it. I could basically cut & paste that review here, delete out the songs that aren’t on here and BOOM!…the review and you probably wouldn’t know the difference.

So what I will do is walk through the little differences between the shows so I at least give you something different. Like the Madrid show, this one kicks off with the opening track “21st Century” from his latest album ‘Beautiful Mess’, but the big difference is when Madrid goes in to the next song “Colour My XTC” you get the whole song while her you get a small prelude portion before going in to the great “Soul Divine”. One of the highlights on this and the other live show is “Our Song” from his latest album. Jeff sounds amazing on this one and the band nails the song. A power ballad with a lot of Jeff’s powerful vocals. Such a great song.

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Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Back in 2003, Jeff did his first ever solo tour and at the stop in Madrid, the energy from the crowd was insane and he said that if he made it back he would record the show for a live DVD and CD. It took 6 years before his next solo tour brought him back to Spain and he delivered on that promise and now we have ‘One Night in Madrid’. The tour was in support of his latest solo album ‘Beautiful Mess’ and the show as on April 18, 2009 at Sala Heineken in Madrid, Spain.

This time the band was not his usual cast of characters, but a brand new band consisting of Jorge Salan on lead guitar, Fernando Mainer on bass, Edu Cominato on drums and BJ on keyboards and acoustic guitar. Now, of course Jeff Scott Soto was their singing as it is his tour. I have the CD of the show and it is a 2CD set and includes 22 tracks including solos and the ever popular Funky Medley. Let’s go ahead and jump right in to another great show by Mr. Soto.

The show opens with a radio being changed from station to station and each stop was a classic Jeff Scott Soto song. Then a voice comes on says, “That was then…this is now!” and the show starts with the lead song from ‘Beautiful Mess’ called “21st Century” and it sounds great. Jeff really sounds on point and the band captures the essence of the song. The guitars sound fantastic, the backing vocals are all perfect and I would say this new band clicks pretty well together. And if you need further proof listen to “Colour My XTC” from his Talisman days. The bass on this one is key to make it work as Marcel was a beast on bass and Fernando holds his own on this one, really great job.

We get more of Jeff’s solo work the classic “Soul Divine’ off ‘Lost in the Translation’. A true highlight of his career. Then we go in to the 2nd track from ‘Beautiful Mess’ with “Our Song” and the crowd is clapping along. It is the softer side of Jeff and then goes more power. On the album it had an irritating electronic drum track, but here it is raw and real drums and so much better. Then it is back to the rock with “Drowning” another from the ‘Lost in the Translation’ album. The guitars on this one are badass, some great riffs and real heavy. A real barn burner with this one.

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Talisman – ‘World’s Best Kept Secret’ (2005) – DVD Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Back in 2003, Talisman hit the Festival Circuit in Europe and a lot of those shows were recorded. Two shows in particular were captured and were finally released by Frontiers Records in 2005. We got a Live CD, which we reviewed last week, and then a DVD set. Today, we review the DVD set. The DVD set was called ‘World’s Best Kept Secret’ and was a 2DVD set. The first DVD giving us the two shows released on the CD and the 2nd DVD giving us a retrospective of Talisman and including all the videos from throughout the years plus pieces of several other live shows. It is magnificent set and a great time capsule of a band that was not know across the globe and is one of my favorite bands which is why I think the title to this set is more than appropriate. They were like a little secret that I had and I wish more people knew about them when they were around as I think they are awesome. I have tried to tell the world about them now with this Jeff Scott Soto Series so hopefully I make a few new fans from this series.

The two shows captured were at Club Mondo in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2003 and the second show was from the Sweden Rock Festival from June 2003. This would be the 2nd Sweden Rock Festival live show we’ve been given from the band. The line-up was interesting as the band was usually a 4-piece band. This time we have the return of the great axeman, Fredrik Akesson as Pontus Norgren had left. The other interesting was they added a fifth member with Howie Simon on guitar. Howie at the time was Soto’s solo band’s guitarist and friend.

If I had to pick to listening to the CD or watching the DVD for these two shows, I would pick the DVD any day of the week. The CD is fantastic and I rated it as such, but the DVD lets you see the action going on with this cast of characters on stage. Jeff Scott Soto is a mad man and his energy level is 110% the whole show. He starts off fully clothed but by the end he only has pants on as he sweated up enough to fill a kiddie pool. You get to see the great drumming by Jamie Borger, Howie Simon’s great playing and that fast finger work by Fredrik Akesson. And of course, you can watch Marcel Jacob pound on that bass like so few people can do. It is totally brilliant. You feel the energy feeding off the band and the crowd.

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Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

During the early 2000’s, Marcel Jacob came forward and revealed he was suffering from chronic rheumatism and it would limit his live shows. By 2003, he must have felt up to it because the band played several festivals during that Summer and thankfully for us, a lot of those were recorded. Two shows in particular were captured and were finally released by Frontiers Records in 2005. We got a Live CD and then a DVD set. Today, we are talking about the CD set. We’ll do the DVD next time because it has more than just the shows.

The two shows captured were at Club Mondo in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2003 and the second show was from the Sweden Rock Festival from June 2003. This would be the 2nd Sweden Rock Festival live show we’ve been given from the band. The line-up was interesting as the band was usually a 4-piece band. This time we have the return of the great axeman, Fredrik Akesson as Pontus Norgren had left. The other interesting was they added a fifth member with Howie Simon on guitar. Howie at the time was Soto’s solo band’s guitarist and friend. They really brought the music and delivered two great shows so let us get to them.

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Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS: Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

2002 was a big year for Jeff Scott Soto. It was the year of his coming out as a solo artist. Yes, he released a solo album back in 1994, but the intent was not to tour and showcase as a solo artist. He had signed with Frontiers Records and was getting ready to release his 2nd solo album ‘Prism’, but before that Frontiers’ promotional crew were in high gear. With press releases and having Jeff involved in the 10th Anniversary of The Gods Festival. The festival consists of artists/bands from the Frontiers Records label as well as Now & Then label.

The festival occurred on June 2, 2002 and was to be released as a live album and a DVD. I only have the live album, I need to get the DVD still. The line-up was pretty impressive as it had Eric Martin, Hardline, Harem Scarem, Honeymoon Suite, Ten, Soto and several other bands. It took place at Pennington’s in Bradford, England and what I’ve read, it was a helluva show by all.

Jeff’s band that night consisted of some old familiar friends including Alex Papa on drums, Gary Schutt on bass & acoustic guitar (did an album review of his for this series) and on guitar, Howie Simon. JSS is listed as “Top Dog” and he is right. It is his show, his songs, his voice everyone came to hear. He proved that when he came out on stage, alone, dressed all in black and did “2 Your Heart” a cappella. The song is from the debut Human Clay album. Jeff proved that voice is for real. The band comes in full force as the race through the Queen cover “Let Me Entertain You” which is appropriate because Soto does just that.

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Talisman – ‘Live at Sweden Rock Festival’ (2002) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

By 2001, Jeff Scott Soto and Marcel Jacob and had been playing together for a decade. The longest project Jeff had ever been with and probably the most fulfilling as he and Marcel were able to craft Talisman out of all the types of music they both liked. To celebrate that 10 years, a tour was needed and they wound up playing at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2001 on one of the smaller stages.

The place was packed up to an hour before the show. The crowd was chanting their name and was ready to hear some Talisman. Jeff Scott Soto, Marcel Jacob, Pontus Norgren and Jamie Borger were ready to take the stage and give the fans what they wanted…Talisman!! They played on the Rockklassiker stage with a 2000 crowd capacity. But it started off a little rough…two days prior to the show, Marcel’s gear was left in Stockholm where he, Jeff and Pontus were working on the new Humanimal album. So, Marcel had no bass. He wasn’t going to play, but when he heard the crowd chanting, he ran and found a bass from another band.

There was another band at the festival that had some recording gear and so they decided to record the show. Marcel and Pontus were a little unhappy with the recording as the bass sound wasn’t what Marcel really sounded like (remember, not his guitar), Jeff’s microphone had issues and the guitar sounded a little out of tune at times…they re-recorded a lot of the record in the studio and played as if it was the show to capture that essence…and honestly, you can’t tell. It all sounds fantastic.

This was 2001, so this was prior to Humanimal project and prior to the giant riff between Marcel and Pontus which forced the end of Humanimal and the end of Pontus in Talisman. So, if this is the last recording with Pontus on lead guitar, then we get a wonderful time capsule. The album was supposed to come out in April 2002, but the release was delayed (probably due to the Humanimal issues going on). It finally saw the light of day in December 2002 and thankfully it did as it is a fantastic show.

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Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

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.

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Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

When it was time to start work on the new Talisman album, Marcel Jacobs flew to the States to meet up with Jeff Scott Soto and write songs. He was there for a few weeks in March 1995 and they cranked out a batch of songs. But recording this time around was going to be different. The band didn’t meet up in the studio to record the album. Instead each member recorded their parts in different studios around the world. Once the music was done, they sent the tapes to Jeff and he added all the vocals. Not the quickest way or easiest and doesn’t always deliver the best results.

The first time the band members were all together in the studio was only when it was time to mix the records and that time was short. There was a big issue with the Japanese label. They wanted the album done by a set date. The band was rushed to get it mixed and that was done by Mats Lindfors. Marcel was not happy with the mix, but the Japanese label didn’t care so they took the original mix. The album was going to be released.

On the good side of it, their European label, Polydor Records didn’t have a deadline. This allowed the band to remix the album, make some vocal edits (as Jeff wasn’t happy with a few parts) and then on August 23, 1995 the album was released in Europe. And yes, it was a different mix than the Japanese Edition. Of course that means I now need both copies so off I go to find the Japanese Edition. My copy of the album is a 2004 release which was a 2 CD set including the ‘Life’ album and the ‘5 out of 5’ live album we reviewed a couple weeks ago.

The album didn’t do as well as the prior Talisman albums and that was all due to label issues. You see there was an issue with distribution as the new distributor prioritized their own albums over Polydor’s releases. People with the labels were getting fired and the Japanese label ended up going bankrupt. Mix all those things together and trouble will ensue.

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Aerosmith – ‘Get A Grip’ (1993) – Album Review (The Aerosmith Collection Series)

After the massive success of their previous album, ‘Pump’, the band took a little break in 1992. They started recording the next album in January & February, but stopped for some rest and didn’t return until September of that year to finish up the album. The music environment had significantly changed since 1989’s ‘Pump’ so I believe everyone was curious as to what they would do. And it turns out, they would keep doing what they do best and didn’t change a thing. When most bands faded away around this time, Aerosmith ended up flourishing even more. How did they do it?

First thing was they brought back Bruce Fairbairn as their producer as he has been creating gold with everything they had done…or should I say Platinum since the last album went 7 x’s Platinum. Second, they brought in some friends to help out such as Don Henley and Lenny Kravitz. Third, the record company wanted them to continue using outside writers to help so back was Desmond Child, Jim Vallance, Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw, Richard Supa, Mark Hudson and Taylor Rhodes. Damn, that is a lot of help!!

The line-up was still unchanged with Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer. The Boston Boys we ready to take on the world again. The album was released on April 23, 1993 and became the band’s first album to debut at #1 on the Charts. They released 7 singles on the album and selling over 7 million copies again in the U.S. It was the band’s third straight album of over 5 million in sales. If that wasn’t enough, the album won two Grammy’s for Best Rock Vocal Performance for a Duo or Group in both 1993 and 1994. The band was on fire still and the fans were eating it up.

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The Top 10 Overused Song Titles

I was going through my iTunes music library and damn there are a lot of repeat song titles.  Always looking for new post ideas, it hit me.  What are the most over used song titles?  Now I have a post idea and so I am going to bring you the Top 10 Overused Song Titles in music…or at least my musical library.

Now there were several that barely missed the cut.  They were the following titles: “Free”, “Forever”, “Without You”, each with 12 titles in my library.  And several with 11 songs including “Stand Up”, “Someday”, “Scream” and “Save Me”…a lot starting with “S” apparently.

10. “You”:  I have 12 different songs in my library with this title.  The artists are rather varied with The Afters, Black Stone Cherry, Bonnie Raitt, Buckcherry, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Elliott Yamin, Gotthard, Marvin Gaye, Richie Kotzen, Safetysuit and Keith Urban.

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