Back in December 2021 when I announced I was doing a Jeff Scott Soto Series, I got a lot of response on the picture of my collection. One such person contacted me on Facebook and offered to send me a hard back edition of a biography on Jeff Scott Soto, so I quickly thanked him and agreed. He quickly mailed out this glorious copy of the book. His name was Sundeep Pooni and that book has been a massive reference guide for my review series up to this point. So, a big thank you to Sundeep and his very generous gift!! From here on out in the review series, we are past the date of the book so none of the albums I’ll be reviewing from ere on out are in the book, so I am on my own.
Before we get to the next review, let’s go through this book. It was originally written by Ronny Hahn and it was written in German and only an electronic book. For the 30th Anniversary of Jeff’s career, it was released thanks to Frank Tunney who took the original book and added more chapters and re-organized the structure. It is now a hard back book and chock full of the details of his career that all hardcore fans love to know. The book is called “Authorized” so it has the blessing of the man himself and that is good enough for me.
The book starts off with the original foreward written by Ronny Zahn and then there is a great dedication to the late Marcel Jacobs who played with Jeff in several bands and was a very close personal friend. It was a terrible loss, but thankfully he left behind a great legacy of music. Afterwards you get a brief biography of Jeff’s very early life, but the rest of the book is all Jeff’s music career.
It had been 3 years since Jeff’s last solo album, 2009’s ‘Beautiful Mess’. That album was good, but a lot of people didn’t like it’s direction as it wasn’t the hard, melodic rock that fans of Jeff love. And I get it, but let’s be honest, Jeff should be able to make whatever music he wants to make. I wasn’t a massive fan of that album, but it had some great moments for sure. ‘Damage Control’ sees Jeff listening to his fans and giving them what he they want. He is always good about that. And I wonder if the title is in reference to that fan reaction from the prior album. It seems pretty tongue-in-cheek if you ask me.
I want to say the album dropped around January 6th, 2012, but I could be mistaken. But before that release date, Jeff put in a lot of work on this album and he worked with a ton of writers and a ton of musicians (and sometimes both). Some of the writers were old friends such as Jamie Borger (Talisman) and Gary Schutt (solo band) and then there were names we hadn’t heard yet in his career like Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake/TSO). Jeff has known Joel for awhile and Jeff would return the favor a couple years down the road (which we will review as well.
Jeff had a total of 21 songs ready for the album, but they needed to dwindle it down to 11 which somehow he did. The songs were recorded all over the world on three different continents including Europe as well as North & South America. The album wound up on Frontiers due to the long standing relationship he has had with Serafino Perungino. They agreed to do a Deluxe Edition where Jeff could actually include 14 of the 21 songs as long as there was a DVD with an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) and some music videos and that is the copy I have and will review.
The album kicks off with “Give a Little More” and it is nasty piece of a rock with that gritty guitar riff, the heaviness of the bass the drums. Jeff attacks the vocals with in equal intensity. An almost anthemic, melodic rock song that is proof that Jeff can still deliver the heavy rock like fans complained about. This song is a statement and the guitar solo by Leo Mancini is the exclamation point on that statement.
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.
How does Jeff Scott Soto end up doing Queen songs at Queen conventions? Well, he had always loved Queen and Freddie Mercury was a big influence on his life, but that is common with a lot of people. For Jeff, it all started back in 1999 when one fateful day he met Jacky Smith who was the head of the Queen Fan Club. That chance meeting led to Jeff getting to meet Brian May and a chance to jam with him and the SAS Band at the annual Freddie Mercury Birthday Party.
That keep him in touch with the Queen family and in 2002, Jacky asked him to come to one of the Queen conventions. He made an appearance and actually jammed on a few songs during the convention. The feedback was so great, Jeff was brought back to do the North America convention as the first was in the UK. This led Jeff to be brought up on stage at an after party with Brian and Roger Taylor when they received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If that wasn’t enough, Jeff was asked to come back in 2003 and instead of a handful of songs, they wanted Jeff to perform an entire set of Queen songs. But not as a tribute act, as a real act and doing everything his way with his own band.
Jeff brought his solo band with him which was Gary Schutt, Howie Simon and Alex Papa. Now, Jeff was a massive Queen fan and knew all the songs, even the deep cuts. However, his band only knew the hits. This was the Queen Convention and “the Hits” aren’t enough. You need deep cuts. So, the band took a crash course in Queen and after several rehearsals, the band was ready to go. What we get here on a 2 CD set is the entire set they performed and it is massive. They played around 45 cuts (some in song melodies) and it was incredible. They released it on video and CD. I have the CD, but I need to get the video. Let’s get to it.
As I had mentioned previously, 2004 was going to be a big year for Jeff Scott Soto. His introduction to Neal Schon during NAMM in January 2004, was the sign. Schon played on and co-wrote a song on his solo album, ‘Lost in the Translation’, which we are reviewing now and it led to a new band later that year and the Journey frontman shortly after that. Before we get ahed of ourselves, let us focus on the solo album first. And there is a live album to come out before Schon’s stuff as well.
‘Lost in the Translation’ is Jeff’s third solo album and what a step up from the prior two. He still had his good buddies playing on it – Howie Simon and Gary Schutt on guitar duty and Glen Sobel on drums and a guest appearance by Mr. Schon himself. It was a solid line-up, a solid album and would see Jeff head out on a full world tour that would last for 35 gigs and hit 4 continents that would run from August to November of 2004. Jeff was hitting his stride, finding his footing and the world was learning who he was. I know I did because it was this album and Talisman’s ‘Cats & Dogs’ where I discovered the greatness that is Jeff Scott Soto all thanks to Andrew McNiece at MelodicRock.com. Also, note the cover photo and under his right arm is Jeff’s autograph. This is one of the 5 albums I had him sign when I met him back in April 2022. Really Cool!!
The first track and single is “Believe in Me”. It was co-written by Jeff along with Neal Schon. I told you they began a great relationship…fruitful already. And let me tell you, it could be a Journey song. Not a ballad either, one of the rocking tracks. The opening guitar riff is cool as Schon shreds it. Jeff’s vocals are so smooth and melodic and you know what, he would sound great singing Journey songs…maybe that will happen!! (maybe real soon). You had Glen Sobel on drums and Jeff on bass and everyone sounded tight and laid down a great rhythm. A totally stellar track and very radio friendly even though no radio around here played it!
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.
For the 10 years prior to this release, Jeff Scott Soto has been singing for other people and other bands. This time around it was all for himself. ‘Love Parade’ is Jeff’s first solo album and the first chance for people to see a side of Jeff they’ve never seen. That can be a good thing or a bad thing and for a lot of Jeff’s metal fans this album was a strange departure. It was because this was not a metal album or even a hard rock. It is more a funk, R&B and a rock album all rolled in to one. His influences are worn on his sleeves with this one.
The songs he compiled for this album were mostly old demos he had that never amounted to anything prior. He felt they truly represented who he was outside of the metal/rock world. There were several songs from his band Slam that never released anything. He had a couple songs from his girlfriend, Julie Greaux, that he was co-producer on. He took them, re-worked them and then sang on them.
Musicians on the album were some friends including Gary Schutt, who Jeff sang for on Gary’s debut solo album, played bass and guitar. His girlfriend, Julie Greaux did background vocals and keyboards. George Bernhardt played drums, bass and guitar as well. And Jeff played a little of everything as well including the singing. The album was released sometime in 1994/1995 on Long Island Records but the year depends on who you ask. The album didn’t make any major waves, but thankfully in 2002, Jeff signed with Frontiers Records and they re-released it and by this time it made bigger waves as he was more famous.
We have seen Gary Schutt before in the Jeff Scott Soto Series and that was with the review of the Takara album ‘Eternal Faith’ from 1993. Gary Schutt was the bass played. However, here is the not only the bass player, but he is also the guitar player, the keyboardist, the drum programmer. The only thing he doesn’t do on here is sing as that is left up to his good friend, Jeff Scott Soto. The two were spending a lot of time together because at the same time Gary was making his debut solo album, so was Jeff and we will get to his for the next review.
The album was recorded over a two week period in May of 1994 as both Gary and Jeff were renting a house in Delray Beach, Florida. The album was released on August, 31, 1994 in Japan and sometime in 1995 in Europe. It did get a reissue in 2005 that has 3 Bonus Tracks, but we are going to review the original album with the basic 11 tracks. And what we get is a cross between hard rock, melodic rock, aor and a little prog thrown in. Let’s check it out
The album kicks off with “Warpaint” and immediately you are sucked in to some great guitar playing as Gary rips some massive riffs. His bass is thunderous and powerful. The drum sound is the only negative because they are programmed sounding. To me it feels like an Extreme song a la ‘III Sides to Every Story’. The guitar has Nuno fill along with the bass and Jeff sings with a hint of Cherone and there is nothing wrong with that. An explosive opener and a sign of things to come.
The story of Jeff Scott Soto and Takara starts way back in 1985 when Jeff met Neal Grusky who is a founding member of Takara. They quickly became friends through their mutual love of music. Neal started Takara in 1987, but it wasn’t until November 1988 that Jeff really got involved. He agreed to help produce a set of demos for the band. When current lead sing, Mark Del Papa, couldn’t do the vocals due to drug issues, Jeff jumped in and sang on the demos as well. The demos were strictly to help the band find a lead singer. Now, where have we heard that before??? Oh yeah, Panther.
Jeff’s job was to produce and do the scratch vocals. They would bring in other singers to sing as well and Jeff would help produce and mix those. This went on for a number of years and they had done demos from 1987 to 1991. There was no intention to release these, it was strictly to get the band moving forward. Also, Jeff had never produced or mixed before so it was a trial by fire process.
Somehow, the tapes wound up with EMI/Toshiba in Japan and the label really liked them and showed interest in the band. But there was a catch…isn’t there always. They didn’t want to release an album with the other singers, they only liked Jeff’s versions and would only release it with Soto as the singer. Neal went back to his friend and Jeff being the good friend he was, agreed to let that happen as he didn’t want his friend to lose the label deal.