Going through the Jeff Scott Soto Series, we have now been through every Talisman Studio album so I figured, let’s go ahead and rank them rather than wait until the end of the series. Talisman is a band started by the late Marcel Jacob. He recruited Jeff Scott Soto as they became friends while working with Yngwie Malmsteen. The original band also had Christopher Stahl on guitar, Mats Lindfors on guitar, Mats Olassaon on keyboard, and Peter Hermansson on drums. But for me, that isn’t the classic line-up. Nope. That would Marcel, Jeff and then Fredrik Akesson on guitar and Jamie Borger on drums. Heck, I even loved when Pontus Norgren replaced Fredrik on guitar. I mean, let’s be honest, all versions of the line-up were great. Who are we kidding.
The band started in 1989 and released their first album in 1990. They had moderate success in Europe but did best in Sweden. Not much noise at all here in the States as the music had changed too much for them to succeed. For a band that was together for around 20 years, we only got 7 albums which isn’t near enough in my opinion. They were really busy with side projects that seem to consume their time. Or maybe, Talisman was the side project. Whatever it was, I was always glad to hear new Talisman music. In 2009, Marcel Jacob passed away before they could start on an 8th album and that was the end of Talisman. I don’t suspect Jeff will resurrect it without Marcel and I don’t think he should.
With that, let is get to the ranking of their studio albums from the Worst (which really isn’t) to their Best (which really is)…
THE WORST – ‘LIFE’ (1995):
I do have some issues with this one as I thought the mix on my version was bad and that mostly comes with the uneven transitions between songs. It is very inconsistent. There are only a handful of standout tracks such as “Tears in the Sky”, “Crazy”, “Body”, “Soul 2 Soul” and “A Life”, but otherwise the rest of the album could be forgettable. It does have its moments though and is above average which is why My Overall Score is a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars. I don’t know if it was for the fact they felt rushed or production, but the quality of the songs on this weren’t there. It could also be they didn’t perform this one live in the studio together which I find can hurt the vibes of the album. So, out of the 7 albums. This I would categorize as The Worst, but still an above average score.
You, my reader, are going to pick an album for me to review each month. It is really simple…first, I will give you 5 albums to choose from and second, you will tell me which one of those you would like to see reviewed on the site. See…simple! Now, if you want to cast more than one vote, comment on the Twitter and Facebook post and you could get up to 3 votes on your favorite pick.
There are no longer rules for my selections, maybe themes. I’m just picking albums in my collection and this time they are all from my favorite era of music…The 80’s. We’ve done one with the 80’s rock scene now let’s go to the 80’s Pop scene and what was riding the charts. What are the 5 albums you ask? I have them right here…
U2 – ‘The Joshua Tree’
Prince – ‘Purple Rain’
Genesis – ‘Invisible Touch’
The Cars – ‘Heartbeat City’
Bryan Adams – ‘Reckless’
Let me know which one you would like to see and sometime in January, I will post a review of the album that gets the most votes. You have one week to decide and from there I will start listening to the album and do a review.
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.
Time After Time – Keeper
Comin’ Home – Keeper
Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious) – Keeper
If U Would Only Be My Friend – Keeper
All or Nothing – Keeper
All I Want – Keeper
U Done Me Wrong – Keeper
I’ll Set Your House on Fire – Keeper
Give Me A Sign – Keeper(1/2 Point)
Lovechild – Keeper
Long Way To Go – Keeper
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 Starsand might be the best thing they ever did…I said might be.
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.
You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best! The Hottest New Release Day of the Year!! TODAY!!! Man, there are so many great releases today and I can’t wait. I have 3 I will be listening to and one is a Massive Box Set. This also seems to be a day for older established artists releasing new albums or anniversary albums and maybe for you younger listeners you might find some of these older artists totally awesome. Now, go check them out and let me know what you want to hear this week. Also, let us know what we may have missed. My choices are up first and in BOLD! Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend.
Kiss – Destroyer (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) – (Universal Music / UMG): KISS!!! Man, I can’t wait for this to arrive. I hope it makes it today. Kiss is releasing a 45th Anniversary of one of their biggest albums. It is remastered and there are a ton of demos and unreleased tracks and it is about time the band did a Box Set like this. Now, they need to go back and do them all with this special treatment. They’d get my money!!
The Darkness – Motorheart – (Cooking Vinyl): The Darkness is upon us and that makes for a much brighter day for me! I love these guys. Their love of that old glam rock sound makes for a wonderful listen. They bring that style to today’s market and for that we are lucky. I loved their last album ‘Easter is Cancelled’ and if this is half as good as that one, this will be awesome then!!
You, my reader, are going to pick an album for me to review each month. It is really simple…first, I will give you 5 albums to choose from and second, you will tell me which one of those you would like to see reviewed on the site. See…simple!
There are a few simple rules I have put in to place in my selections. They are…
One has to be a new release (within the last month)
One has to be one I have never heard before (new releases don’t count for this one)
One has to be from a genre I don’t normally listen to at all or very often
And the last two are choices from my collection that I haven’t reviewed before
What are the 5 albums you ask? Funny you should ask because I have those right here…note: I tried to throw in some non-obvious choices to make things a little more interesting.
New Release – Adelitas Way – ‘Shine On’
Never Heard Before – Funkadelic – ‘Maggot Brain’
Not My Normal Genre – Stevie Wonder – ‘Songs in the Key of Life’
From My Collection – Mr. Mister – ‘Welcome to the Real World’
From My Collection – Genesis – ‘Genesis’
Let me know which one you would like to see and sometime in September, I will post a review of the album that gets the most votes. You have one week to decide and from there I will start listening to the album and do a review.
CD Edition?? What the hell??? This is a series about my journey rediscovering Vinyl. Why would I discuss CDs??
Well, let me tell you why. Before I started re-collecting vinyl, I use to have a pretty extensive CD collection. After we had kids and the digital age, I burned all my CDs to digital and then started selling them off (made pretty good money on some). When we moved from Georgia to North Carolina, I gave my neighbor the final box of CDs as I didn’t want to move them and I was going to have no where to store them (I regret that decision to this day).
Lo and behold, one of my neighbors inherited a collection of CDs he had no desire for keeping. He had a bunch of scratched up, banged up CDs that probably didn’t even work and he was going to try and sell the rest. I let him try and make a little money on the others (which he was able to sell about 100) and if there was any left, I told him I would be interested in whatever he had left.
I have been going to records stores way too often as I continue my obsession on buying vinyl. On the flip side of that, I also don’t feel like I have gone enough. Confusing I know. I actually enjoy just browsing through the store and seeing what is there. It is rare I go into the store and I don’t buy anything, but lately I am picking up 5 or 6 at a time and I am loving it.
Most everything I am picking up is of course from the 70’s or 80’s since vinyl died out in the 90’s. The new releases that are out now are too expensive to make it a habit so I focus on the used record. There are no shortages of those, but what I want is seldom available on my visits. It is hit or miss.
Lately, it has been more hit than miss. And it has mostly been 80’s records so I guess the 80’s are back. Yes, I am buying records for albums I had already purchased back in the 80’s whether on cassette or CD, but I don’t have any of those anymore so I actually only have the one physical copy of the album. The other copy is now digital and you can’t really hold that in your hand.
So, what I have been picking up on my adventures you might ask that is from the 80’s? Well, you probably aren’t asking but I am going to tell you anyway.
The 80’s was a great time in music for me. It was the time I started really getting obsessed about with it. There were so many great songs, thanks to the dawn of MTV, during this time. They exposed us to so many more bands that our radio stations were not playing.
There are good songs, great songs, rock songs, dance songs, pop songs and some songs that are just too damn cool. This list is what I felt were the really cool songs of the decade. Cool could be the subject matter or the overall sound of the song and of course it is very subjective. I wasn’t very cool back in the day so my definition of cool might not equal yours. Come to think of it…I am not cool now. Oh well, I hope you enjoy the playlist.
I was exploring the internet the other night when I came across a website that showed the Top 200 artists of the 80’s based on # of weeks on the Hot 100 chart and the # of hits they had on the chart. I found the list to be extremely interesting and at times surprising at what did or didn’t make the list. The website was www.rateyourmusic.com or you can check out the list at this link.
When you go through the list, there will be no surprise at the artist at the top of the list. It is everyone you would think it would be such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Hall & Oates, and Billy Joel (I won’t give you their ranking). But what I found most interesting was that throughout the list I saw Genesis and most of its members or former members.
Genesis was huge in the 80’s and so was Phil Collins which is no surprise. Mike Rutherford had a side project during the 80’s called Mike & the Mechanics that also had numerous hits during the 80’s. And let’s not forget a former member of Genesis, Peter Gabriel. His resurgence in the 80’s was also quite significant. Tony Banks was the only member of the band I didn’t see having a hit on the Hot 100 list outside of Genesis.