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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Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

With Jeff Scott Soto on Frontiers records, it made total sense that if Talisman was to get back together and put out another album, Frontiers might be the home for them. And that is what happened. After the break-up of the Humanimal project, Jeff and Marcel Jacob felt it was time to put on the Talisman hat again. However, with the falling out with Pontus Norgren, a new guitarist was needed. That new guitarist was actually the old guitarist Fredrik Akesson which is a perfect fit for the band. Mr. Jamie Borger was back on drums and the new album of the old guard was ready to be recorded.

The band recorded the album in Italy (why not since that was where the label was located). It was recorded at Planet Studios in Acqui Terme, Italy. The album saw the release on May 12, 2003. It was this album that I discovered the band thanks to Melodicrock.com. Andrew McNeice was going on and on about this guy Jeff Scott Soto and Talisman. As a result, I checked it out and then things went nuts from there. After almost 20 years now of listening to Soto and Talisman, I now have over 70 albums in my collection that Soto performs on. It all started with ‘Cats & Dogs’ and Soto’s next solo album ‘Lost in Translation’ which we will review next. This was my entry point into the universe of Soto.

With a “Hey, Hey, Hey” and a Soto scream, the album is off and running with “Skin on Skin”. It is a little funky, a little bluesy and a lot of energy. A modern rock track with its foundation firmly rooted in the past. What a way to say…”We’re back!!!”. And then Jeff does his best James Brown with a “Good God, Yeah” to kick off “Break it Down”. With some heavy bass and then a slick riff, some great harmonies and we are off to the races. It has a great, memorable chorus, great production and more fantastic vocals from Soto. Plus, Akesson’s solo is pretty sweet and his playing is a highlight on this one for sure.

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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 – ‘Truth’ (1998) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

By 1998, Jeff Scott Soto and Marcel Jacob thought it was time to bring Talisman back together and record a new album. Jamie Borger was brought back, of course, on drums and a new guitarist was found in Pontus Norgren (The Poodles, Hammerfall). The only problem is that Jeff was so busy with The Boogie Knights, they had to record in the States. Jeff had a home studio so he and Marcel spent about 10 days writing new material which then band then recorded in Jeff’s home studio. The drums, however, were not as they needed a better set-up so they were recorded elsewhere.

They found a couple record labels to release the album, Point Music in Europe and Pony Canyon in Japan. However, neither label wanted to promote the material so no touring was actually done which is nuts. The album was released on December 27, 1998 and that date alone should tell you how much the labels gave a crap about that album because who in their right mind releases an album 2 days after Christmas.

The band’s sound on this album was a nod to earlier Talisman where they tried to capture a little of the sound from the first two albums. They also ended up recording 3 cover songs on the album and actually opened the album with a cover song. I’ve heard Jeff describe this album as their ‘Diver Down’ album (which also had a lot of covers).

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Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

With Jeff Scott Soto still busy with Boogie Knights, his time with Axel Rudi Pell had come to an end. He was too busy to do both. However, he wasn’t too busy to play around with his good buddy Marcel Jacobs. Since Talisman was on hiatus, they decided to form Human Clay and pull together some of the old demos they hadn’t used with Talisman and make an album. That was the debut Human Clay album we reviewed a few weeks back. It was time for them to do another album together in Jeff’s spare time and this time around had a better batch of songs and they spent a little more money on it, double the last one.

As a result, the production was a lot better and so was the sound. This one sounded more like a Talisman record as the bass was more prominent in the mix and most importantly, the drums were actually real drums thanks to former Talisman drummer Jamie Borger. Jeff sounded great, they had real engineers this time around and it all came together much better. There was still no touring as Jeff’s other commitment made it too hard to do. In fact, Human Clay has never played live as a band and never will due the passing of Marcel in 2009. The Japanese label they were under actually had an option for a third album, but nothing ever came of that as one was never released or recorded that we know about.

My version of the album is a Japanese edition. It doesn’t have the OBI strip, but as you can see below, there is some Japanese at the bottom. Included in the CD was an extra booklet that was all in Japanese and being the Japanese edition, we get a bonus track. And that is really all the info I have on this one, so turn up the volume and let’s review the album.

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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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Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

1994 has been a real busy year for Jeff Scott Soto as you can see from all the 1994 reviews. His band Slam was pretty much done so all his time was now focused on Talisman. Marcel Jacob and Jeff Scott Soto would end up writing a ton of songs for the next studio album. Talisman was now a full band. They had Jamie Borger on drums and Fredrik Akesson on guitar and with them coming off the last tour, the band was tight and hitting on all cylinders.

The band recorded the album in Sound Trade Studios and when they finished, they had 22 songs in can which coincidentally only took 22 days to record and mix. They wanted to do a double album and each disc would have a separate theme. One would be songs with human characteristics and the second disc with animal characteristics. However, the songs actually would all fit on a single CD, so they decided they wanted to only release a single CD.

So, the band picked their favorite 14 songs for the album and it was released in Europe . It was to be released in Japan, but they wanted a different set of songs so the Japan label picked the songs for their version of the album. The albums came out on May 25, 1994. And then a funny thing happened. The European version was out selling the Japanese version…in Japan. Yes, the import of the European version was way more popular. As a result, they ended up releasing the European version in Japan. And if that wasn’t enough, they released a part 2 version with all the outtakes on October 19, 1994.

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Talisman – ‘Five Out Of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

As we already know, 1993 was a very busy year for Jeff Scott Soto. He jumped from the Talisman ‘Genesis’ recordings straight in to the Axel Rudi Pell’s ‘The Ballads’ recordings and then had to fly to Japan to do a set of shows for Talisman. Not to mention the Takara album and even the Biker Mice from Mars soundtrack. It was a whirlwind. And then around February of 1994, an album of the Japanese gigs was released called ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’.

The original release of this album was called ‘Five out of Five’. The reissue I have from 2004 is a double CD that includes their album ‘Life’ (which we will review soon) and this one now titled ‘5 Out of 5’. It is strange the album is called ‘5 out of 5’ because there are only 4 members in the band at this time. So, what is with the ‘5’? Easy, Marcel Jacobs thought it would be funny. At first you think, how is that funny, but if you read Kerrang magazine, that is how they do their ratings ‘5 out of 5’ or ‘4 out of 5’, you get the idea. Marcel thought if it ended up being mentioned or reviewed in Kerrang, it would already read Talisman ‘5 out of 5’. Pretty clever!! Thanks to Frnak Tunny and Ronny Hahn’s Jeff Scott Soto Biography for that little nugget.

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