Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

When we reviewed Takara’s ‘Eternal Faith’ album a few weeks back, we mentioned that Jeff Scott Soto said he wasn’t a member of Takara and did it as a favor. Well, a couple years later we are back with the second Takara album and who is singing? It is a Mr. Jeff Scott Soto, of course. After the band had such success in Japan with ‘Eternal Faith’, the Japanese record company wanted another album and would only do it with Jeff on vocals. Jeff didn’t want to let his good friend, Neal Grusky, down and be the reason his buddy lost his record contract, so Jeff being the man he is agreed to do vocal duties again as well as Produced, Engineered and Mixed the album. When Jeff says he’s going to help out, there is no half-assing it for him.

The band had more money to produce this record then the measly $2,500 for the last so we do get better production quality…plus Jeff was getting better at it. The biggest difference is that Jeff’s friend Greg Schutt was no longer on bass. Duties were handled by Carl DeMarco. There were two songs that the bass was done by Bob Daisley from Ozzy and Rainbow fame which is pretty cool, but Carl was the now official band member. On drums, we still had Robert Duda and Neal Grusky on guitar as expected. There are also some keyboard elements done by none other than Jeff’s then girlfriend Julie Greaux, of course!

The album was released on May 24, 1995 in Japan and went to #96 on their national charts, so not bad at all. The version I have is the Canadian Release from 1995 but the CD has 1993. That isn’t the only mistake the CD has as it also called the last song “Lonely Sade of Blue” omitting the “h” in Shade. Oops! Good quality control goes a long way. Let’s get to the music, shall we!

Continue reading “Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)”

Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

Axel Rudi Pell has had four solo albums so a live album was long over due. As a result, during two shows on February 4th & 5th of 1995, they were recorded so a live album could be released. They were recorded in Markthalle, Hamburg and Zeche, Bochum. There were three songs from the Markthalle show and five from Zeche. The band was of course Axel Rudi Pell on guitar, Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, Jorg Michael on drums, Volker Krawczak on bass and Julie Greaux on keyboards. It was the same band that recorded the previous album ‘Between the Walls’ for which they were now touring for that album, and it is a great, solid band.

1994 was an extremely busy year for Jeff Scott Soto and by the looks of it, 1995 was not going to be any different as we have 3 releases for this year and this being the first. For this album, Jeff felt the biggest fault was it was too short and he would’ve liked to have included a few more of the older tracks. With that being said, if that is the only fault, then we are in for a real treat. The show captures how much Jeff enjoyed working with Axel and it shows in his performance and everyone’s performance for that matter. The album came out around May 22, 1995 and is a great time capsule of a great period of Axel Rudi Pell.

The show kicks off with some riffing by Axel and then they go straight in to “Talk of The Guns” off their most recent album ‘Between the Walls’. Here is the song is sped up even faster and a lot heavier. It seems faster than speed metal here. The drums are pounding and relentless and Pell’s solo is pure Axel. Jeff does a great job keeping up with that pace and not losing his breath, but it was close.

Continue reading “Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)”

Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

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.

Continue reading “Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)”

Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

While Jeff Scott Soto was touring with Talisman in Europe, Axel Rudi Pell was ready to make another album. After the mixed reaction from the fans on ‘The Ballad’ album, Axel was going to go to his roots and make a pure metal album…a German Metal Album as he has stated. He contacted Jeff and arranged for him to come in and work on the album while his other band was touring. Jeff was happy to do so as he really enjoyed working with Axel since it wasn’t a dictatorship like other bands he had worked in. Jeff and Axel work well together and Soto co-wrote 4 of the 10 tracks.

Most of the band was back from the last studio album, ‘Eternal Prisoner’. There was obviously Axel and Jeff, but Jorg Michael was back on drums and Volker Krawczak on bass. Keyboardist Kai Raglewski was out and in his place was Julie Greaux who has worked with Billy Idol and happened to be Soto’s girlfriend. That’s convenient wouldn’t you say!! What I would say is that this was a solid line-up and had me interested to hear what they had put together this time around. It is definitely more fantasy and mystical lyrics and it is truly metal for sure! One more thing, in the liner notes, it lists out what instrument each band member plays with and for Jeff…it says he plays with Julie….”Oh Heffe, Oh Oh Ooh”…Let me just say…Wow!! Okay, hold on tight and let’s get to the music.

Continue reading “Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)”

Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993) – Album Review (The Jeff Scott Soto Series)

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.

Track Listing:

  1. Time After Time – Keeper
  2. Comin’ Home – Keeper
  3. Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious) – Keeper
  4. If U Would Only Be My Friend – Keeper
  5. All or Nothing – Keeper
  6. All I Want – Keeper
  7. U Done Me Wrong – Keeper
  8. I’ll Set Your House on Fire – Keeper
  9. Give Me A Sign – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  10. Lovechild – Keeper
  11. Long Way To Go – Keeper
  12. 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 Stars and might be the best thing they ever did…I said might be.

Bonus Disc:

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.

UP NEXT: AXEL RUDI PELL – ‘THE BALLADS’ (1993)

THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:

  1. Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
  2. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
  3. Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
  4. Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
  5. Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989) / ‘Soldiers of Light: The Complete Recordings (2019)
  6. Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
  7. Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  8. Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
  9. Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
  10. Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
  11. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
  12. Bakteria – ‘Deficate! Suffocate! Mutilate! Masturbate!’ (1992 / 2009)
  13. Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
  14. Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
  15. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘The Ballads’ (1993)
  16. Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
  17. Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
  18. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
  19. Gary Schutt – ‘Sentimetal’ (1994)
  20. Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
  21. Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
  22. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
  23. Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
  24. Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
  25. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Made in Germany (Live)’ (1995)
  26. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
  27. Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
  28. Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
  29. Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
  30. Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
  31. Boogie Knights – ‘Welcome to the Jungle Boogie’ (1997)
  32. Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
  33. Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
  34. Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
  35. ‘Rock Star (Soundtrack)’ – Various Artists (2001)
  36. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
  37. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
  38. Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
  39. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
  40. Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
  41. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
  42. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
  43. Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
  44. Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
  45. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
  46. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
  47. Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
  48. Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
  49. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
  50. Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
  51. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
  52. Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
  53. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
  54. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – ‘Night Castle’ (2009)
  55. W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
  56. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
  57. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
  58. W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
  59. W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
  60. SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
  61. SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
  62. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
  63. Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
  64. W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
  65. SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
  66. Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
  67. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
  68. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
  69. Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
  70. SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
  71. W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
  72. Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)