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.
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.
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.
As I mentioned in the prior Humanimal post…back in 2001, Talisman guitarist, Pontus Norgren, was working on a side project with Z-Records label boss, Mark Alger. Mark envisioned a Talisman type project that would be very different from the normal Talisman material. Pontus recruited Talisman bassist, Marcel Jacob, but the drummer was Thomas Broman who was not from Talisman. And yes, Jeff Scott Soto was on vocals. The big difference between Talisman and Humanimal is that the songs were more guitar driven than bass.
The first single released from the debut album was doing so well, Z-Records thought they would capitalize on the success and released this limited edition E.P. for the song “Find My Way Home”. To entice fans to buy it, they included a previously unreleased track…heck it worked…I bought it!!
“Find My Way Home” is off the debut Humanimal album and compared to some songs on the album this one slows things down, but it ain’t a ballad as there are none on that album. Slowed down means it is less than a million beats a second. This is one of the best songs on the album as it is more melodic and Soto brings it on home vocally as it sits right in his wheelhouse. The instruments take a little backseat to Soto’s vocals as they aren’t as in your face. But it doesn’t take away from that great rhythm section. A standout track for sure.
The second track and previously unreleased is “Love Dominion” which has some intense guitar work from Pontus with some really cool opening riffs and Thomas is pounding away on the drums. The opening gives us a guitar solo as well before Jeff joins in on vocals. The bass is heavy on this one, but not Talisman heavy. Jeff’s vocals aren’t as in your face and seem more reserved with such a rocking track, but it works. Great hooks, riffs and melodies…another cool track that would’ve fit nicely on the album. The song was issued on the album for the reissues and has been called “Love Dominion”, “Loves Dominion” and “Loves the Dominion” depending which version you get. Mine is “Love Dominion”.
Then with the final song on the E.P. and another from the debut album, things get a little funky with “Turn Away”. The song is dark and moody while also a very groovy song thanks to Marcel and the magic he can do with that bass. The chorus is really catchy and has more great harmonies. The a cappella break with just Soto and his many layers of vocals is awesome. Another Soto standout track.
And there you have it. I had to buy this one since I had the original release of the album and not a reissue which makes it cooler for me. It is a great 3 song set and is great taste of how good this short-lived band was. It is a must have for the Soto collector as it is a limited edition. The only thing is I don’t know how limited it actually is as I’ve never seen a number for how many were released. 3 powerhouse songs means a Perfect Score of 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars!
UP NEXT: JEFF SCOTT SOTO – ‘HOLDING ON’ E.P. (2002)
Back in 2001, Talisman guitarist, Pontus Norgren, was working on a side project with Z-Records label boss, Mark Alger. Mark envisioned a Talisman type project that would be very different from the normal Talisman material. It was thought to be a concept album with multiple lead singers including Jeff Scott Soto doing a few tunes as that was all he agreed to do. Pontus recruited Talisman bassist, Marcel Jacob, but the drummer was Thomas Broman who was not from Talisman.
Jeff signed on to do a few songs and said he was not a member of this band and was doing is at as a favor for his friends. Man, that sounds familiar (Takara and most of his early projects). And like normal, the multiple singer aspect didn’t work out and then Jeff agreed to do the whole album. This was basically a Talisman album with three of the four members, but it wasn’t that either. The biggest difference is the sound. This was a guitar driven album and much heavier than normal Talisman. In Talisman, you have Marcel’s bass front and center and the main focus, here, this is Pontus’ project so the guitar is the main focus. There are moments that feel and sound like Talisman, so any Talisman fan will love this album. But it is different.
The Humanimal name was chosen to mark the connection to Talisman, but at the same time to say that this is different, new and exciting. The album saw a release on January 2002, but it would end up being their last album together as this name. There were some shady dealings going on with the label and Marcel and Pontus ended up in a bitter dispute on royalties with Z-Records which led to bitter arguments between the two friends and as a result, the two parted ways. It was so bad, Pontus was now out of Talisman as well. Soto was planning on signing with Z-Records, but the royalty issue is rumored to have stopped him from signing with them as well. He would soon sign with Frontiers Records (which we will discuss on the next review). What started out as promising turned in to a total disaster…such is life in the Music Business!
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).
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.
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.
After the disappointment of the last Talisman album ‘Life’, Talisman went on an indefinite hiatus. They technically weren’t broken up, just doing separate things…sort of. Guitarist extraordinaire, Frederik Akesson, did leave the band to pursue something more heavy with a band called Eyeball. Jeff Scott Soto and Marcel Jacobs thought stuck together. They wanted to put something out that would hold over the Talisman fans until they could decide what was going to happen with Talisman.
Out of that came the band Human Clay. You would ask, why not continue Talisman. The answer was simple. Jeff was needing a steady income and reforming Talisman at the time was not a viable option as he had committed to doing his 70’s tribute band Boogie Knights. This wouldn’t allow for touring. So, they stuck with the Human Clay idea and recorded between December 18th, 1995 and January 10th, 1996. They decided to grab a bunch of old material that they never released with Talisman and put together an album. They didn’t have a drummer so they used a drum machine instead (which I don’t usually like) and then Marcel handled all the other instruments with some minor exceptions. The production on the debut album is not that great as they didn’t have much of a budget, but I will try to focus on the songs and not the production value…much.
If you are curious as to how they got the name Human Clay, well, I will tell you what I know. They liked the name Human as part of the band name as Jeff’s a fan of Human League and they tried a bunch of different combinations and each one seemed to already be used by another band. Soto says he also liked Andrew Dice Clay so they took the clay part. The Human Clay name wasn’t being used by another band so they went with it. Not very exciting of a story and I am not sure how much of it is true or just the Soto trying to be funny.
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.