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.
Talisman didn’t waste any time between their last studio album, ‘Cats & Dogs’, and this one, ‘7’. It is amazing they had time to even do an album as Jeff Scott Soto’s schedule was quite busy with his solo album & touring, his work with Soul SirkUS and then his stint as lead singer of Journey. It was a hectic and crazy schedule. Somehow they did it. The band was back together with Jeff, Marcel Jacob, Frederik Akesson and Jamie Borger and heck, even Pontus Norgren was there to help mix the album. The family was back for one last hurrah as it would turn out as this is the very last studio album by Talisman. A few years later, there were talks of doing another album, but before they could get to it, Marcel Jacob passed away in 2009. This was the end of Talisman and I still get sad thinking of it as I really do enjoy this band.
The original title of the album was called ‘BAR’ which was an inside joke with the band as it stood for ‘Bitter-Angry-Resentful’ which apparently was their outlook on certain life events…who knows if that is true, but I like it. They settled on ‘7’ which is actually the 7th Studio album of the band and they chose the theme of Lucky 7 with all the gambling pictures and Vegas pictures in the album artwork. The album was released on October 20, 2006 by Frontiers Records and they intended to do a tour with the release, but Jeff’s Journey commitment kept getting in the way. The tour was postponed until later in 2007 and by that time, Jeff was let go from Journey as we discussed in the last post. No need to rehash that story. We might as well talk music.
The album kicks off with the most upbeat, happiest guitars with a killer riff at a tempo that will have you flying down the road at 100mph if you are in your car. “Falling” is a modern sounding song while still holding on to the great melodic rock sound. There are keyboards in there (not credited) that really add a great punch to the song. I don’t know how Jamie Borger keeps up the pace he is going pounding those drums. It might be the fastest song they’ve done. Jeff sounds great and the melodies in the song are wonderful. What an astounding opening track.
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.
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).
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.