Reviews May/03

Talisman / Cats & dogs / FR CD 146


Marcel Jacob, Jeff Scott Soto, Fredrik Åkesson and Jamie Borger back together. Tracklisting:Skin on skin; Break it down; In make believe; Love will come again; Outta my way; Friends to Stranger; Sorry; Trapped; M.O.M.; Wherever, whenever, whatever; Lost in the Wasteland; Hell in Paradise.

Swedish/American melodic groove rock band Talisman started out more or less as the brainchild of bass ace Marcel Jacob. He previously played with bands like Malmsteen's Rising Force, Norum and Power. During the sessions for Malmsteen he met Jeff Scott Soto and they founded Talisman.
On the first album the band wasn't really a band but more a Jacob/Soto project + friends. Guitars were played by Christopher Ståhl (Power) and Mats Lindfors (Norum), keyboards by Mats Olausson (Malmsteen, Glory) and additional drums by Peter Hermansson (220 VOLT, Norum).
When Talisman signed to Dino (later re-named Empire) they bought the master and re-issued the debut on CD with six live tracks as bonus - still a classic in my collection. But the two most spoken-of-albums by the band was the two "Humanimal" albums - the line up included Fredrik Åkesson on guitar and ex-Treat drummer Jamie Borger. Åkesson left as he wanted to go in a heavier direction which can be heard on his project Southpaw. But the band finally decided to take a hiatus and Marcel and Jeff recorded two albums under the moniker Human Clay.
But Talisman finally found their way back, reinforced with guitarist Pontus Norgren. The album "Truth" was however a flop - and after the album the band officially split, but did some gigs in the summer of 2001. Jeff, Pontus and Marcel later joined forces with drummer Thomas Broman (Great Broman) and took the name Humanimal. In 2002 Humanimal split and shortly after ... Talisman has risen with the return of the old friends Fredrik Åkesson on guitars and Jamie Borger on drums.
"Cats And Dogs" is a splendid return to the old attitudes that gave the band the cult status even back then - The magnificent vocals by Soto, the artistic bass-lines by Jacob and the heavy guitar tunes by Åkesson completed by the groovy drums by Borger best described in the song "Outta my Way" - where the duel between Jacob and Åkesson is a classic in the making. But also a ballad like "Sorry" is very authentic - and THAT is exactly the big force of the band they seem very reliable in every track and with every form for expression! "Cats & Dogs" is just about perfect as a triumphant return for Talisman - great! And by the way you can buy their back catalogue through their website!

Derek Sherinian / Black Utopia / IOMCD 124


Derek Sherinian - One of the most ambitious men in the music bizz!! Tracklisting:The Fury; The sons of Anu (1. For the Glory of Enki 2. Of the Ashes of Ur 3. Return of the Nephelim); Nightmare Cinema; Stony Days; Starcycle; Axis of Evil; Gypsy Moth; Sweet Lament; Black Utopia.

I talked to Derek Sherinian the other day - in the phone from Hollywood L.A. and he told me that he had an ambition with this release: Making it a new standard for instrumental records. Making "Black Utopia" THE record to measure future instrumental records by... and I will say that this ambition he pretty much succeeded in that.
Derek Sherinian is one of the few musicians that ALWAYS is at the right time & place with the right musicians with the right attitude - he never seems to choose the wrong company! He explained it like this: " I started out with Alice Cooper, he learned me the whole busines and I started to record in a rather late age at 23. Therefore I don't have these emberrassing releases to look on now - because I started in a garageband, too" - hard to imagine, though. He had played with Alice Cooper, Brad Gillis, Kiss, Dream Theater, Platypus, Billy Idol and Planet X. And as he told me: "A lot of these musicans are my neighbours and friends - and if they weren't i asked them" and that really nails Derek Sherinian as this brave artist - a lot of courage combined with a nice attitude and outstanding musical skills.
Where his recent "band" Planet X is a democracy joined by Tony MacAlpine and Virgil Donati Derek Sherinian is a total dictatorship. "Only then I can have it my way and express myself in the perfect way", he said and continued "This is my best record - it's very ambitious, I produced it myself with more control at the whole thing this time around. And I've learned that you should always reach for the top in regard to the players you surround yourself with."
Not only is he in total control but his friends and associates on "Black Utopia" is also outstanding let me mention in no particular order: Steve Lukather, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Al DiMeola, Brian Tichy, Jerry Goodman (violin - from Mahavishnu Orchestra), Tony Franklin, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips! ..... and if you have lost your breath - wait until you have listened to the record. If you are in the mood for this breathtaking musical experience I can recommend to listen to the whole CD without doing any breakes. "Black Utopia" reflects the bit more dark pieces to life the days - but with musical references to Heavy Metal, Jazz and Progressive metal over melodic rock! The most hard hitting track - or the track that had the biggest impact on me is the track "Axis of Evil" because of the scintillating duel between Wylde and Malmsteen - it should send legions of aspiring guitarist back to the practice room! Listen and learn! That Tuesday evening in Vordingborg, Denmark (i guess it was around noon in California) i talked to a very nice and focused man - and the music is as straight but uncompromising as Derek Sherinian himself! My life will never be the same after this - excellent!

John Wetton / Rock of Faith / GEPCD 1033


John Wetton - Mr. Asia is back! Tracklisting:Mondrago; Rock of Faith; A new Day; I've come to take you Home; Who will light a Candle; Nothing's gonna stand in our Way; Altro Mondo; I believe in you; Take me to the Waterline; I lay down; When you were young.

John Wetton has called his latest effort "Rock of Faith" ... but the rock part is being slightly overseen on the album - but otherwise I think it's a nice atmospheric record.
John Wetton has been a member of some of the "biggest" sounding bands around like King Crimson, UK, Family and of course Asia. On this CD he has joined forces with Clive Nolan (Pendragon and Arena) who is playing the keyboards and doing the production. And my general opinion on this album is that John Wetton has drifted towards band like Pendragon and/or IQ in a sort of prog pop genre. But one of the clues is also the collaboration with former Asia mate Geoffrey Downes on two tracks: "I've come to take you Home" and "I lay down" the first teamwork in a decade. And both tracks very much illuminates what I consider an Asia-feeling with a updated touch.
Other notable guests on the album are Hugh McDowell from ELO on cello, Peter Gee from Pendragon on fretless bass, Tim Garland from Arkangel on saxophone, Steve Christey from Jadis on drums and John Mitchell from Arena on guitars. And there are several memorable tracks on the album like the hummable "Nothing's gonna stand in our Way" and "Take me down to the Waterline" but also the more balladesque tracks like the before mentioned "I've come to take you Home" and "Who will light a Candle" are safe and sound AOR tunes! Good to have John Wetton back on track - but a bit more rock the next time, please!

© Steen Peitersen 1999-2003