Live Talisman - Five Out Of Five-Live In Japan (Zero) 1994

1. "Mysterious (This Time It's Serious)" (4:08)
2. "Standin' On Fire" (4:18)
3. "Comin' Home" (5:05)
4. "If U Would Only Be My Friend" (6:04)
5. "I'll Be Waiting" (2:30)
6. "Time After Time" (3:21)
7. "All I Want" (4:11)
8. "Dangerous" (3:38)
9. "U Done Me Wrong" (2:38)
10. "Break Your Chains" (2:58)
11. "Just Between Us" (3:48)
12. "All Or Nothing" (4:12)

Talisman is a Swedish melodic hard rock group, formed by bassist Marcel Jacob and led by former Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. My first exposure to this band was this live release. Having been a fan of Soto from his days with Rising Force, I was anxious to hear what he was doing with Talisman. Overall, the music here is mostly light-weight AOR and hard rock similar to Europe or Mr. Big. For the most part the songs are mid-paced and not overly heavy, though not over-run with sappy ballads either. "Comin' Home", despite having a title that sounds like a ballad, is an upbeat, fairly heavy rocker. Likewise, "Time After Time" is an upbeat rocker with a bit of a groove. The album ends with another upbeat rocker that has what Soto describes as "some guitar masturbation". I can only assume, not being familiar with the band's studio albums, that this live album offers some charged up versions of the studio originals. Usually that's the purpose of a live album, to capture that live energy and atmosphere.

Perhaps a live album wasn't the best Talisman album to start with. My initial thoughts were that Talisman sounded a bit generic and lacked much identity or charisma. Repeated listens didn't really change my opinion all that much, though there are a few standout cuts like opener "Mysterious" and the previously mentioned hard rockers. Otherwise, the music contained herein certainly isn't bad, but just not overly memorable. I don't know if there was any studio overdubs done after the fact, but as it stands, this  performance sounds tight, with lost of guitar solo breaks, well-done background vocals, solid bass-word and some nice crowd interaction.

This Japanese release came with two booklets, one being a 10 page insert with tons of live photos. The other is a 8-page booklet with lyrics in both Japanese and English.

M.A.R.S. Talisman - Cats and Dogs (Frontiers) 2003

1. "Skin on Skin" (3:20)
2. "Break It Down" (3:49)
3. "In Make Believe" (3:26)
4. "Love Will Come Again" (4:12)
5. "Outta My Way" (3:58)
6. "Friends to Strangers" (3:12)
7. "Sony" (3:45)
8. "Trapped" (3:09)
9. "M.O.M." (3:36)
10. "Wherever, Whenever, Whatever" (3:44)
11. "Lost in Wasteland" (4:32)
12. "Hell in Paradise" (4:29)

"Cats and Dogs" is a solid slab of commercial, hard rock led by rock veteren Jeff Scott Soto. Soto was immortalized by his early work with Yngwie Malmsteen. (I actually saw Jeff Scott Soto on the Yngwie J. Malmsteen "Rape and Pillage tour" back in 1984 or 85.) His raspy voice works as well over this melodic hard rock as it did over Yngwie's neo-classical guitar assaults. The songs here all flow nicely into the next, with each song possessing a simple charm and some serious hooks. I've heard people say that playing commercial AOR is talentless. Talisman prove otherwise. While the overall songwriting isn't complex, it is quite obvious that these guys are seasoned musicians. When cranked up, one thing that stands out is the superb bass playing of Marcel Jacob. However, the band gels together very well. From the vocals down to the guitar solos, everything is well done. It's a shame that music like this is no longer what is considered cool. This album deserves to be on the radio, but unfortunately "Cats and Dogs" will have to be relegated to an underground favorite for fans of AOR and melodic rock.

Related Collections:
Jeff Scott Soto

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