Album review: JEFF SCOTT SOTO – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)

JEFF SCOTT SOTO- Wide Awake In My Dreamland

Frontiers Records [Release Date 6.11.20]

After going in a more modern metal direction with his Soto project and fronting prog rock supergroup Sons of Apollo, the latest album from the ever prolific Jeff Scott Soto sees him return to the straight ahead melodic hard rock with which he made his name in bands like Talisman, Eyes and Takara.

With the exception of drummer Edu Cominato, his usual Brazilian band are put to one side in favour of a collaboration with a pair of Italians. Alessandro Del Vecchio, one of the few men with a résumé as long as his own, produces, supplies bass and keyboards and the two co-write every song, ensuring they do retain some of the JSS trademarks.

The other is guitarist Fabrizio Sgattoni, a new name to me but a real discovery in the way he regularly lights up the album. His guitar intro drives the melody on a strong opener ‘Someone To Love’, while ‘Mystified’ is bolstered by a slightly darker riff in very Talisman-esque fashion but he takes off mid-song on a very fluid solo. Then the relatively ordinary ‘Love’s Blind’ is enlivened by his short but sweet solo with an almost EVH-like lightness of touch.

‘Time For Change’ takes down the tempo with its piano intro and telegraphed power chord having something of a symphonic feel and reminding us of JSS’ love for Queen which even had some people suggesting he would be a perfect fit for May and Taylor.

Any suspicion he might be reserving his best hooks for the W.E.T. album next year are dispelled by a pair of mid-album songs in ‘Lessons In Love’, again the lead guitar driving the melody and ‘Paper Wings’, where the guitar work ironically draws comparison with Jeff’s original employer Yngwie J Malmsteen.

‘Love Will Find A Way’ is classic Soto with his strong vocals over a muscular, slightly funky riff, but the closing duo of the title track (oddly close to a Pat Benatar album title!) and ‘Desperate’ tread similar ground but to less effect.

In between there are a contrasting pair in the ballad ‘Between The Lines’, which starts off a little underpowered but gets there eventually and the faster pace of ‘Living In A Dream’, where Fabrizio goes off on some rapid fire solos.

The songs are direct and never outstay their welcome but are possibly a little on the generic side, while the production could be sharper.

As a bonus the album comes with a 40 minute bonus disc of JSS’ live set at the final Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan last year. Described in his own words from the stage as a ‘legacy set’ it’s a good introduction to his best work in all its diversity, albeit some of it shoehorned into medley format.

It concludes with two signature songs in Talisman’s ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, with lengthy audience participation and ‘Stand Up’ where he is joined by one of the best of the new generation of singers in Dino Jelusick.

The main attraction is a very strong, if unexceptional, return to those roots.  ****

Review by Andy Nathan

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