Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

REVIEW: Jeff Scott Soto – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)

Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)” is the seventh solo album by hard-rock veteran Jeff Scott Soto, to be released on November 6th, 2020, via Frontier Music. He debuted as a solo artist as early as in 1994 but cut his teeth in the world of rock even further back in time in the mid-1980s. He provided vocals for Yngwie Malmsteen‘s first two albums, ”Rising Force” in 1984 and ”Marching Out” a year later. More recently, you might have heard his hard-rockish belting on the albums of SONS OF APOLLO and the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. To use the word ”seasoned” or ”battle-hardened” might be an understatement here: Soto has more than 85 albums under his belt! He’s definitely a consummate pro, who has the vocal prowess to deliver across multiple genres, ranging from metal to prog to hard-rock and even funk. His new album has a focus on the hard-rock side of things with the occasional sideways glance at epic ballads. The album includes a bonus disc featuring Soto‘s live performance recorded at Frontiers Rock Festival in 2019, showcasing rather nicely that the magic of his hard-rock voice does not derive from mere studio wizardry. His vocal tone is the epitome of vintage hard-rock and the new selection of songs delivers spot-on to the tried-and-true paradigms of the genre. Yes, we’ve probably heard this stuff before a million times over, but who’s to say we couldn’t listen to it some more? If it’s good enough, that is.

While the new Soto album is not conceptual in the strict, proggy sense of the word, there seems to be a sort of underlying theme, judging by the song titles at glance. ”Love” is the word that keeps popping up. At face value, it seems that the album lyrics oscillate between the mystified dopamine rush of the honeymoon period in a typical relationship and the inevitable disenchantment or love hangover that follows. It charges the album with a somewhat unsettling aura. You see, I’m not exactly a fan of pastel-shaded love songs but it’s too late to back off now. Let’s put on the spandex pants, some hairspray, and the record on. There’s only one way to find out whether this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

From the opening track, ”Someone to Love,” to the album closer, ”Desperate,” the delivery and songcraft are cohesive. The album sounds like a non-stop stream of hard-rock evergreens, resonating with a strong 1980s feel while existing outside of time. When the last notes fade into silence, you get a feeling of having witnessed a true zen master of timeless rock at work. On the other hand, the album feels like a well-executed pastiche of 1980s hard-rock, but then again, you cannot exactly blame Soto – this is what he does, has been doing all his life, and he does it pretty damn well. When the music’s over, I kind of realize that my tentative fears were unnecessary. The album did not turn out to be about a lovesick Romeo singing to his unheeding love against the sonic backdrop of tedious hard-rock ballads. Yes, the album comes packed with a few ballads also, but they’re nicely sandwiched between energetic tracks and executed with style. Take ”Between the Lines,” for example. It has a distinct JOURNEY vibe to it – and then you might remember that Soto actually had a short stint with this classic rock outfit in 2006.

It doesn’t take that much to feel genuinely happy – just a bit of air and exercise. For the air part, driving along the interstate in a nice convertible sports car with the hood down would do. As for the exercise, singing along to Soto‘s new batch of songs would more than suffice. Having 1980s-tinted hard-rock as my guilty pleasure is not such a bad thing, I guess. After all, I spent most of my delicate childhood years in the 1980s with the soundtrack of my life comprised predominantly of the hard-rock and heavy metal of the era. ”Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)” carries on that fine legacy with such finesse that it practically pulls the rug from beneath my footing with a sly sleight of hand.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist CD 1

  1. Someone To Love
  2. Mystified
  3.  Love’s Blind
  4. Without You
  5.  Lesson of Love
  6. Paper Wings
  7. Love Will Find A Way
  8. Between the Lines
  9. Living In A Dream
  10. Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
  11. Desperate

Tracklist CD 2

  1. Drowning (live)
  2. 21st Century (live)
  3. Believe In Me (live)
  4. Look Inside Your Heart (live)
  5. Eyes of Love (live)
  6. Band Intros (live)
  7. Soul Divine (live)
  8. Our Song (live)
  9. Holding On (live)
  10. I’ll Be Waiting (live)
  11. Stand Up feat. Dino Jelusick (live)

Lineup

Jeff Scott Soto – Vocals

Alessandro Del Vecchio – Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Fabrizio Sgattoni – Guitars

Edu Cominato – Drums

August Zadra – Backing Vocals, lead guitar on ”Between the Lines”

Label

Frontiers Music s.r.l.

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