With his live work with Sons Of Apollo and Trans Siberian Orchestra off the schedule for the foreseeable future, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto has taken the chance to record his seventh album under his own name (aside from the Soto albums, which are band projects), ‘Wide Awake (In My Dreamland). Disregarding the title’s resemblance to an old album by Pat Benatar, the new songs were written and recorded alongside Alessandro del Vecchio, who seems to be on a lot of Frontiers Records releases these days, as well as being a member of Hardline, he’s also collaborated with Jorn, Revolution Saints and several other acts. In addition, the new studio album, has a bonus disc of Soto’s complete set from the Frontiers Festival 2019, in Milan.
The new studio album was heralded as a return to his AOR/melodic rock guise, as distinct from the Prog metal of Sons of Apollo and the harder rock of Soto, and it certainly lives up to that billing. The opening trio of songs set the stall out straight away, the opener, ‘Somebody to Love’ (not the Queen song), ‘Mystified’, with its strong sense of Soto’s old band Talisman, and ‘Love’s Blind’, the best of the three, each of which gets straight to the point, with strong hooks, but without ever overstaying their welcome. It’s a very solid start to the album. ‘Without You’ is the first of a pair of ballads, the second of which, ‘Lesson In Love’, starts as more medium pace than a standard rock ballad, but with it’s change of tempo, and another fine chorus, is one of the best tracks on the album.
‘Paper Wings’ is a heavier track, more of a nod to his Soto work, and ‘Love will Find a Way’ has an intro that suggests the song is going to be heavier than it actually is, and that kind of thing is repeated for the title track, generally a slower heavier song, but with a couple of changes of direction, including an unusual intro, that keeps it fresh. That’s one of the interesting things about the album as a whole, that it really comes to life when the writers and the band do something a little different. As ever, throughout the album, Soto’s vocals are terrific, he really is a top-notch singer, and at the risk of opening old wounds, it’s still mystifying that Journey dropped him after only a year as their frontman, especially considering his energy and power on stage.
The second part of the package, the Frontiers Rock Festival set, comprises what Soto describes as his ‘legacy’ set, almost all from the four albums he recorded between 2002 and 2012. There’s definitely some of his best solo work here, the rocking ‘Eyes of Love’, the excellent ballad ‘Holding On’, which is rarely played these days and is here dedicated to the Frontiers staff, and the funkier ‘21st Century’ and ‘Soul Divine’. There’s also another rarity in ‘Look Inside Your Heart’, from the ‘Damage Control’ album, played as part of the brief medley with ‘Believe In Me’, co-written with Neal Schon.
There have been quite a few of these releases of various sets from the Frontiers festivals, and one thing that seems a constant is that the crowd are often pretty low in the mix, which does detract from the atmosphere somewhat, and this particular album is no exception, which is a pity. This is illustrated when Soto delves even further into his past for the Talisman song ‘I’ll be Waiting’, a traditional crowd sing-a-long at one of his shows, but this time sounding like there are only about 15 people present, before the set closer’ Stand Up and Shout’, from the soundtrack of the film ‘Rock Star’ which is always great live.
This a good package from Jeff Scott Soto and Frontiers. Perhaps ‘Wide Awake’ isn’t his strongest or most definitive set, but it’s very listenable record, with some fine songs, and he’s a such a good live performer, any live album from him is going to hit the mark, whatever your reservations, so the whole package is a pretty good introduction to a singer who deserves a much wider audience.
- Reviewed by Paul Quinton
- Released on 6 November 2020 on Frontiers Records
- Jeff Scott Soto’s website and Facebook Page
CD1 – Wide Awake (In My Dreamland):
- Someone to Love
- Love’s Blind
- Without You
- Lesson of Love
- Paper Wings
- Love Will Find a Way
- Between The Lines
- Living A Dream
- Wide Awake (In My Dreamland)
CD2 – Live at the Frontiers Rock Festival:
- 21st Century
- Believe In Me
- Look Inside Your Heart
- Eyes Of Love
- Band Intros
- Soul Divine
- Our Song
- Holding On
- I’ll Be Waiting
- Stand Up