Review by Brian McGowan
Live In Japan
A slim but powerful body of work, these 4 Talisman albums represent so much more than you would think at first glance.
Formed in 1988, the band has seen many European rock and metal musicians cycle through its ranks… Jason (Saigon Kick) Bieler, Jakob (Poodles) Samuelson, Thomas (Talk Of The Town) Wikstrom, Matti (Skintrade) Alfonzetti and many more.
But 4 musicians have been the constant core of the band. Founder member Marcel Jacob on bass, Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, Fredrik (Street Talk) Akesson on guitars and Jamie (Treat) Borger on drums.
To a great extent then, the albums are the late Marcel Jacob’s legacy. Jacob died last year, aged 45. Fittingly, they also represent some of the best melodic hard rock of the nineties.
The band’s former label manager, Christer Weden’s own production company, Sun Hill (evenin’ all), has restored and remastered the original tracks, along with a whole bunch of previously unreleased stuff, added as bonuses. All 4 were reissued on Sun Hill Productions, just as 2012 closed.
The self titled first album is very much a product of the eighties, conforming to the accepted recording norms of the time. The production – airy, compact, polished, in pursuit of that big radio sound; the songs – though lyrically stunted, bristling with catchy hooks, memorable melodies and huge harmonies.
It was impressive stuff and promised so much more. ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, ‘Just Between Us’ and ‘Day By Day’ showcase one of the great melodic rock voices in full flood. And the playing – bass, guitar and drums – exemplify the disciplined, economic aesthetic of genuine musicians. But it was perhaps the production, employing the machinery of genre that stopped the release from soaring into the Premier League. Arguably, the sound lacked the warmth and the soul to connect big time, though it did sell 50,000 in Sweden.
There are 8 bonus live tracks, and the remastering job is pretty decent.
Some interesting stuff too… ‘Ice Cream Man’, recorded at Blues Brothers in Stockholm, 1990, had Bieler and Samuelsson in the band at that time. The Joey Tempest/Marcel Jacob co-write, ‘Scream Of Anger’, which featured on Europe’s second album is featured here, recorded live at Karlskoga, again in 1990. There’s also a neat little instrumental studio piece from Jacob, very short but worth hearing.
The debut’s line up was: JSS, MJ, Christopher Stahl (g), Mats Lindfors (g), Peter Hermansson (d) and Mats Olausson (k).
‘Genesis’ is in a whole different league. The song writing, once the result of a newly formed professional partnership and slightly clinical, now sounds fresh, intuitive and more imaginative. Prodigy, Fredrik Akesson is now on board, and he gives the guitar sound a steely edge and a metallised sheen.
‘Genesis’ is clearly the sound of a band maturing fast, confident and convincing.
It’s also a warmer, fuller sound, with funk grooves underpinning many of the tracks, driven by Jacob’s blistering bass, most notably on ‘If You Would Only Be My Friend’. The opening trio of tracks, ‘Coming Home’, ‘Time After Time’ and ‘Mysterious’ are as good an opening salvo as you’ll hear on any melodic rock release. Boldly going where they didn’t go on the debut, you can hear the strait jacket of genre convention being ripped apart as the band ripple their musical muscle and stretch their invention into uncharted territory.
Even more interesting bonus tracks this time round. Four demos, dusted down, polished up and presented as a Talisman primer. They show us just how effective was the process that took their songs from embryo album material to finished article. The songs: ’Give Me A Sign’, ’Coming Home’, ’U Done Me Wrong’ and ’Time After Time’ have Jason Bieler on guitars. These overdubbed versions show off Pontus Norgren and Fredrik Akesson gilding the lilies.
The overriding problem with ‘Genesis’ was this: it was 1993. Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana were riding the rock charts. The barbarians were through the gates.
Talisman fought back with the phenomenal ‘Humanimal’. More on that next week, plus ‘Live In Japan’.
Talisman : 6 out of 10
Genesis : 8 out of 10
1. Break Your Chains
2. Standin’ On Fire
3. I’ll Be Waiting
5. Just Between Us
6. System Of Power
8. Lightning Strikes
9. Day By Day
10. Woman, Whiskey And Song
11. Great Sandwich (instrumental)
12. MJ Playing bass solo In Studio. (Bonus)
13. Just Between Us [Live 1990] Kopparberg, Sweden. (Bonus)
14. Eternal Flame [Live 1990] Kopparberg, Sweden. (Bonus)
15. I’ll Be Waiting [Live 1990] Kopparberg, Sweden. (Bonus)
16. Scream of Anger [Live 1990] Karlskoga, Sweden. (Bonus)
17. NJBBWD [Live 1990] Karlskoga, Sweden. (Bonus)
18. Standin’ On Fire [Live 1990] Karlskoga, Sweden. (Bonus)
19. Let Me Love You [Live 1990] Karlskoga, Sweden. (Bonus)
20. Ice Cream Man [Live 1990] Stockholm, Blues Brothers, Sweden. (Bonus)
1. Time After Time
2. Comin’ Home
4. If You Could Only Be My Friend
5. All Or Nothing
6. All I Want
7. U Done Me Wrong
8. I’ll Set Your House On Fire
9. Give Me A Sign
11. Long Way 2 Go
12. Run With The Pack
13. Give Me A Sign – Demo version re-recorded and mixed, 2012
14. Comin’ Home – Demo version re-recorded and mixed, 2012
15. Time After Time – Demo version re-recorded and mixed, 2012
16. U Done Me Wrong – Demo version re-recorded and mixed, 2012