Artists with long careers will inevitably find themselves with their best days behind them. With the passing of time and fading inspiration to contend with, this is only natural. It’s not something that seems to have affected Jeff Scott Soto. In 2020, thirty six years after his breakthrough with Yngwie Malmsteen, he released ‘Wide Awake (In My Dreamland’), one of his finest works to date. He could often be relied upon for a decent record – whether tackling pure melodic rock (2002’s ‘Prism’), unleashing his funky side and inner Prince (1995’s ‘Love Parade’) or fronting something heavier (some great metal albums with Sons of Apollo) – but ‘…Dreamland’ was a cut above.
Given how great that record was, it was a travesty that a global pandemic stopped Jeff taking the songs on the road, but despite the world slowing down, he didn’t stop working. He refocused his attentions and decided to bring the past into the present by re-recording selected tracks from his vast back catalogue with a clutch of the present’s other melodic rock talents. Sometimes reworking the past is a bad idea, especially if the artist isn’t particularly open about allowing other creative souls any real input (Kate Bush, we’re looking at you), but fans need not worry about Jeff tarnishing his already great legacy here. His choice of material is good; his roll-call of friends adds a variety of voices that are complimentary to his own and, regarding a couple of the older songs on the table, there might even be an improvement.
A prolific musician, Magnus Karlsson has worked with many legends from the hard rock and melodic metal scene. You’ll find his name attached to works by Magnum’s Bob Catley, TNT’s Tony Harnell, Russell Allen, Bobby Kimball and Phenomena. He’s also been a member of Euro metallers Primal Fear. Perhaps most importantly, the Swedish multi-instrumentalist has received great press for his own project Free Fall, designed to showcase his melodic metal prowess behind an impressive roll call of guest vocalists. An enjoyable self-titled release set a high musical benchmark in 2013 with a collection of very European sounding bangers. A follow up, 2015’s ‘Kingdom of Rock‘ (not to be confused with an identically titled project from the legendary Michael Schenker), sometimes showed a lighter side with contributions from Joe Lynn Turner and Harem Scarem man Harry Hess and although a more hit and miss disc, it still provided a decent collection filler for anyone enamoured with the style.
It’s been a great year at Real Gone. Not only did the website celebrate its tenth birthday, but we got more requests and submissions for review than ever! This year, everything felt like it had truly come together and paved the way for the next phase of the website’s lifespan.
This year, Real Gone received hundreds upon hundreds of review items and digital streams. Obviously, there isn’t enough time to review everything…but from the mountain of stuff we got to listen to and review, there was a lot of great music.
In 2018, Croatian hard rockers Animal Drive released their debut album ‘Bite!’ on Frontiers Records. With plenty of hard rock crunch, the record drew parallels with the heavier end of Skid Row’s early output, as well as showing off more than a passing fancy with the late, great Ronnie James Dio. The record featured at least a half dozen cuts that were well worth hearing, but if anything, it was the Dio-tastic ‘Time Machine’ with its heavy but melodic riff which best demonstrated the band’s skills.