Over thirty years after his breakthrough with Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Scott Soto released one of the greatest albums of his career. At the point where most veteran vocalists could be accused of going through the motions, 2020’s ‘Wide Awake In My Dreamland’ was a rich, melodic treat; the kind of album that reminded audiences why they still loved AOR and melodic rock – despite many of the scene’s releases being so workmanlike. It also provided solid evidence that Soto still was still in possession of a fantastic set of vocal pipes. The global pandemic meant the album couldn’t be toured in the usual way, but Jeff filled the time with a surprise release, ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ a few months later, delighting the fans and cementing his place as one of AOR’s most beloved talents.
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.
If there’s one word that best describes singer Jeff Scott Soto, it’s “prolific”. He made his first major breakthrough in the mid 80s when he appeared as a singer for hire with Yngwie Malmsteen, a job that doubtlessly helped him score similar work with virtuoso guitarists Alex Masi and Axel Rudi Pell. From that point on, he never stopped working. Throughout the nineties, he fronted hard rock bands Eyes, Talisman and Takara (sometimes simultaneously) and in the twenty first century, he’s fronted his own band SOTO – taking a heavier direction – and been a member of AOR supergroup, W.E.T. In between all of that, he’s found time for an on/off solo career. Take one look at his discography on Wikipedia detailing all of his major works alongside dozens of guest appearances and you’ll find yourself wondering if he ever sleeps.
By the end of 2019, Jeff Scott Soto had celebrated thirty five years in the music business. One of melodic rock’s most gifted vocalists, in that time he’s released six solo albums and over thirty more as a full-time frontman with a band. Obviously, you’d expect such an extensive career to take in a live album or two already, but by the spring of 2020, Jeff had no fewer than seven live albums to his credit (three with Talisman and four solo), so in that regard, fans have been more than well served. With three of those already covering his output for Frontiers Records admirably, there’s initially a feeling that 2020’s ‘Loud & Live In Milan’ might just be surplus to requirements…