Jeff Scott Soto – Beautiful Mess (2009, Frontiers Records)
- 21st Century
- Cry Me A River
- Gin & Tonic Sky
- Broken Man
- Our Song
- Bring It Home
- Wherever U Wanna Go
- Kick II
- Heart Starts Healing (bonus track)
- Take U Over With Me (bonus track)
- 21st Century (video)
- Gin & Tonic Sky (video)
- Hey (video)
- Gin & Tonic Sky (Piano version) (video)
- What A Beautiful Mess (Promo video)
Jeff Scott Soto – Lead Vocals
Paulo Mendonca – Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, FX & Backing Vocals
Peter Strandberg – Drums
Karl Guner – Drums
Ben Carey – Guitars
Sammy Sims – Bass
Producers: Paulo Mendonca & Jeff Scott Soto
Total Time = 51:19
If you’re a fan of Melodic Hard Rock, or early Yngwie Malmsteen, then Jeff Scott Soto should need no introduction. Since his debut on Yngwie’s 1984 RISING FORCE, Jeff Scott Soto has carved himself an excellent career fronting bands like Journey, Talisman, Takara and Axel Rudi Pell while maintaining his own personal solo career and tribute album collaborations. The hardest working singer in Hard Rock? Most likely! Definitely one of the most underrated vocalists out there, listen to any of his recorded projects and the vocals and writing are always top of the line. I have been following Soto since the first two Yngwie albums, over the years I picked up a few of his other projects’ albums, but it wasn’t until the late ’90s and the Internet age that I started to truly appreciate his talents.
Putting aside his Hard Rock and Heavy Metal notoriety, most fans wouldn’t know that some of the more direct musical influences on Jeff’s talents include Funk, R&B, Pop & Soul. No that would normally scare most Rock fans away but Jeff has been able to maintain a healthy balance of styles and has incorporated these different musical elements into his solo career. One listen to BEAUTIFUL MESS and you realize this isn’t a regular Rock album…..it’s really not even a true Rock album, more a Pop and R&B album with a couple Rock songs mixed in. I read the reviews prior to this albums release and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really think this would be something I would like, the whole R&B/Funk/Pop thing scaring me right off. I bought this back when it physically came out on CD (the album was released digitally in late 2008) back in February and I only started listening to it in November!
BEAUTIFUL MESS kicks off with a mid-paced, guitar driven Rock track ’21st Century’ that also includes some scratches, loops and a bit of a Funk vibe to it. Even though the song is more Rock there are definitely little details that signal a slightly different approach to Melodic Hard Rock. It’s a good song and regular JSS fans will like it’s melodic touch. ‘Cry Me A River’ is a slower ballad style song with a lot of Pop and Soul influences that definitely signals a whole new direction from your normal Rock style. Ballad #2 is the superb ‘Gin & Tonic Sky’, probably one of my favorite songs of 2009! This has mainstream chart success written all over it! It’s exactly the kind of ballad that Pop & Adult Contemporary audiences go for with a beautifully passionate vocal…..this is the true talent of Jeff Scott Soto. Following such a good song is a hard task and the acoustic based ‘Hey’ falls a little short with it’s very basic arrangement and instrumentation. It’s another great vocal from JSS, as are all the songs on BEAUTIFUL MESS, and the harmonies surrounding the chorus are top notch. Ballad #3 creeps in with ‘Broken Man’, acoustic guitars and solid harmonies, this could easily be a Southern Rock/Country song with some minor changes.
The album picks up a little bit with the mid-tempo, ’70s Rock/Funk hybrid titled ‘Mountain’. The song has some heavier guitar at the bridge and chorus but it’s mostly acoustic driven with plenty of funky keyboards and beats. Good song overall, has the fingers tapping and me singing along. ‘Our Song’ is pure Melodic Rock even though the drums sound too simple and dancebeat-ish during the verses. The song rocks up on the chorus and reminds me of some of Jeff’s work on his solo albums and with Talisman. ‘Eye’ is another mid-tempo Pop track that pulls out the Soul in Soto’s vocals and gets slightly heavier during the chorus but it’s not one of my favorites on the album, a bit too much of a departure from what I’m used to with Jeff Scott Soto. That said, ‘Bring It Home’ is a complete departure! ‘Bring It Home’ is pure R&B, there’s a slow danceable groove to it with some cool harmonies with backup singer Anna Maria La Spina…..the female harmony really compliments Jeff’s vocal style. How ‘Bring It Home’ isn’t on the radio is beyond me, it’s tailor made! Not my cup of tea but for some reason I like it. ‘Testify’ brings some well overdue Rock that reminds me of Jeff’s early solo work from LOVE PARADE (1995). Nice to hear a Rock song on BEAUTIFUL MESS, the lack of them makes them stand out more.
‘Wherever U Wanna Go’ starts off slow like a ballad but it starts to get heavier come the chorus but there are already enough songs on the album that follow a similar pattern. It’s a decent song but it sounds like the rest. Same thing with ‘Kick It’, it starts out slowly and builds as the song progresses to the chorus. It’s a mellow, acoustic driven Pop song that can easily be considered either a ballad or a mid-tempo track…..it sounds just like the rest of the tunes before it. If you picked up the actual physical CD from Frontiers Records then you get two bonus tracks: ‘Heart Starts Healing’ and ‘Take U Over With Me’. Both songs are melodic Pop Rock songs with ‘Heart Starts Healing’ leaning more toward Jeff’s uptempo style and ‘Take U Over With Me’ falling into that mid-tempo/ballad frame. Both songs are good with ‘Heart Starts Healing’ being the better of the two. Another bonus to the physical CD is the bonus DVD that includes four videos, including an excellent piano version of ‘Gin & Tonic Sky’, and a 20+ minute interview/making of documentary with Jeff.
I wasn’t sure what to make of BEAUTIFUL MESS when I read about it and I’m not really sure what to think about it now. I would say that I’m more a fan of the harder side of Jeff Scott Soto’s career but I definitely enjoy his more melodic solo albums as well. This new album is a departure from both and there are times where it’s hard to imagine that this is the same singer who belted out the Malmsteen classic ‘I’ll See The Light Tonight’! I find myself in a love/hate relationship with BEAUTIFUL MESS…..while I love the perfect vocals, harmonies and instrumentation, I could do without the samples, scratches and loops. While I like a good ballad or slow mid-tempo number, too many of them can make the album boring. While I like a mellow, groovy album to relax to, I prefer Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Rating this album good or bad would have to depend on my mood: good if I want to veg & relax, bad if I want to Rock out. I have to give Jeff Scott Soto credit, he does what he wants to do and he is an amazing talent. BEAUTIFUL MESS will open some fans up to a new direction and alienate some others.
’21st Century’, ‘Gin & Tonic Sky’, ‘Broken Man’, ‘Our Song’, ‘Testify’