|JSS Beautiful Mess||Frontiers Records|
Beautiful Mess is anything but. In fact, the album, which marks Jeff Scott Soto's switch to a more organic soul-rich sound, could well be his personal pinnacle for performance and emotion.|
Signaling a change of direction a couple of years back, JSS has been intent on capturing the best elements of his many musical influences, which have always been on show in some parts of his prior solo career.
Pop, Soul, R&B and funk have all played a part in the JSS sound, but now they are front and center, with rock taking a backseat.
Beautiful Mess is a collaboration with Swedish songwriter/producer/musician Paulo Mendonca, largely recorded in Sweden.
I know there will be some JSS fans that might on the surface have a hard time accepting the direction change or the mood of the album. But the more you listen, the more the music appears as simply a natural progression from the sound we already know and love.
The main difference in the record – aside from the obvious production effects, sampling and various bells and whistles, is the fact it is simply a more mature and mellower, reflective Jeff Scott Soto.
The album reflects a particular state of mind and the performances ooze passion and emotion and for that reason, I loved the record from the first note. It is just so honest and real – and positively electric in its delivery and tone.
Track By Track:
21st Century is a snappy, effects filled modern pop rock track with a sultry vocal and a lush production and a catchy melodic chorus. A perfect set up for the record ahead and the new JSS direction.
Cry Me A River is a mellower, more reflective soulful pop/rock track with a slightly funky undertone.
Gin & Tonic Sky is simply one of the best songs JSS has ever put vocal to. This is a soulful, emotional and passionate pop ballad with some fabulous harmony vocals and an unforgettable chorus – not to mention the inspired lyrics. Outstanding vocals, from the softly sung beginning to the more powerful finish.
Hey is a largely acoustic based song and again features a sparse arrangement, with only the absolutely necessary instrumentation playing a part. A rockier chorus and more prominent guitars add a little muscle. Another wonderfully reflective track.
Broken Man is yet another inspired and touching acoustic driven ballad with a ton of soul and some delicate, well-placed harmony vocals. Another classy track and another killer vocal.
The first "half" of the album closes with a slight change of musical course. Opening with some of the more reflective mellower tunes in the new arsenal, JSS now rocks it up a little with a more modern rock friendly tone on the funky, effects filled rocker Mountain.
That is closely followed by the modern rock anthem Our Song, which while dressed up in a contemporary setting, is probably the closest thing to JSS of old on the album. A great hands-in-the-air chorus comes at a perfect time in the scheme of the album.
Eye and Bring It Home might be a couple of tracks that the traditionalists could struggle with – funky, driving pop/rock with a R&B base. Still, a well written song is a well written song – no matter the style and these have their own style of catchiness.
Testify is another track that has a familiar air to it – a funky rocker with a Prince influence – drawing on Jeff's debut solo album Love Parade and his occasional style deviations since that point.
Wherever U Wanna Go is a song of contrasts – a slow, mellow verse and an upbeat pop chorus with a great hook. Really works well and is another album highlight.
Kick It is an acoustic driven modern pop track with a changing pace and a tempo that builds through the song to a rousing almost retro pop styled finish.
Heart Starts Healing and Take You Over With Me are both easy going, free flowing pop/rockers with a more traditional sound, while also matching the "new" JSS.
The bonus DVD is a very worthwhile addition to the package, containing 4 different music videos and a 20 minute discussion about the new album from JSS, whilst also cruising thru the corridors of the NAMM show, with countless guests making an appearance.
JSS is all over this as far as style and influences and he sings his heart out. Paulo contributes some world-class pop production tricks and instrumentation and together they deserve to take on the world and win. Hopefully established JSS fans will all appreciate the work that has gone into this record and I'm also hopeful it will draw in a new range of fans.
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