Released: 2005, Frontiers Records/Atenzia Records
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
The band started out under the name Planet Us including the guitar player of Journey Neal Schon, the drummer Deen Castronova, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. When Sammy and Michael returned to their rolls in the reunited Van Halen that left Neal and Deen without a full band. Neal had heard of Jeff Scott Soto’s (Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen etc) reputation and the pair first met and then jammed at LA’s 2004 Winter NAMM Convention in Los Angeles. Neal also caught Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy etc) playing a showcase on exactly that weekend and that sparked the idea for the “Baddest band anyone’s ever seen or heard” and by that started Neal and Jeff to start writing material instantly.
Neal says this about the album “The new stuff is cool, melodic and have plenty of edge. We are very much looking forward to getting it out soon and playing live. I definitely feel we have the goods. It is sounding very cool to say the least”.
The guys recorded the 11 tracks in San Francisco in Jonathan Cain’s studio. The album was originally released on Soul Sirkus records/Warner music but sold only on Warner’s online store.
Right before the band was headed out on the road in the US came their first setback, Deen left the band in order to focus on Journey’s tour and it and the guys to start the search for another drummer. They chose to replace Deen with the Australian sensation Virgil Donati (Steve Vai, Ring of Fire etc) and those four entered the studio and replaced all the existing drum parts with Virgil’s new play, besides that they also added another track on to the debut album.
By looking at the members I think you all can almost guess what kind of music Soul Sirkus play, it’s listed as melodic hardrock and I can’t do nothing but agree to that. You can hear musical similarities with Journey and Talisman, which isn’t so strange with thought which guys that are in this band, but there’s also some more pure melodic hardrock that almost turns into funk in certain parts and I think we can “blame” Jeff for that.
When you hear the word melodic rock you probably expect to hear keyboards but that isn’t so in this case. They haven’t used keyboard at all, instead they totally rely on lead vocals and a very technical and varied well played guitar sound. But to stick to the formula when it comes to melodic rock they have featured a few ballads on the album.
The ballads are “Another world”, “Soul Goes On”, “Periled Divide” and “Coming Home” and all of them are extremely slow where Jeff shows off his amazing voice and vocal range. “Highest ground”, “Peephole”, “Friends to lovers” and “Close the door” makes the melodic hardrock tunes and Jeff are here, again, at the top of the mix and these tracks sounds like they could belong on an album by Talisman. A few more edgier and faster melodic hardrock tracks are “New position”, “Alive”, “Praise” and “My sanctuary”. Neal contributes with rawer and meaner guitar playing with a lot of tempo changes. All of these tracks are killer tracks indeed.
Jeff and Neal have produced the album together and they have done a production that’s both stable and close to perfection in every way. Both of these gentlemen have lots musical experience behind them and it would be strange if they didn’t know how to do a proper production.
On the American original edition of this album there are 11 tracks featured, apparently you can buy the original album with Deen on mail order in the US, but because of the drummer switch they have added 4 bonus tracks on the copy I have in my hand. I also have a hidden bonus track called “James Brown”, totally I have 16 songs and that includes one intro and one instrumental track too.
Neal and Jeff have written the material and the album is pretty long, about 75 minutes so they have been very busy. The more faster melodic hardrock songs appeals more to me than the regular melodic hardrock songs. Some of the songs fall out of the frame of this album like “My love, my friend” that sounds just like a gospel song with only Jeff behind the mic. Also the song “James Brown” isn’t what we could have expected to find on an album like this. It have a distinct 70’s funk feeling to it, Neal impresses though and shows off a real varied guitar play here. Then we have “Abailar to mundo” which is a strange instrumental piece that doesn’t fit in here at all.
When the guys delivers melodic hardrock it sounds absolutely the best, the quality of the material is up and down but in general this album is really great. Maybe they should have stayed on 10 tracks instead of 16 and also the length of the album doesn’t do the band any good. Otherwise this album is terrific with a lot of skilled musicians and a killer vocalist. This is well played melodic hardrock at its best and there aren’t many bands that can compete with this all star band. I recommend this album strongly and this is something for all you melodic rock fans outthere or any fans of Neal and Jeff.