HardReviews 5
by Martin Popoff

Jeff Scott Soto - Lost In The Translation

Man, this record just lifts me up. Y'know, I think too much emphasis is placed on Jeff's singing. Yes, he's perfect, bluesy, funky, effortless in power and range, but all sorts of guys can sing. Sorta parallels my low opinion of photography as an art. In any event, the closest comparison I'd say is Joe Lynn Turner, with both highly entertaining cats having worked for Yngwie, although both would make more sense with Schenker. What is amazing is that the guy combines all this with a steadfast adherence to the utmost high quality sheen of '80s arena rock standards, along with a writing style that is of a nearly ecstatic emotional level, not in a crazy way, just like, anthemic. This can all be heard on lead track Believe In Me, plus Drowning. Three guitarists contribute to this thing, including Neal Schon, and, to a man, each performs pert, to the point, triumphant, zesty, appropriately. Oh yeah, this is a total hard rock album. There's a ballad here and there (yawn! - I think there are three) but most of the thing is weighty, grinding, slightly funky commercial hard rock, like a heavy JLT or HTP, like all the heaviest Shaw Blades or Paul Gilbert or Richie Kotzen or Night Ranger or Tesla or Mr. Big tracks stacked up and shimmering.
Rating 8

Manilla Road - Invasion/Metal
(Cult Metal Classics)

This reissue from the venerable and reverent Greek label combines the 1980 debut album Invasion and the 1982 album Metal, the band's second, on a 2CD, digipak set. Manilla Road are the ultimate underground metal band for a variety of reasons, Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, the band put out countless indie and small label releases through the '80s, most of them worth big bucks (there are also '90s releases, and '00s albums - 13 in all, depending how you count). As well, their sound was hard hippy space metal, like roughshod Rush (or Strife, Budgie, Poobah, Armageddon and Nightwing - ha!) especially early on. These two albums are worth the most on original vinyl versus say, French Black Dragon issues from later, and have only shown up on CD as bad boots. Indeed even Cult Metal Classics has had to cut these CDs from vinyl pressings. But they've done a nice job of it, allowing the band's nutty, clueless, garagey, brave, meandering, effects-ridden sound to visit us now from another time and, seemingly, another dimension. You gotta crack a smile at the uncommerciality of those gruff and growly vocals, the spooky intros, the narrative bits, the modesty and smallishness of the band's epic tales unfolding, the compact boogie madness, the way almost everything sounds like a rare NWOBHM single. I mean, I hate rating this stuff low, 'cos I know these records are revered by a small gaggle of rabid metalheads the world over. I'm sure had I bought them in '80 and '82 (and it's surprising that I didn't) I'd have a burning affection for this material too.
Rating 6, 6.5

Hard Reviews Page 6