Jeff Scott Soto - Retribution

Jeff Scott Soto Retribution cover
Jeff Scott Soto
Frontiers Music Srl
JSS, or Jeff Scott Soto, or SOTO, certainly manages to confuse you sometimes, with whatever version of his name he chooses to use to describe himself or a solo band he is in which in terms of branding is “Bad”, I guess… artistically speaking and as a performer however, he’s usually pretty good and few things that he’s done both on stage or in the studio had me being overly critical.
Here, with Howie Simon back in the game, his “sixth” solo sounds well… quite inspired composition wise at least at first.
Opener and title track “Retribution” is both in the now, but also has enough throwbacks to safely look to the past and the future and have a leg in each, but without dicking the present. I suppose, it’s either that the band is mixed too high or Soto to low, because in some places he being buried by the very bright guitars and a very excited and upfront drums performance…
“Inside/Outside” takes a few Talisman cues, but still sounds like it could easily belong to a Soto solo.
Even more so in “Rage of the Year”, some latent Tali-influences make themselves even more evident and the dual vocals give it a different edge and there’s a bit of a Queen, flamboyance sprinkled carefully here and there (ie the ending of the chorus or some of the verses), also I was strongly thinking about the funky side of Extreme. Probably…
“Reign Again” has a bit of a more laid back approach, mixing the whole Soto vibe, with a backing track that has a Jim Peterick feel, all over it. Not a bad combo actually.
“Feels Like Forever” is a typical bluesy ballad, smooth and silky – just as it should.
“Last Time” has of all, an 80s melodic heavy metal vibe… feeling like something from the “Ultimate Sin” era of Ozzy, or much more, like as Soto sounded early in his career.
“Bullet for My Baby” is funky and melodic, but a little too slacky, despite trying to keep things interesting. It’s soloing is probably one of the better aspects, but doesn’t feel like it belongs with the rest of the track.
“Song for Joey” is a song I think Jeff wrote for his brother, who was recently hospitalized and in a bad way. It’s as expected sentimentally charged and Jeff gives it all he’s got in terms of passion in the delivery, whereas he does seem to hold back a bit, elsewhere in the album, offering economic performances.
“Breakout” is pretty urgent, but really saved by a cool chorus of all things.
“Feels Like Forever” is also offered in an even softer “acoustic version” that’s not bad at all, but while the singing sounds more impressive, I’d still say, I think the “original” is a bit better and only bested by this one in very few areas.
While, “Dedicate to You” is not that much different than what’s on the album, the backup vocals during the chorus makes it stand out a bit, not in a bad way, but as sounding as if it came from maybe a different session? It fits with the rest, but just barely.
“Autumn” is an acoustic laid back song, not even a ballad, just an easy joyful number, with acoustics... that might bear no connection to its predecessor, but who’s blissfulness and sweetness, makes it ideal as a closer.
If I take a small issue with the album, is that while JSS “wakes up” in the latter part of the album, performance wise, he’s too “buried” low in the mix early on and sounds a little less enthused in his singing, than I would have expected. It’s some of the better material he’s gathered, for a solo, if we counter the “SOTO” albums as such too and it just seems that a couple of numbers were hasted out to complete, a bit. Otherwise, this is the best solo work he’s done in a while, in all honesty wiping the floor with whatever he’s done in the past decade or more, apart from the Wet albums; now if only the wet 3 is near this level, it will be a bit of a hat trick for Soto, who has meddled in mediocre affairs for quite a while not.