Talisman - 2003 Cats & Dogs

ARTIST: Talisman
ALBUM: Cats & Dogs
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2003

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image image
LINEUP: Jeff Scott Soto - vocals * Marcel Jacob - bass * Fredrik Akesson - guitars * Jamie Borger - drums

TRACK LISTING: Skin On Skin * 02 Break It Down * 03 In Make Believe * 04 Love Will Come Again * 05 Outta My Way * 06 Friends To Stranger * 07 Sorry * 08 Trapped * 09 MOM * 10 Wherever Whenever Whatever * 11 Lost In The Wasteland * 12 Hell In Paradise


The last few years have been a little sketchy for Talisman. After the excellent 'Humanimal' album in '94, Empire Records cashed in on 'Humanimal 2', a collection of left-overs from the album's sessions.

With that original 'Humanimal' album, it's possible that Talisman raised the bar too high, as the next two 'proper' albums ('Life' and 'Truth') were hit-or-miss affairs.

There were moments on 'Life' I felt the band were trying a little too hard and it wasn't as rich in melody as it's predecessors. After that album, guitarist Fredrik Akkeson parted company with the band and while his replacement, Jekyll & Hyde/Great King Rat man Pontus Norgen, was very good, the 'Truth' album, again, did not match expectations.

Talisman then threw in the towel, Soto and Jacob formed Humanimal (again with Norgren in tow) whose album was generally well received. Moving on: 2003. With Fredrik back on board, the classic Talisman line-up is with us once again, but does 'Cats And Dogs' hit the mark, or is it a mongrel?

The Songs

Well, it could be best said, that after time away, this CD is a step backward for Talisman, as a good chunk of the material has more in common with their old sound from the debut.
This is especially evident on the second track 'Break It Down' with Soto wailing his way through a huge chorus, one which also hints at his past work with Takara.

Fans of the more funk-rock oriented Talisman shouldn't be too disheartened, as the funkier edges are still present on occasion, most notably on 'In Make Believe' and 'Love Will Come Again'. On the former, the real star is Akesson, whose playing sweeps across the track in a fluid manner and the solo is especially good as he goes head to head with Jacob's bass-work.

Throughout the later, the tables are turned, and Akesson's contribution takes a back seat to allow Jacob to the fore, his bottom-end basslines providing a foundation for some classy vocals and harmonies which are nothing short of vintage, classic JSS.

Things take a temporary turn for the worse during 'Outta My Way', despite a really great-but-scary bass intro from Marcel, the piece sounds old and trite: 'a psycho filled with vengeance / Outta my way / Like a timebomb 'bout to explode'. In terms of embarrassment value, this has to be right down there with Jeff's contribution to the 'Biker Mice From Mars' soundtrack CD.

Despite lots of classy moments throughout his career, there are times when I wonder if he ever fully recovered from his time in Malmsteen's company.

After hearing the more AOR-fuelled 'Sorry', I'd pretty much forgive these guys anything, as this really is a great track. Throw in a great, but not overly showy guitar solo and it could be a classic in the making.

'M.O.M.', again, is a little more old-school and less funky, the riffs are solid, the arrangement may even be a little predictable, but it represents everything most people like about the band and is definitely more melodic than some of the material on the last couple of albums.

As the bass opens the intro to 'Wherever, Whenever, Whatever' I'm reminded of 'One Of Us' by Joan Osborne, I'm almost disappointed it isn't, as Talisman always played a nifty line in cover tunes (it was the cover tunes on 'Truth' I enjoyed the most).

Again, it's not rhymically anything out of the ordinary, but I suspect over the last decade and change, Talisman have covered all the musical ground they're going to. What we are treated to here is another decent performance from all concerned. The solidity of Jacob's bass sound still amazes me, this many years down the line.

Of the remainder of the material on 'Cats And Dogs', you'll be pleased to hear there's nothing here as bad as 'Outta My Way' and it seems to fare quite well, being a little more spacious than Talisman have been on the last couple of albums.

In Summary

Overall, very impressive, especially if you are a JSS fan. Despite 'Outta My Way' being one of the worst things I've heard in a while, the rest of the album pushes the right buttons for me. I can't imagine any Talisman fans feeling let down, and yes, that includes all of you who thought the last couple could've been better. Do yourselves a favour and check it out.

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