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Soul SirkUS: World Play

Journeyman singer Jeff Scott Soto has worked with some impressive musicians over the years: Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen, Marcel Jacob. So it only seems natural that he would team up with longtime Journey guitarist Neal Schon for a project that'll force listeners to hear both of the artists in a new dimension. Born out of the ashes of the much-publicized Planet US project, which originally featured Schon, Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, singer Sammy Hagar and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Soul SirkUS evolved after Hagar and Anthony joined the Van Halen reunion tour. Soto replaced Hagar and veteran player Marco Mendoza (Ted Nugent and Whitesnake) replaced Anthony. The result: World Play, a record that will surprise you.

Granted, opener "Highest Ground" is a soaring melodic rocker that sounds like Journey with an edge, but "New Position" is full of revved-up, tongue-in-cheek sexual energy. "Soul Goes On" and "Periled Divide," on the other hand, are introspective mid-tempo songs from which younger bands could learn plenty, and "Friends 2 Lovers" happens to be one of those rare songs in which every line sounds like a chorus. Many of these tracks (all but one written, arranged and produced by Schon and Soto) are augmented by some of Schon's most aggressive playing. His fluid solos often meander into dark corners or work themselves into furious fits of rage, and the riffs to "Praise" and the album's lone Hagar/Schon composition "Peephole" might clear the room of soft-core Journey fans. Some of the songs on World Play sound like raw demos while others shine with more polish. All of them have bite, though, and Soul SirkUS creates the illusion that these guys have been playing together for a long, long time. One quibble: Soto might have been better off not aping Hagar's vocal histrionics or ex-Journey singer Steve Perry's milky voice on some tracks, but who really cares?

This is what American rock 'n' roll is all about, and World Play -- despite the hype -- sneaks in as a late entry in my Top 20 of 2004 list.

Track Listing:
1) Highest Ground
2) New Position
3) Another World
4) Soul Goes On
5) Peephole
6) Periled Divide
7) Praise
8) My Sanctuary
9) Friends 2 Lovers
10) Coming Home
11) Close the Door

Added: May 4th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Soul SirkUS Web Site
Hits: 3289
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Soul SirkUS: World Play
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-05-04 10:09:34
My Score:

If Neal Schon ever decides to call it a day with Journey, he has the red hot Soul Sirkus to fall back on. Teaming up with well travelled vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, bassist Marco Mendoza, and superstar drummer Virgil Donati, Schon and the rest of Soul Sirkus deliver some smokin' heavy rock on their sparkling debut. Quite frankly, Schon hasn't sounded this good in years, as he lays down screaming licks on scorchers like "New Position", "Periled Divide", "Praise", and the Zeppelin influenced "Another World". Soto also pulls in a powerful performance (he always has been an underrated singer in my book) here as well, his richly melodic vocals soar with finesse and force, much like a young Joe Lynn Turner. His rich tone helps songs like "Alive" and "Friends to Lovers" achieve a level of commercial appeal that would certainly please fans of Journey, and his gutsy phrasing on the heavier rockers shows he still has what it takes to be taken seriously as a hard rock/metal vocalist. Having the rhythm tandem of Donati and Mendoza certainly helps matters, as the two of them lay down a solid foundation for Schon to fire off his killer riffs and screaming solos over, while Soto's vocals effortlessly soar over.

While it may be argued that there is a little too much music here (I would have kept this to 11-12 songs tops-the official release contains 16 tracks, 4 of which are bonus cuts) this is still a barn- burner of a debut, and it will be interesting to see if Soul Sirkus decides to do another one in the future. If so I'll be checking it out for sure!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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