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Takara - Invitation To Forever (CD)

Invitation To Forever
by Grigoris Chronis at 09 January 2009, 9:21 PM

A new TAKARA album? Wow…Neal Grusky is finally back on the map of Rock and two were the crucial questions to be answered upon first checking out the new CD's booklet: i) would there be any impact of the new label - Progrock Records - to the (so far) melodic Hard Rock band's style/sound? ii) would the new singer be adequate for the job?
TAKARA (for those non-familiar with the band in prior) is centered around the Sacramento, California resident guitarist Neal Grusky. Featuring none other than the exceptional voice of Jeff Scott Soto in their first three albums - all a 'must have' for fans of the genre - TAKARA gained grand success in Japan mainly, with eventual recognition in Europe too. 2001's Perception Of Reality (Lion Music) stepped down a little bit in regards to the songs' dominance, still it can be considered as an adequate TAKARA release. And then there was silence…
…until 2008, that saw the band hitting back with an (again) revised lineup featuring ex-Yngwie Malmsteen members Bjorn Englen and Patrick Johansson; thus, the rhythm section credibility became instantly confirmed. Newcomer singer Gus Monsanto (REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE, ADAGIO) wrapped up the 'new era' TAKARA camp (Brook Hansen remained from the previous lineup) while Jeff Scott Soto donated back-up vocals for this new album. Invitation To Forever features a great cover artwork, for a start, and I was destined to spend lots of time (more than a dozen of continuous auditions) with the new TAKARA CD in order to answer all of my questions and relax to the band's new songs.
Truth is the new singer seems to be a partial 'weak spot' of the band. While Gus has a distinct and warm/passionate harsh voice, bringing Johnny Gioeli (HARDLINE) or Robin McAuley (GRAND PRIX, MSG, SURVIVOR) or even Dee Snider to mind, he does not seem to be solid throughout the whole album. He does even sound off-key at times, or is it just my impression? Pardon me, he does offer a lot to the TAKARA blend plus I'd surely prefer his throat in comparison to Michael J. Flatters (the singer in 2001's Perception Of Reality CD). It's just that…dunno…he shows he could do even better.
As regards the rest of the band, everyone's in top form, not much to be said here. Neal provides some inspiring (again) riffs/leads, confirming his relevance to the 'force majeure' skills of esteemed axemen like e.g. Neal Schon or George Lynch or Michael Schenker/Eddie Van Halen and - thankfully - the change of label does not seem to have influenced at all TAKARA's style. Meaning: non-candy yet harmonic, good looking yet sharp, powerful yet catchy/melodic Hard Rock songs (even if - 2nd complaint? - the production could be even more powerful and 'fat') that will surely apply to the taste of fans in league with bands like TALISMAN, DOKKEN, (McAuley era) MSG and (to the most 'cheerful' songs) HARDLINE (not to forget the relevant Hard/Heavy procedure equilibrium e.g. PRETTY MAIDS).
TAKARA still offers a variety of patterns, to be more precise. Songs like Angel Of Lies, 555, Place Under The Sun, Looking For Salvation and Nowhere To Run are really impressive and - to sum it up - Invitation To Forever exposes again a good face for Neal Grusky and Co. It shall live up to your expectations, don't even wonder. Really looking forward to have even more news from this fine band in the future.

P.S.: Spotlight sees a rendition of the 1993/1994 original; yeap, the magic stays the same.

3 Star Rating

Angel Of Lies
Final Warning
Riders On The Road
This Story Has Be To Told
Place Under The Sun
Still A Mystery
Looking For Salvation
This Photograph
I Can't Hold On
Nowhere To Run
Neal Grusky - Lead & Rhythm Guitar
Gus Monsanto - Lead & Harmony Vocals
Bjorn Englen - Bass
Patrick Johansson - Drums
Brook Hansen - Keyboards
Jeff Scott Soto - Guest Harmony Vocals
Record Label: Progrock Records/SPV


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