As much as I like Ywgnie Malmsteen's guitar playing, I didn't buy his stuff back in the day. Because of that, I am mostly ignorant of the work of singer Jeff Scott Soto. Soto first hit my radar when he joined Soul Sirkus, a Journey side project that changed names when Sammy Hagar quit. Eventually, this led to Soto replacing Steve Augeri as Journey's lead singer. I saw Journey with Soto in the lead singer spot that year and felt that while he was talented, he didn't seem like a clean fit (his voice seemed to push to hard to hit high notes and his stage presence was a little FAME dancerish, though he injected some much needed soul in the vocals). Apparently, Journey eventually felt the same and dropped Soto from the lineup.
This left Jeff Scott Soto a free agent again. To his credit, Soto didn't bash Journey and moved on with his life. And in moving on Jeff Scott Soto has recorded one of the finest AOR releases I've heard this century as a member of the supergroup W.E.T.
This band, made up of European AOR acts Work Of Art, Eclipse and Soto, has made an album that recaptures the excitement of early 80s Arena Rock. They leave no AOR cliche unturned, the insistent anthem rocker ("One Love"), the weepy power ballad ("Comes Down Like Rain"), the contemplative midtempo relationship drama number ("Running From The Heartache") and the high speed attitude frenzy ("Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is").
Has it all been done before? Yes. But what counts in AOR is passion and execution, something W.E.T. has in spades. So many aging AOR bands have felt the need to mature, change with the times or just sound tired repeating the past. Soto and crew tackle this music like it's brand new, free of irony or any musical advancements past 1982. Jeff Scott Soto in particular comes across as inspired, recalling Steve Perry or David Coverdale in his best moments.
This album gives me the same chills I would get buying a new AOR album in the mid 80s, when everything is familiar yet fresh. Better yet, Jeff Scott Soto proves that even if you get fired from Journey, you should never stop believin'.