TALAS – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (1998 Warner Music Japan)
The Japanese edition of this Talas live album is something to behold. It comes with lots of extras:
- Beefy cardboard slipcase to house the jewel case beneath, plus…
- A beautiful bonus 22 page photo booklet,
- Japanese lyric sheet,
- Two bonus tracks!
The first bonus track is just a shorty, a message from Billy Sheehan. He briefly explains the history of the band, as much as one can in 34 seconds anyway. The second bonus track is more interesting and valuable. It is a vintage studio track called “Doin’ It Right”. Very pop, but also paradoxically pounding. It’s not available anywhere else, and it’s not bad at all! It recalls other early poppy rock tunes by metal bands, such as Quiet Riot and Kick Axe’s obscurities. One of those Japanese bonus tracks that is worth shelling out for. But that’s just Common Knowledge!
(The rest of this review was previously publish in 2016)
The Talas story did not end with the breakup of the band. Of course not; bands both famous and obscure like to reunite for nostalgia shows. Talas did that in 1997 with the original power trio lineup: Billy Sheehan on bass, Paul Varga on drums, and Dave Constantino on electric guitar. With classic material (from the first two Talas albums) and a few unreleased songs, they memorialized their reunion with a brand new live CD. Billy even pulled his old platform boots out of the closet for this one.
As usual the set opens with “Sink Your Teeth Into That” and an enthusiastic home town crowd. Talas only sounded better with age. The original voices are there and just as strong as they were in 1982. It actually sounds like everyone has improved over the years. A speedy “High Speed on Ice” is in the second spot ensuring no loss of momentum. Material from the first self-titled Talas album is included too (unlike the last live album Live Speed on Ice). “Expert on Me” is very pop in construction, but clearly not as great as the songs from album #2, Sink Your Teeth Into That. Speaking of which, the slow rumbler “Never See Me Cry” is brilliantly adapted to the stage.
“Power to Break Away” is one of the previously unrecorded songs, and it kicks it just as hot as anything from Sink Your Teeth Into That. It’s taut with hooks and the prerequisite bass workouts. “Tell Me True” is the second unreleased song, a slow non-descript dirge ballad that takes a while to get going.
Imagine Billy Sheehan plowing his bass right through a funky Led Zeppelin riff. That’s “Thick Head”, an awesome track from Talas (1979). “You” has a cool vibe, almost like an unheard Aerosmith demo from the Done With Mirrors era. A few other tunes from the first Talas (“Most People”, “Any Other Day” and “See Saw”) are adequately entertaining. Back to Sink Your Teeth Into That, “King of the World” is still one of the best Talas tunes, overshadowed by only a few like “Shy Boy”. Here, “Shy Boy” is preceded by a Paul Varga drum solo. The sheer velocity of “Shy Boy” itself makes me wonder how Varga did it. It’s just pedal to the metal, blurring the lines and smoking the minds.
Nothing like a good cover to help draw a live album to a close. Talas did two: “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Battle Scar”. The King Crimson cover is a daring one to attempt. They somehow manage to strip it down and pull it off with integrity. As for “Battle Scar”? Total surprise there! Max Webster were just across the border from Buffalo, and Billy Sheehan nearly joined Max at one point late in their career. Introduced by a Billy Sheehan bass solo, this Max/Rush cover is the set closer. As a final addition, “Battle Scar” surely makes this one hell of an album for the history books.
Since this is a more recent release on a well known label (Metal Blade), it turns out that If We Knew Then What We Know Now is an easy CD to find in the shops. Fortunately this is a good first Talas album to add to any collection.
4/5 battle scars