The Talas Years

REVIEW: Talas – Live Speed on Ice (1983)

Second in a two-part review of the 1989 compilation CD, Billy Sheehan – The Talas Years.  Part one is here:  Sink Your Teeth Into That.  More Talas tomorrow!

scan_20161210BILLY SHEEHAN – The Talas Years (Part Two of Two)  (1989 Relativity)
TALAS – Live Speed on Ice (1983 Relativity)

When we last met Talas, they were a power trio.  On their 1984 live album, they were a quartet.  Billy Sheehan was the only remaining member of the original lineup, with some hot talent behind him:  Mark Miller on drums, Mitch Perry (MSG) on guitar, and the hugely talented Phil Naro singing.  Naro has been around, including a stint with Peter Criss.  (You can hear a number of his performances on Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD A World With Heroes.)

There is little question that Naro’s voice brings the songs to another level.  “Sink Your Teeth Into That” benefits from his young rasp.  Mitch Perry throws in a more articulated guitar solo for an extended section leaving Billy to hold down the riff.  Second in line is a new song, “Crystal Clear” which has a biting Police guitar riff.  The busy bass holds down the melodic center as Naro soars on top.  Live Speed on Ice has great value, since much of its material was actually brand new and never released on anything else.  “The Farandole” is another new one, an instrumental of jaw-dropping ability.  Dueling bass and guitars dance and parry while the drums hit the heavy blows.

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More new tunes:  “Do You Feel Any Better”, “Lone Rock”, and “Inner Mounting Flame” continue the ass-kicking streak.  Each has their own groove, but “Inner Mounting Flame” truly is live speed on ice.  A few older tracks from the album are solid winners:  “King of the World”, “High Speed on Ice” and of course “Shy Boy”, the one Talas song that people know today thanks to David Lee Roth.  Billy’s signature bass solo is also performed live (and extended), but cleverly retitled.  While “NVH 3345” meant “SHEEHAN” upside down, “7718 (3A17)” means “BILL (LIVE)”.  With the freedom of the live setting, Bill took his time to showcase some unheard of chops and effects.

Any album that has Billy Sheehan on bass is bound to include a thousand notes of pure thrills, and any record with Phil Naro is going to sound awesome vocally.  Therefore, Live Speed on Ice should be a welcome addition to the discerning rock fan’s personal library.  The easiest way to get it is on CD combined with Sink Your Teeth Into That as the 1989 compilation Billy Sheehan – The Talas Years.  Either way, you win.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Talas – Sink Your Teeth Into That (1982)

A two-part review of the 1989 compilation CD, Billy Sheehan – The Talas Years.

scan_20161210BILLY SHEEHAN – The Talas Years (Part One of Two)  (1989 Relativity)
TALAS – Sink Your Teeth Into That (1982 Relativity)

Fans of David Lee Roth are probably already aware of Talas via their incredible bassist Billy Sheehan, an innovative genius of the four-string rumble.  His first recordings were with Talas (1979-1983), a Buffalo power trio.  With Roth, he re-recorded the Talas track “Shy Boy” on Eat ‘Em And Smile.  The Talas original can be found on their second LP Sink Your Teeth Into That, or the compilation The Talas Years.

The focus is immediately and obvious on the bass.  Billy plays it simultaneously as a lead instrument, and the rhythmic foundation.  “Sink Your Teeth Into That”, the title track boasts not only insane playing, but sounds that had never been heard before from a bass guitar.  And the song’s pretty good too.  It’s raw 80s hard rock, no more no less, except for that bass.  “Hit and Run” is just as strong.  Talas were not just a bass showcase, but a band that could actually write good songs.  These are unpolished and rough songs, with the band (Dave Constantino on guitar and Paul Varga on drums) alternating lead vocals.

The centerpiece of the album is the bass solo “NVH 3345”.  Write that down and turn it upside down:  it spells “SHEEHAN”.  It has been said before that as Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” was a game changer on guitar,  “NVH 3345” is the “Eruption” of the bass guitar.  It is hard to imagine more sheer technique stuffed into 2:21.  For anyone who is a serious collector of hard rock heroes, “NVH 3345” must find a way into your collection.

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“High Speed On Ice” returns to a hard rocking momentum, like “Highway Star” via Buffalo New York.  Then “Shy Boy” which needed David Lee Roth and Steve Vai to finally perfect it.  Think of this version as a prototype.  It is hard to believe that David Lee Roth did not write the line “Gotta keep things movin’ ’til my personality starts it groovin'”, but Roth made it sound like he meant it.

“King of the World” and “Outside Lookin’ In” occupy the mid-tempo range, and that would be Billy singing those high screams.  Both good songs with the memorable hooks to go with the bass hijinks.  Shadows fall on “Never See Me Cry”, a darker side of Talas but still with the hooks intact.  Second to last song “Smart Lady” is the only loser.  There isn’t room for songs that just don’t cut it.  “Hick Town” ends the album on a better note, with bass pyrotechnics and thrills to go.

Sink your teeth into Talas, and come back tomorrow for a look at Live Speed on Ice.

4/5 stars

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