Review: Talas – 1985
Metal Blade Records (September 23rd, 2022)
Reviewer: David Pearce
Talas were a cult rock band in the US during the first half of the 1980s. They always seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough, opening for both Van Halen and UFO and releasing three albums in five years. A fourth album was planned for 1985 with the title ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ but bassist and founder Billy Sheehan left to join David Lee Roth and Talas disbanded. Then, in 2021, Sheehan contacted original drummer Mark Miller and original vocalist Phil Naro with the proposal that they finally make their fourth album. Joining the original trio is Kire Najdovski on guitar leaving them ready to record that album under its new title ‘1985’. The cover, showing a rusting, damaged Delorean, is arresting and puts a smile on the face of any child of the 80s. It’s time to give it a spin.
‘Inner Mounting Flame’ is a thumping start to the album with the band showing enviable power, particularly from the drums of Mark Miller and the vocals of Phil Naro which put him in the highest echelons of rock singers. ‘I’ll Take the Night’ is a more restrained track, but that term is relative. Naro shows his prowess in his delivery of very different vocals, more akin to the mid-80s contemporaries of Talas. The bass of Sheehan powers the track along and Najdovski shows a flair for guitar solos that really stand out. ‘Crystal Clear’ has a bassline straight out of Outlandos D’Amour The Police excellent guitar work from former guitarist Mitch Perry and a great tune that allows Naro to demonstrate yet another vocal style. It is simply a fantastic track that took me straight back to the 80s. It was the type of track that could be heard coming out of my Walkman at the time. It’s definitely my favourite track on the album. ‘Don’t Try to Stop Me Tonight’ finishes off an incredibly good opening salvo with a Judas Priest style song that shows the group as the tightest of units with each instrument and vocal coming together to make more than the sum of its parts.
‘Do You Feel Any Better’ is a track that takes you, once again, back to the days of great concerts, vinyl records and rock bands that dominated the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Naro’s vocals on this track, and the tune itself, definitely carried elements of Def Leppard who would become ubiquitous two years later with ‘Hysteria’. It is a reminder that in music, as in many areas, there is often no rhyme nor reason to success. Two bands with similar skill sets can go in two different directions based on small slices of luck or ill fortune. Talas definitely had the ability to go all the way as this album proves. ‘On the Take’ is another track that features Mitch Perry, who co-wrote this and ‘Crystal Clear’, and he fits in seamlessly with the group as you would imagine. ‘Come When You Call’ features a thumping chorus that would be great as a call-response if a tour takes place to support the album. ‘The Power To Break Away’ is a bass masterclass from Sheehan who powers the track with flair, showing that like a good wine he gets better with age.
The final trio of tracks starts with the only track on the album not written in 1985, the old school ‘Black and Blue’ that has hints of The Beatles with a chorus featuring a gentle guitar and superb harmonies. Penultimate track, ‘Close to the Killer’ is a pure Southern Rock sound that has its roots in Lynyrd Skynyrd and sounds like an epic live track in the making. Final track ‘7IHd h’ is a completely different track with a Latin beat and a fascinating interplay between guitar and bass. It finishes the album with a final indication of the variety of styles that the band were capable of producing.
If this had been released in 1985, would it have been a hit? We will never know, but it was definitely as good as most of the rock albums released at the time, and arguably better than many. A tour was planned with this line-up, but very sadly Phil Naro passed away last year, leaving this as his epitaph. In every way, this was a very fitting swansong for a fantastic vocalist who is missed by fans and fellow musicians alike.