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Music Review: Takara – Invitation To Forever

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Takara was formed way back in 1987 by Sacramento based guitarist Neal Grusky. By 1990, with singer Jeff Scott Soto on board, they released their debut album. Now here we are nearly twenty years later with a new line-up and their latest, and very welcome release Invitation To Forever (ProgRock Records).

Founder Neal Grusky remains alongside the new pairing of bass player Bjorn Englen and drummer Patrick Johansson (both Yngwie Malmsteen). Existing keyboard player Brook Hansen and new vocalist Gustavo Monsanto (Adagio) complete the line-up.

Work commenced in 2006 on what would become Takara’s fifth studio album. It would be their first since 2001’s Perception Of Reality and has the welcome addition of Jeff Scott Soto’s backing vocals.

Takara’s familiar sound often takes on a harder edge on Invitation To Forever. Opening with an impressively melodic “Angel Of Lies”, which effectively introduces the voice of Gustavo Monsanto, the album has twelve solid tracks that announce the bands return in some style.

Long term fans of Takara will probably be listening closely to Gustavo to see if he can follow in the footsteps of Jeff Scott Soto. In general, he all but pulls it off and even though there is a tendency for us all to hanker back to the past he announces his arrival despite the legacy of the past.

The album has everything you would expect from a band with the tradition of Takara. The water tight and driving rhythm section of Bjorn Englen and Patrick Johansson has an air of confident understanding gained through playing together with Yngwie Malmsteen. This leaves Grusky’s guitar to steal the attention with some trademark breaks.

“Final Warning” kicks in with  Grusky on form. The track sounds almost familiar. A highlight follows with “555”, which showcases Gustavo’s vocals. A classic “Spotlight” slams in with Grusky’s guitar and Brook Hansen’s keys, and bursts into a track with a heavy hook. This dates back some years being originally recorded in 1993.

Other highlights include the standout “Place Under The Sun”, and a powerfully written     “Nowhere To Run”. The album’s big ballad “This Photograph” eventually opens out into a nicely paced song, whilst “I Can’t Hold On” complete with great guitar break, and a rather strained “Nowhere To Run” brings the album to an end.

Invitation To Forever marks a welcome return and should satisfy fans of Takara and of harder edged melodic rock in general. Inevitably with a name like theirs there will be comparisons with the band of old. Having said that and despite a little predictability it is an effective album with some typically strong choruses and hooks.

For more information and to listen to the album call in on Takara by visiting their official website.

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