Throw on 1985 and it only takes a few seconds of opening track “Inner Mounting Flame” to make it abundantly clear that Talas are back, and sounding every bit as good as in their heyday. Formed in the mid-‘70s and dissolved in 1985, they may have never reached arena-headlining status, but they were an integral part of the early ‘80s hard rock scene, and their long awaited return does not disappoint. “The time was right and we were all into it, no one needed any convincing, we were all instantly excited to do it,” explains bassist Billy Sheehan, who is rejoined by drummer Mark Miller and powerhouse vocalist Phil Naro, as well as new recruit Kire Najdovski on guitar. “It’s like we never stopped - everything fell together so easily. It was quite wonderful.” Now they return with 1985, 11 tracks of classic hard rock, picking up where they left off, and it is a release that will have old school fans salivating and new followers fired up with its big riffs, seductive choruses and killer soloing - basically everything that could be wanted from a Talas record.
With all but one song - “Black And Blue” - written in 1985, the album would have been their fourth full-length had they not split, and while they have worked hard to get the best out of them they have not tampered with the tracks or given them a modern twist, letting them live in the era in which they were created. “We wanted a snapshot of our musical life from 1985,” explains Sheehan. “It’s the same spirit, mostly the same people, and it’s bringing the ‘80s into 2022. The ‘80s were an amazing time for music and bands, and we were all excited to go back to that, and I would say the record is raw, real, honest, and exhilarating.” With the romping “I’ll Take The Night” and “Don’t Try To Stop Me Tonight” sitting alongside the groovier likes of “Do You Feel Any Better?” and the dirty swagger of “Close To The Killer,” there are a lot of flavors on the record, and all of them delectable, every track maintaining a high standard. Najdovski may be relatively new to the band, but his playing is pure Talas. “He’s a great player with great ideas and a joy to work with. Phil had worked with him previously, so I trusted his judgement, and it worked out perfectly.” The band also welcomed former guitarist Mitch Perry to appear on the record, playing on the two songs that he wrote, “Crystal Clear” and “On The Take,” adding an extra dimension and bringing back more of that old school vibe.
Lyrically, the album covers a lot of ground, but all is honest and from the gut. “I’ll Take The Night” references the fact that back in the day they mostly played clubs late at night. “The nighttime brought out the best audiences and the most fun and wild times. At LaMours in Brooklyn, NY, we didn’t even go on stage until 1am. Amazing times.” Then there’s “Close To The Killer,” which is “observations from someone ringside at a particularly brutal fight,” and “Don’t Try To Stop Me” comes from the idea that “sometimes you must not allow yourself to be stopped or held back. It’s a musical statement with that in mind.”
The artwork also communicates a lot, a shot of a classic Delorean conceptualized by the legendary Hugh Syme (Rush, Fates Warning) that immediately brings to mind Back To The Future, which also came out in 1985, once again paying homage to what Sheehan remembers as being a “very good year!”
The album was recorded in Miller’s living room in the house he built, utilizing a mobile recording setup, and according to Sheehan the sessions were “an absolute joy.” Coordinating everything remotely during the pandemic - with Russ Mackay handling the engineering/mixing/mastering from Toronto - was the hardest aspect of recording, but they managed to pull it all together, making a record that sounds cohesive from start to finish, giving no suggestion that it was anything but a smooth process. As well as Perry’s guest appearance the band also invited Naro’s son, James, to appear on the record, who “sang some harmonies - like father, like son, he sounded really great.” There are hopes to tour the record, though sadly, after a years long battle with cancer, Naro passed in 2021, but thankfully he recorded all of his parts prior to his death, and 1985 stands as a great epitaph to a great vocalist.
Asked why people should be excited for this comeback, Sheehan answers enthusiastically. “Because so many of them were there, with us, and a million other great bands that made the 80s such a special musical experience. And also there are so many who might not have been there but have fallen in love with that spirit as well. We feel a very special bond with them all.”
Photo credit: Jeff Gerew