After many line-up changes since their debut in 1993, the American hard rock band Takara are back with Invitation To Forever, their fifth studio album. Guitarist Neil Grusky succeeded in putting together a new line-up consisting of Björn Englen (bass) and Patrick Johansson (drums), both of Yngwie Malmsteen fame. As a vocalist he enlisted Gustavo Monsanto (ex-Adagio) from Brazil. He completed the current line-up with keyboardist Brook Hansen. After ten years Jeff Scott Soto is back, but to my regret he only does some harmony vocals. Grusky wrote twelve hard-edged, straightforward AOR-tunes with stunning guitars and impeccable drumming and bass playing, but unfortunately with only a minor role for the keys. The music is heavily influenced by bands like Rainbow and Van Halen. Catchy melodies, nice sing-along choruses, but nothing really special to my taste. Good music, but if you've been around as long as I have, we’ve all heard it dozens of times before. Bands like Eternal Flame, Freedom Call, Joe Lynn Turner, Drive She Said and the Japanese Rainbow clones all sound similar to some extent. And I must say, I do miss Scott Soto. Monsanto tries hard to walk his trail but the refinement and power is just not there and it feels like he’s had a hard time performing in the studio. In fact I really doubt if he could deliver these songs properly live, but this might be open for discussion. However, that’s not the issue here. This CD could be very pleasant for those who are not familiar with the ‘older’ groups performing in this genre. Because there are and have been so many acts making music similar to what Takara does here, that you need to have at least a spectacular vocalist and preferably extremely good compositions. Although the songs aren't bad at all, but in my opinion they are mediocre. Even in the studio Monsanto doesn't get the higher tones really right and his performance doesn’t quite convince me. There’s no doubt Grusky is a good guitar player but why does it always have to be 'look how many notes I can play per second'? That finesse and those extra special moments are just not there. Therefore my hunch is that this album will not be a chart breaking one nor will it become a ‘classic’.