Currently on a seemingly never ending farewell World tour with dates booked for 2016, the Scorpions, formed in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker will be releasing some very fan pleasing remastered albums on Nov. 6th 2015 on BMG Rights, distributed via SPV in Europe and Caroline International in the UK and Ireland. From their back catalogue of 21 studio albums they have chosen 6 of their most prolific between albums 5-10 from 1977-1988 + 2 double live albums. They are Taken By Force (1977), Tokyo Tapes (1978), Lovedrive (1979), Animal Magnetism (1980), Blackout (1982), Love At First Sting (1984), World Wide Live (1985) and Savage Amusement (1988) to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
All of these contain unreleased songs, alternate versions of album tracks, rough mixes and rare live concert footage compiled by the band over a period of 6 months and unlike some other bands efforts, are excellent value for money. Taken By Force was a pivotal album as it was the last to feature guitarist Uli Jon Roth and the first with drummer Herman Rarebell. A near classic piece of work, it contains my favourite song of theirs ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’. The lyrics were adapted from a poem written by Monika Dannemann, girlfriend of Jimi Hendrix after he passed away. The touching words and spine tingling guitar work by Uli never fail to tug at the heart strings. Other highlights are the jackhammer riffs to opener ‘Steamrock Fever’, the main riff to ‘The Sails Of Charon’ and the haunting ballad ‘Born To Touch Your Feelings’. Pick of the 6 bonus tracks are the unreleased instrumental ‘Busy Guy’ which flows along like ‘Little Wing’, another instrumental ‘Blue Dream’ and a shorter, more laid back demo of ‘Born To Touch Your Feelings’.
After 5 studio albums the Scorpions had an arsenal of songs in their live set, point proven by Tokyo Tapes. Double live albums were common in the 1970’s and the Scorpions contribution is an underrated monster. Listening to this new version through headphones it shows how tight the rhythm guitar work of Rudolf Schenker is as a foil to Uli Jon Roth’s lead work. Recorded from 2 gigs out of 3 in Tokyo between April 24th-27th 1978, it was decided by the band to be a parting gift for Uli as it was to be his last tour with them. Highlights are many but the lengthy triumvirate of ‘Polar Nights’, ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’ and ‘Fly To The Rainbow’, clock in at just over 25 minutes highlight the dexterity of the departing lead guitarist. 7 bonus tracks feature from the Tokyo shows and from these a 10 minute ‘Hellcat’ is dominated by Uli and I think he provides the vocals to. Others of note are lengthier versions of ‘Top Of The Bill’ and ‘Robot Man’.
Exit Uli Jon Roth and enter young 6 string slinger Matthias Jabs from Hannover, the birthplace of the Scorpions. His first studio album with them was to be Lovedrive, released on Jan. 15th 1979. I bought it then and it still sounds flawless over 35 years later. Michael Schenker, Rudolf’s younger brother played lead guitar on ‘Another Piece Of Meat’, the instrumental ‘Coast To Coast’ and the title track but my tour de forces are 2 of their finest ballads here. The sheer genius of ‘Always Somewhere’ and ‘Holiday’ are impossible to put into words so just buy the album and wallow in their glory. There are only 2 bonus audio tracks but both hit the mark. ‘Cause I Love You’ brings to mind Nazareth in their prime and a longer version of ‘Holiday’ to that on the album with different vocal harmonies is I think, a superior version.
Hitting their creative stride with the March 31st 1980 release Animal Magnetism, the Scorpions once again kicked off with a commercially heavy track followed by a straight ahead rocker. ‘Make It Real’ and ‘Don’t Make No Promises (Your Body Can’t Keep)’ paved the way for another near perfect opus. The pummeling riffs of ‘Twentieth Century Man’, ‘Only A Man’ and ‘The Zoo’ are eased out of the way by ‘Lady Starlight’, a token knockout ballad. The unreleased demo bonus tracks are of a very high calibre beginning with a full on metal delivery of ‘Animal Magnetism’, a completely different song to that on the album. The corny lyrics and ‘Blackout’ like riffs of ‘American Girls’ provide a bit of tongue in cheek humour. ‘Get Your Love’, an alternative take of ‘Heroes Don’t Cry’ has a raw, emotional Klaus Meine vocal over wistful acoustic/electric guitars. ‘Restless Man’ is an alternative version of ‘Twentieth Century Man’ with different lyrics/guitar parts and ‘All Night Long’ bounces along on a ‘Woman From Tokyo’ like main riff. This was to be their 1st USA platinum selling album.
March 29th 1982 was the day that the Scorpions came of age with the monstrous Blackout album. It came with a major pitfall when, during the recording sessions Klaus lost his voice to the point of demos being recorded with Don Dokken. Klaus’ surgery was a success and Don’s contributions were not used but he did add backing vocals to the album. It is all killer no filler as Rudolf’s punchy riffs to the title track come out swinging with Matthias adding fills leading up to his over the top solo. Blackout is commercially heavy whilst heavyweights like ‘Now’, ‘Dynamite’ and ‘China White’ knuckle down to give the headbangers a sore neck in contrast to ‘When The Smoke Is Going Down’, a soothing closing number telling of the band’s emotions as a gig ends. Pick of the 5 unreleased demo songs are ‘Blackout’ which has slightly different lyrics sung over just drums and a rhythm guitar. ‘Running For The Plane’ is foot to the floor metal with a main riff similar to ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ by Riot. ‘All Of My Love’ is heavy blues in the vein of ‘The Zoo’.
The Scorpions set a high bar for themselves with Blackout but with their heaviest album Love At First Sting released on March 27th 1984, they confounded the critics who were waiting to knock them. Their most successful album up until then, it reached double platinum sales by the end of that year. Easing itself in with ‘Bad Boys Running Wild’ they hit the ground running with follower ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’. The intensity levels were kept high with ‘Coming Home’ and the ‘Another Piece Of Meat’ like ferocity of ‘Same Thrill’. ‘Big City Nights’ highlights their knack of writing huge choruses and this song is still a staple of their live set as is the poignant ballad ‘Still Loving You’, guaranteed to melt the coldest of hearts. The added bonus tracks are again of a very high calibre. The unreleased demo of ‘Coming Home’ is rawer than the final mix and the same applies to the spine tingling early take of ‘Still Loving You’. ‘Anytime (You Want It)’ is a single vocal/guitar over a click track similar to ‘Bad Boys Running Wild’ and ‘Living At Night’ is almost catchy pop rock even by the Scorpions standards. Their is also a free audio CD containing a show from Madison Square Garden in New York on July 6th 1984.
The year long Love At First Sting World Tour provided material for the Scorpions 2nd double live album World Wide Live with shows being recorded at Paris, San Diego, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Cologne. Released on June 20th 1985 and featuring only material from the Matthias Jabs era, it is basically a pumped up greatest hits album with the band firing on all cylinders. A free DVD from this tour that was only previously available on VHS is included with the CD package.
The final album of the remasters is unfortunately the weakest. Savage Amusement came after a 4 year gap since previous studio album Love At First Sting and it shows. They chose to take the same path as Judas Priest did with their Turbo album and used synthesized effects and more radio friendly numbers than heavier ones. Released on April 16th 1988 it was also the most disappointing tour I have seen them on with support band Vixen giving them a run for their money. There are no real bona fide classic songs here compared to their usual standard of composing and I enjoyed the bonus tracks here more than the actual album. Highlights are the heavy rolling main riff on the unreleased ‘Taste Of Love’. ‘Edge Of Time’ has an ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ like bass line over a huge guitar riff. ‘Don’t Wait Too Long’ is a fine example of commercially tinged heavy rock. ‘Fast And Furious’ is an apt title for this guitar heavy instrumental but pick of the crop is a near perfect rendition of ‘I Can’t Explain’ by the Who.
Scorpions band line up :-
Klaus Meine – Lead vocals.
Rudolf Schenker – Guitars.
Francis Bucholz – Bass guitar.
Herman Rarebell – Drums.
Matthias Jabs – Guitars (not on Taken By Force/Tokyo Tapes).
Uli Jon Roth – Guitars (only on Taken By Force/Tokyo Tapes).
Michael Schenker – Guitars (only on 3 tracks from Lovedrive).